The almost year-long efforts of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) to oppose a proposed small development at the southern edge of Burnt Lands Alvar on Golden Line Road in Ramsay Ward, came to a conclusion with an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on December 7, 2015. The MVFN alvar team fought for changes to the development right up to about a week before the hearing, when they withdrew from the hearing after exhausting all of their options.
The County of Lanark and the Municipality of Mississippi Mills Official Plans allow cluster-lot developments within the alvar (even though it is a sensitive area and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) if an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted and steps are taken to mitigate environmental damage to the footprint of the development. As these steps had been shown in the original application, the proposed development project had been approved conditionally and could proceed. It was on these grounds that MVFN felt it could make an impact by opposing the project as planned. The MVFN alvar team strove to force many improvements to the EIS for the proposed development.
By opposing the development, MVFN has raised awareness of the public as to the existence of the Burnt Lands Alvar, its location, what an alvar is, and the unique and fragile ecosystems which make Burnt Lands Alvar an ecological treasure. Also, MVFN’s opposition to this particular development has arguably influenced the local municipality to begin processes to change its Community Official Plan and accompanying Zoning By-Laws to ensure future similar development schemes cannot occur on regulated lands in Mississippi Mills.
A significant impact of MVFN’s alvar appeal was to have three additional on-site visits by ecologists and other experts take place, in late spring, summer and early autumn. These field studies added significantly to the developer’s previous EIS study, which had included only one cursory assessment of the Alvar ecology. Two other important concessions were achieved by the MVFN team, to place the roadway in the least damaging location, and the other to change the location of the turning circle, also to minimize impact. Other positive influences from the MVFN team can be seen throughout the final EIS report.
The Alvar OMB team, led by MVFN member Tineke Kuiper, included several qualified specialists and other supporting persons. Key to the effort was a team of lawyers from the Canadian Environment Law Association, which was provided free of costs to MVFN.
The other significant component of MVFN’s appeal effort was the MVFN fund-raising team, led by MVFN Chair of the Environmental Issues Committee Theresa Peluso. They conducted an amazing fund-raising campaign which allowed the MVFN Alvar team to hire a planner and two ecologists and pay other related costs. When final invoices are in, the MVFN Finance Committee will publish a financial statement.
Although MVFN had withdrawn their appeal prior to the hearing, MVFN President Cliff Bennett and a member of the lawyer team, attended the short OMB hearing as a professional courtesy. The final judgments of the OMB will be handed down by mid-January and a final MVFN report will be issued at that time. For any enquiries on MVFN’s involvement in this project, please contact Cliff Bennett at 613 256-5013 or
Photos by Pauline Donaldson were taken during a 2015 walk on Burnt Lands Alvar led by Ken Allison .