By Darlene Wroe
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
DISTRICT – An Ontario ministry has reached out to the Boreal Forest Medieval Villages Inc. asking for information about the off-grid living sites it has been setting up in unincorporated townships in the Temiskaming and Cochrane districts.
The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing was questioning four specific developments, completed or proposed, and other future proposals by Boreal Forest Medieval Villages.
They include projects in Truax Township by Long Lake (near Charlton), Grenfell Township by Kenogami Lake, Lee Township by Swan Lake, and Clifford Township/Ben Nevis Township by Keith Lake.
The large multi-acre properties, adjoining waterbodies, are planned by Medieval Villages to allow investors to purchase lots within the property, and to have the right to set up seasonal or permanent residences on those lots, according to their marketing outline.
In a letter dated December 1, the ministry has requested information about the sites including: the number of housing structures proposed for each property; the number of composting toilets that would be used; the estimated daily flows of sewage and grey water; evidence of permits or approvals for disposal and treatment of sewage and grey water; details about proposed drinking water sources; waste disposal information; confirmation that local landfill sites are willing and approved to accept the waste; removal of garbage and any structures if the sites are abandoned; and arrangements for fire and police response, and road and lot identification for quick access.
Medieval Villages is also being asked to “confirm that schools, hospitals and other public service facilities in adjacent municipalities are aware of and can accommodate the increased population arising from your projects.”
The ministry also wants information regarding ensuring the buildings meet the Ontario Building Code.
The ministry is also requesting information about the legal structure of the organization, and the relationship between the organization and the users of the properties.
The information will help to clarify whether Indigenous consultation may be required going forward, the letter stated.
Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities president Danny Whalen said he received notice December 5 that the ministry had sent the letter to the Medieval Villages organization.
He said he was first contacted by area municipalities about two years ago with their concerns. He and other people have since been communicating with the province to address issues that are worrying area municipalities and other organizations, he said.
“This is the first actual written reply we have received that, for the most part, supports exactly what we have been saying all along,” said Whalen.
Area municipalities are not “anti-development but what’s going on here is total disregard for provincial rules and regulations, that we on the other hand have to follow,” he said.
Along with a letter, the ministry has included a bulletin that advises of provincial development policies. The bulletin is intended for anyone considering buying one or more of the available lots.
“It’s up to the Boreal Forest administration to decide where they want to go from here,” said Whalen.
He added First Nations representatives have been made aware of the projects.
“They’re of the same opinion as the municipalities. They’re not anti-development. In the case of the First Nations, the total disregard for the environment is upsetting, that people would even consider doing this.”
He said he expects representatives of Boreal Forest Medieval Villages to reach out to the ministry in the near future to “start applying for what they need.”
The issue was first raised by the Municipality of Charlton and Dack which expressed concern about their water source and their landfill.
“As far as protecting the water source of Charlton-Dack and the landfill up in Charlton-Dack, I think those are positive steps so far,” said Whalen.
The Speaker also reached out to the Boreal Forest Medieval Villages Association for comment, but a reply was not received by this week’s deadline.
Darlene Wroe is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with TEMISKAMING SPEAKER. The LJI program is federally funded.