Between the Martyr’s Shrine and the old green overhead bridge on Highway 12 is the Wye River, a popular fishing spot at the river's mouth of scenic Georgian Bay and the Wye Marsh.
On the west side of that river is the tourist and retirement town of Midland, while on the east side is the small waterfront municipality of Tay Township.
And they’re having a neighbours spat.
The central focus of this argument is at that wedge, in Tay on the property of Wye Heritage Marina at 3282 Ogdens Beach Road.
In March, Tay council passed a bylaw which amended the official plan to create a site specific policy area, which would “permit the development of a Recreational Park for Park Model Homes and Class A and C Motorhomes on the lands” as an accessory use to the marina, intended to “assist the Township of Tay in providing opportunities for diversified tourism and recreation along the Georgian Bay shoreline”.
Directly across from Wye Heritage Marina on Midland’s side are the roads of Aberdeen Blvd and Riverwalk Place, which are host to some of the town’s most expensive homes and condominiums.
Following Tay’s bylaw approval, Midland residents approached council to oppose “the seasonal trailer park development,” prompting Coun. Bill Gordon to propose a notice of motion for Midland’s two county council representatives to oppose the matter formally when later brought before county council.
Gordon’s comments were followed further in the month from a deputation by George Dixon representing an entity called the Tiffin Basin Action Committee (TBAC), “opposing the 74 short-term rentals,”
Dixon, a former municipal lawyer, laid groundwork for the “incompatible neighbourhood” directly across the water from the tony Midland location.
“It’s an almost unique situation,” explained Dixon in his deputation, “where a proposed development in one municipality will have no negative impact on anyone who lives and votes in that municipality, but will have major negative impacts for people who live and vote in the municipality right next door.”
At its closest, roughly 30 metres separate the two lands shore-to-shore, brush-to-brush, if the water or ice were crossed. Realistically, it would be an approximate five-kilometre distance along Ogdens Beach Road to Highway 12, onto William Street and down Pillsbury Drive to reach the intersection of Aberdeen Blvd and Riverwalk Place.
Dixon’s deputation addressed frequent concerns of problematic short-term rental accommodations which have impacted neighbouring North Simcoe municipalities as well as many others across the province. Additional photos of Wye River wildlife accompanied the presentation.
As Gordon stood behind the TBAC deputation and his symbolic opposition motion, council engaged staff in a discussion of short-term rental definitions and impacts.
Mayor Stewart Strathearn said, “I moved the motion, I support the motion – I support the residents to the extent that the municipality is able to do so and our professionals suggest that we can do, and we’ll wait to see what the county planning staff do with what Tay Township has put forward; and then we can deal with that when the time comes.”
Gordon added, “I think we all understand that this doesn’t feel right, it’s not a good fit, we wouldn’t approve something like this if it was right next to them in our municipality,” noting the county council opposition as the sole action available to Midland.
Coun. Jonathan Main and Cody Oschefski stood up for Midland’s two mobile residences, Leeshore Estates and Smith’s Camp, reiterating that little trouble came from those areas.
Oschefski noted that there was the potential for bad blood in the conversation. “We’re really throwing our weight around thinking that we have any say in this decision. To have county council tell them how to vote is a new one to me.”
Deputy Mayor Mike Ross also expressed recoil. “The fact is, if Tay had come to Midland and complained about something we were doing, I would be so offended… I don’t know how I’d handle it.”
Council voted to carry Gordon’s motion as a symbolic gesture of support for its residents.
At the Tay regular meeting of council in June, Mayor Ted Walker took time to address Midland’s symbolic gesture.
Walker touched upon how strange he had felt watching Midland discuss the matter, in particular the seemingly unfounded statements made by “a councillor."
“(In) making a statement like that: how much research had that councillor done into the application itself, all of the studies that were required to be done, did he talk to the applicants, did he talk to our manager of planning?” Walker shared with Tay council. “Just to come out and say ‘if that was in Midland we’d never approve it’ was very disappointing to me as a neighbouring municipality.”
Walker also reacted to the issue of compatibility. “Those lands were previously zoned industrial. That’s when the Tiffin grain elevator (was there). At some point, Midland council decided that a residential development was appropriate in the area adjacent to an existing marina in Tay Township.
“So the issue of compatibility does not rest with Tay Township council. The issue of compatibility was decided many, many many years ago by the Midland council.”
While giving praise to Oschefski’s comments about security within a marina, Walker also noted the tonal shift by vocal opponents of the development.
“The other thing that struck me funny,” Walker began, “first the issue was concerns about the environment, which our studies proved that in fact those concerns weren’t justified. And then, suddenly now it’s an STR issue.
“Well, that marina’s one of the largest freshwater marinas in Canada. I don’t know exactly how many boats they have there but I certainly do know that marinas – many, many if not the majority of boaters, stay on the boats; on the weekend or during the week. And friends and relatives come up and use them.
“The whole thing was just disappointing to me. I think it could’ve been handled with much more class than it was,” Walker concluded.
The matter will appear before an upcoming council and committee of the whole meeting at county council. County Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month; meetings will be live streamed to the County of Simcoe's YouTube channel.
The bylaw amendment and Wye Heritage Marina details can be found in the council agenda on the Tay Township website.
Archives of Midland council meetings, including the Tiffin Basin Action Committee deputation are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Further information including council’s agenda can be found on the Tay township website.