There has been some misinformation spread about this project and it is important to set the record straight. A number of those misconceptions are addressed below.
1. Will this school contribute to traffic on Beaumont Drive and Stephens Bay Road?
No, all vehicle traffic will enter and leave the property from District Road 118.
2. Will this development negatively impact adjacent residential areas?
No, the five proposed precincts are located at a substantial distance from Stephens Bay Road. This ensures the preservation of the views of neighbours. If there were ever to be any changes to expand or to modify the proposed development, a rezoning would be required and would need to follow the same public process as did the current application.
3. Will any of the project costs fall on taxpayers?
No, unlike the Nipissing University campus, for example, all development is to be on private lands. This project will be entirely funded by the property owner and his partners/lenders. All of the supporting infrastructure, such as sewer and water lines, will be paid for by the property owner, with securities to be held by the District if he does not fulfil his obligations to complete those works. No financial incentives are being offered by any level of government.
This school will have many benefits to taxpayers, including through direct job creation, increased spending in the community and helping support additional jobs within the community.
Please see the attached link to the Town of Bracebridge’s analysis of Georgian College as an example of the economic benefits new educational facilities provide to this community.
4. Does private school enrolment elsewhere suggest this business model does not make sense?
No, while there are some private schools that may be struggling to maintain enrolment, private schools as a whole are thriving in Ontario, and there is room for a modern private school, with a differentiated academic program, proper investment, good marketing, good management and a long-term vision to be very successful. George has done his research on this legacy project and recognizes that it will take time to build Muskoka Royale College’s reputation as one of the finest private schools in North America. He has the vision, financial resources and patience to make this happen. The current pandemic and it’s likely impact on travel over the next number of years does not impact the viability of this school.
5. Is this school affiliated with other private school developers or projects?
No, this is a stand-alone project. The property owner and this school have no affiliation with other entities building schools.
6. Will this be a school catering to only foreign students and have both a teaching and student body that remain very insulated from the community at large?
No, the vision is for a school which attracts students from around the globe, but with an expectation that the largest proportion of students will be from the GTA, and that a good portion of the remaining students will come from elsewhere in Canada or the United States. Many employees of the school, and in all likelihood a number of students, will live within the community. The intention is to ensure integration with the community, for example by hosting athletic competitions that include other schools from Muskoka.
7. Will the population of Bracebridge grow by 1800 students in the short-term?
No. It will take quite a while for this school to be fully developed and reach its maximum planned population of 1800 students. While school growth will be market driven, a reasonable expectation is that it may take 5 years to reach a student population of 500, 10 years to reach a student population of 1000 students, and 15 to 20 years to reach its ultimate planned size.
8. Will the presence of Muskoka Royale College result in problems associated with trespassing on private lands or the overwhelming of existing public facilities?
No, students at this school will have a substantial range of activities available to them to keep them busy and entertained within the school campus. Like anyone else, they will be aware of the potential legal consequences of trespassing on private lands. Partnerships will be sought with local clubs or organizations wishing to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, such as sailing, canoeing, rowing, or camping/wilderness excursions. Like any other members of the community or travelling public, students may choose to make outings to public parks or beaches during their free time, however the school does not anticipate organizing outings to such facilities.
9. Does the development of this property for a private school facilitate a later change of plans to something else, for example higher density residential development?
No, the zoning of this property is site specific to the school uses that are being proposed. The property owner is committed to this vision over the long-term. If there was ever to be a change in plans, it would, similar to the present proposal, be subject to new applications and a full public process.
10. Will the establishment of this school prohibit existing public access to the TransCanada Trail or a snowmobile route which presently traverses the property?
No, development will maintain access to both the TransCanada Trail and the snowmobile trail within/adjacent to the property with only slight modifications. The property owner is keen to work with the Town of Bracebridge to improve the TransCanada Trail and public access through this area, and to make the required investments to achieve this. He is also committed to working with the Muskoka Conservancy on the long-term protection of Henry Marsh.
11. Is this development occurring on environmentally protected lands?
No, this portion of the Muskoka Royale property has long been identified in the Town of Bracebridge Official Plan as being within the Town’s Urban Centre, with an overlying designation of Open Space. Section C21.2 of the Town’s Official Plan is specific to these lands and recognizes that they are not intended to be public parkland, but that they can be developed subject to an amendment of the Plan and with development plans to include an open space component, the extent of which is to be determined by studies undertaken as part of the development application, as have now been completed. They are currently zoned Open Space Two and Environmental Protection One.
Locations of school precincts (areas to be zoned institutional) have been specifically located so as to minimize environmental impacts. All plans are in keeping with the intent of the Town’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law, as well as all applicable Provincial Policies, and have considerably less footprint and potential for impacts than a multitude of other uses which could have been considered by the owner instead of a school, and which could have also been deemed consistent with the intent of those policy documents.
12. Will this project result in the loss of wetland?
No, all wetlands within the property will be retained and buffered. In the case of Henry Marsh, no development, including the access road, is proposed within 250 meters.
The District and Town previously identified an alignment for the future Western By-pass that traverses this property; that future road alignment was approved by the Province and is fixed. The property owner had no input to that process and is required by the District to have his entrance driveway follow that alignment, which does encroach into one wetland buffer and requires some stream crossings; site-specific mitigation measures have been recommended and will be applied to minimize impacts of those portions of the driveway.
13. Will this project require extensive blasting and clearing?
No, although this property includes some very rugged terrain the school precincts and associated driveways have been located to capitalize on lands of moderate to gentle grade, where school buildings can be built with minimal regrading. Blasting will be minimal. Tree clearing will be restricted to these portions of the school precincts where buildings or other infrastructure are to be located, with the desire being to maintain as many trees as possible.
14. Will water quality in Lake Muskoka be negatively impacted?
No. First, it is important to understand that only about 5% of this property outlets through a small drainage course flowing directly to Lake Muskoka, with the remaining 95% grading to small watercourses or wetlands which eventually outlet through Henry Marsh to the Muskoka River (before ultimately entering Lake Muskoka). Stormwater from all new areas of hard surfaces (roofs, driveways, parking areas) will be collected and treated through stormwater management facilities to the highest water quality standard of the Province before being broadly released into wetland or watercourse buffers, which will provide additional water quality benefits before such runoff enters those waterbodies and before it eventually reaches the Muskoka River or Lake Muskoka.
15. Does environmental scrutiny of this project end with municipal approvals?
No. The civil engineering report and Environmental Impact Study include many recommendations needing to be addressed as part of the Site Plan process for each stage of site development. This includes that an additional Environmental Impact Study be prepared for every phase of development to ensure all aspects of the detailed design and project implementation provide protection for the natural environment and address all earlier recommendations. This requires a minimum 30 m average buffer around every wetland and well-defined watercourse. This additional stage of reporting must be accepted by the Town before development can proceed. Town staff will be working with the owner and his project team through that Site Plan process, with an additional commitment by the owner to continuing to work with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and District of Muskoka, in ensuring all of the final project details are environmentally and technically sound.