After reading the below article from the Express Weekly News on July 29, 2021 entitled
"St. Andrews council approves new residential subdivision despite objections"
I suggest you go to the Red River Planning District website to read more about the subdivision proposal.
Click on this link: https://www.redriverplanning.com/
President, Dunnottar Ratepayers Association
The municipality of St. Andrews council approved a proposal to build a new residential subdivision close to the border of Dunnottar despite a substantial outcry from area residents over the destruction of the environment along Lake Winnipeg. A 20-acre lot at 2560 Gimli Rd. will be developed by Steinbach-based Castlerock Realty. The lot is 500 metres (just over a quarter mile) from the lake and borders a conservation area called the Netley-Libau Marsh Important Bird Area.
The subdivision will have lots for 43 dwellings and two small lots for public reserves. The lots will be serviced by wells for drinking water and holding tanks for waste.
St. Andrews council held an online public hearing July 13 to discuss the development. It received over 40 letters of objection from area residents and several more letters expressing concern.
Gwen Armbruster, a seasonal but soon to be full¬time Dunnottar resident, said the 20-acre lot was a former bee farm and is mostly forested land. The land and surrounding area are vital habitat for wildlife, insects and plants.
"This shouldn't be allowed to proceed until they've done an environmental impact assessment," said Armbruster by phone a few weeks ago. "All over the world governments are protecting existing ecosystems and rehabilitating those that have been degraded because of the environmental crisis we're facing. This is a treed lot with a nature-based solution to climate change. Trees capture and store huge amounts of carbon."
Armbruster is a member of the Dunnottar Bird Watch group, which conducts annual bird counts that are used by scientists and organizations trying to save dwindling habitat. She said the whole area around Warner Road (near the development) is a "birding hotspot."
"It's also part of an Important Bird Area where we document migration and count species," she said. "The IBA runs along the shoreline, and this development is about a block from there."
The group has documented around 20 species that stop and nest in the area, she said. Several are listed in the Canadian federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, which protects and conserves migratory birds (either as populations or individual birds) and their nests.
"We've also discovered one species at risk here — the eastern wood pewee” said Armbruster.
She and other residents have requested that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the area be undertaken before the development goes ahead.
"We think a full inventory has to be done of the birds on that lot. That would be done under an EIA," she said. "We've also got bees and butterflies declining. We walked around the rail tracks that border the back end of this property and we could see milkweed and other native plants growing there. Pollinators are vital to our food system. We could have fewer crops without them."
The province has 36 IB As. Each one is significant in terms of birds and biodiversity. Manitoba IBA coordinator Amanda Shave said Netley-Libau contains a variety of habitats for migratory and breeding birds.
"During fall migration, upwards of 100,000 water- birds use the IBA as a stopover site to rest and recuperate on their way south. The IBA status has also been triggered by high concentrations of rusty blackbirds (federal species of concern) also using the site as a stopover on spring migration," said Shave by email." Both the west and east sides of the IBA are home to nesting redheaded woodpeckers, which are classified as endangered at a federal level and threatened provincially."
Other important species in the area are the eastern wood pewee (federal species of concern), least flycatcher, American redstart, eastern kingbird and cedar waxwing.
"Most of these bird species are facing increasing threats due to habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change and associated impacts, pesticides and invasive species," said Shave.
Birds are important pollinators, distributors of plant seeds, consumers of insects and can be a tourist draw, she said.
In addition to concerns about habitat destruction to make way for development, Armbruster said there are other issues relating to the environment.
"They haven't studied the aquifer which provides the same water we use in Dunnottar," she said. "You're putting in an additional 43 wells and we're in a drought. This is the third year of drought. They haven't done any studies to see if this property can actually accommodate 43 wells."
Residents from different communities in the area are also opposed to destroying habitat and questioned the effect the subdivision will have on Dunnottar's services and ratepayers.
Del Sexsmith from Matlock wrote: "Will this entire area be clear-cut to accommodate dwellings and driveways alone? I notice that several of the proposed lots are not in compliance with the mini-mum lot requirement of 100 feet. This is a formula for crowding and the elimination of habitat," she wrote. "I also do not see a letter of support from the adjoining municipality of Dunnottar (in which we reside). Is there support for mutual resources such as the aquifer for potable water?"
Doug Hillier wrote that "the decision to approve this piece of land for development without accounting for the many environmental impacts is shortsighted. Currently, the potential damage to flora & fauna (including damage to critical migration areas) and the effect on the infrastructure of the current community is unknown."
Louise Buelow-Smith and Eric Smith from Ponemah also noted their concern about the aquifer.
"There is no confirmation that there is sufficient water within the aquifer system to sustain this level of development, nor an assessment of impacts to existing settlement," they wrote. "There may be statements from government departments, but no evidence of the level of scrutiny or assessment."
They said the development will push people to Dunnottar to access beaches and other services.
"Almost all activities related to the use of this land as proposed require getting in a car and going to the Village of Dunnottar, which itself is struggling with the impacts of increased road and off-road vehicular traffic," the Smiths wrote.
In the planning package from the Red River Planning District — which recommended the subdivision application be approved by council — concerns were noted by entities such as Canadian Pacific Railway, the Evergreen School Division and Manitoba Conservation and Climate (regarding wastewater).
The lot is sandwiched between a CPR line and Gimli Road. According to a map of the layout, seven lots along the western border touch the rail line.
"The safety and welfare of residents can be adversely affected by rail operations and CP is not in favour of residential uses that are not compatible with rail operations," CP wrote in an email. "CP freight trains operate 24-7 and schedules/volumes are subject to change."
It's unclear whether council required the establishment of a buffer zone.
The Evergreen School Division asked that council consider land for a school or require the landowner to provide money to the municipality or school board/district in lieu of land for school purposes.
ESD secretary-treasurer Amanda Senkowski wrote the division made the request in the interest of "long term planning of any growth or development in the area as sufficient growth over time will result in a future need for a school."
The provincial department Conservation and Climate asked Castlerock to "obtain confirmation from the RM of St. Andrews that there is sufficient capacity for the additional volumes of sewage at the wastewater treatment lagoon."
It's unclear whether the wastewater lagoon being referred to is next door in the Village of Dunnottar or in St. Andrews (at Petersfield).
St. Andrews Assistant CAO Colleen Sailor said council approved the subdivision with conditions.
"Council passed a resolution conditionally approving the subdivision. What this means is that there are many conditions that must be met prior to the subdivision actually being registered at Winnipeg Land Titles," said Sailor by email." This could take up to two years to complete and in some cases for larger subdivisions such as this one, a one-year extension is required."
She declined to answer other questions including what conditions were imposed and whether the RM has an agreement with the Village of Dunnottar to use Dunnottar's wastewater lagoon.
The Express left a message for Dunnottar Mayor Rick Gamble requesting comment about the subdivision but he didn't respond. The Express also contacted the CAOs at the Dunnottar municipal office but did not receive a response.