U.S. developer Joseph Acheson is clearly facing opposition as he plans to build a 5-star private sports resort on Batchawana Island off Highway 17, 45 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie.
Area residents and business owners, both year-round and seasonal, attended a public information session held by Acheson at the Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort Thursday evening.
Bob Moore, an area resident, in a lengthy protest at the town hall meeting, railed on Acheson’s plans as an environmental interference with Batchawana Island.
“The wetlands on that island fall within the Provincial Policy Statement (protecting wetlands).”
“You guys want to dig into these wetlands…which flies in the face of the Provincial Policy Statement,” Moore said.
“You’re going to reap the benefits of your island…and you’re going to take your dollars out of this area and invest it in Michigan. What community assistance (economic benefits) are you going to provide us?” Moore continued.
“I think it defies logic to think the lodge over there, once it's up and running, isn’t going to increase the value of your properties,” Acheson replied.
“I’m confused as to how that’s not going to enhance people’s interest in the area.”
The lodge, Acheson and his team say, would create approximately 35 jobs, and, it is anticipated, would attract visitors from all over the world and also attract interest in existing, surrounding businesses and tourist areas.
Area residents are concerned activity generated by the proposed Batchawana Island Sporting Club will disturb the long-cherished tranquility of their cottage community, as an industrial dock along the shore of Batchawana Bay will need to be built when contractors begin cutting down trees and start ferrying building supplies to the resort area.
The residents say that will cause pollution, create danger to boaters and swimmers using the waters and lessen the property value of cottages in the area.
“I’m opposed to this (the dock)…it’s too close to the Carp River, Batchawana Beach and a major seasonal residential area,” said Frank O’Connor, area resident and owner/operator of The Voyageurs’ Lodge and Cookhouse.
“You’ve got all these residents and people on the beach going to have to be conscious of an industrial barge in the water while they play, we have kids jet skiing, kayaking, swimming, now they have to be aware of commercial shipping traffic,” O’Connor said.
Cottage owner Ellen MacDougall said a more suitable place should be found for the industrial dock.
“I think they have totally reasonable concerns,” said Acheson, who is based in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, speaking to SooToday.
Acheson said he is open to looking for another location for the dock and said he won’t develop the island if it is deemed an interference with provincial wetlands.
Acheson has owned Batchawana Island for 10 years.
“The idea of a hunting and fishing lodge has been in my mind for the past three years,” Acheson said.
“The Ontario government and Sault North Planning Board have known about this plan since its inception.”
News of Acheson’s proposed Batchawana Island Sporting Club development broke in late spring.
“It spread through the locals and social media,” MacDougall said.
A pair of town hall attendees told SooToday they had to begin turning people away from the Salzburger Hof property, its access road lined with parked vehicles belonging to people attending the town hall meeting.
The room in which the public information session was held, designed to hold 120, was packed and sweltering in Thursday evening’s heat.
The private Batchawana Island Sporting Club would be located at a 20-bedroom resort known as Stormview Lodge, overlooking Lake Superior, focusing on sports such as archery, clay shooting, hunting, fishing, kayaking and biathlon activities.
Two docks are planned for the development, and a landing strip is also on the drawing board for Stormview Lodge member pilots.
350 acres, or seven per cent of the island, would be cleared for development of the resort, overseen by the Sault North Planning Board and Algoma Public Health.
“Let the Crown buy it (the island). The Canadian government should buy it and preserve it for all the people of Canada,” O’Connor said before the town hall audience.
Mike Mantha, New Democrat MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, told SooToday he would be looking out for constituents concerns and look into arranging another public consultation meeting at a larger venue.
“This venue was not appropriate.”
“We need answers. I’m surprised there’s nobody here from the MNR tonight, from the Ministry of the Environment. People have concerns and they’re rightfully entitled to receive the answers they’re looking for,” Mantha said.
Acheson said he would be agreeable to another town hall meeting.
The developer said he does not anticipate beginning any development of Batchawana Island before next year.