A woman walks along a path in the South Cameron woodlot connecting Randolph Avenue on March 1, 2019.
Dax Melmer / Windsor Star
The Ontario government has lifted a “provincially significant wetland” designation for about 50 acres of the South Cameron woodlot, paving the way for potential development on the land.Mayor Drew Dilkens, who lobbied Premier Doug Ford to reverse the designation, praised the province’s move on social media.“I consider the situation to have been made right,” Dilkens told reporters on Friday. “We can certainly have a conversation with respect to peoples’ opinions on whether there should be more tree-covered area, whether this was the right decision. But there is a process to follow. I believe it should have been followed in the first place.“I addressed this concern directly with the premier. The premier took an action through his ministry. They made what I consider to be the right decision.”A Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry representative said the government tries to balance priorities.“Our government wants to ensure we are managing growth so communities develop in ways that expand economic opportunity while protecting the environment,” a ministry spokeswoman said in an emailed response, noting that the government approves wetland evaluations but does not have a role in municipal planning decisions. “Wetlands are dynamic features on the landscape that are subject to change over time, and therefore, wetland evaluations can be updated and amended as new information becomes available.”This area was always scheduled for development, was always planned for development.Dilkens said he met with Premier Doug Ford in mid-December to discuss Windsor issues. One of those issues was the South Cameron woodlot and the “erroneous wetland designation.”Dilkens said the previous provincial government “neutered” any future development when it put the woodlot under the designation several years ago without the proper legwork.He said he was happy to receive word Thursday that the designation has been removed from 50 acres of the wetland, “opening the possibility for future residential development.”“They’ve done the right work now,” Dilkens said. “They’ve made the right decision. Fifty acres of the original designated land has been opened up for development, which is great. It doesn’t mean development will happen. There are still issues a developer would have to overcome with respect to species at risk, with respect to other ERCA-type issues. But when you have a PSW placed on land it basically sterilized and neuters the possibility of any development on that land.”Dilkens told reporters the land has a “fragmented ownership” of more than 200 people. Any development on the wetlands would be residential, he said.“This doesn’t mean development is to happen tomorrow,” said Dilkens. “What it means is development could happen in the future if a developer can overcome the other hurdles that exist.”
A residential enclave within the South Cameron woodlot is pictured on March 1, 2019.
Dax Melmer /
Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt shared Dilkens’ Facebook post to point out that just a couple weeks ago, council listed tree coverage and reducing basement flooding as their top two priorities.Holt was referring to a Feb. 12 meeting where councillors discussed their main concerns for a 20-year strategic plan. The majority of councillors put implementing a sewer master plan to prevent basement flooding, and increasing the city’s tree coverage, at the top of the list.“This kind of flies in the face of that, so I have a lot of questions for the mayor,” Holt told the Star.“We had a great discussion on tree cover and improving tree cover, and what that means to our city environmentally, financially, socially. To hear that one of our protected woodlots is threatened right in the heart of the city, that causes a lot of concern.”He said developing wetlands could have potentially detrimental results.Related “There are a lot of trees there,” said Holt. “And wetlands are the sponge of the municipality, the sponge of civilization. To remove those, to develop those, to put infrastructure there, that relieves it of its ability to do what it’s meant to do. We should be working with nature, not against it. So I have a lot of questions about it.”Dilkens said he’s not against increasing tree growth and protecting natural areas. It’s about “finding balance,” he said.“This area was always scheduled for development, was always planned for development,” he said. “In fact, part of the provincially significant wetland development that they put on years ago included an area that already had sewers put in. The original designation included an area where homes were already built.”— with files from Lindsay Charltontwilhelm@postmedia.comtwitter.com/WinStarWilhelm