LETTER:Friends of East Lake group disbanding

The executive of Friends of East Lake (FOEL) has found it necessary to dissolve the not-for-profit corporation formed in 2006.

Most have been in place its formation and new blood was sought for the current directors to retire. One attempt was derailed by Covid, and in other pleas to supporters there was not enough interest to get the required number of people to take over. In their letter to supporters announcing the dissolution, FOEL executives said they believed that largely contributing to the lack of interest is that Athol and East Lake have the highest concentration of Short-Term Accommodations in the County.

This escalation in STA’s was unforeseen by everyone, including the Municipality, and what to do about it is an ongoing discussion. One unfortunate outcome is the negative effect on community groups such as FOEL. The change in demographics around East Lake, from owner-occupied full-time residences and single-family recreational properties to STA’s, leading to a dwindling supply of volunteers.

FOEL formed to fight a rezoning application of a small lakeside lot just outside Cherry Valley from Rural to Tourist Commercial to build a year-round cottage resort. The lot was surrounded on all sides by residential homes and owner-occupied cottages and the application was initially denied. However, when the developer threatened to take the case to the Ontario Municipal Board, that decision was reversed. At the time FOEL was small, mainly consisting of neighbours of that development and had no resources to fight the OMB. However, the appearance of Cottage Advisors and its purchase of the 80-acre driving range site on the south side of East Lake and its application to council for rezoning for a 237 cottage resort, the group gained a good deal of prominence and support for its opposition to the resort. At the council meeting a petition of more than 700 signatures was presented, the largest ever in the County.

Despite this, Council approved the application. FOEL, with increasing financial support from the community, appealed the rezoning at the OMB. This was met with an Motion to Dismiss from Cottage Advisors on the grounds the appeal was frivolous and without merit. FOEL won the Motion, but this left the group without sufficient funds to proceed, and the resort went ahead.

FOEL had numerous successes. A settlement of $40K from Cottage Advisors was secured and earmarked to support local parkland. A sell-out fundraiser featuring Margaret Atwood was held at the Regent Theatre. Its main achievement, however, was to obtain grants amounting to $90K from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and other funding agencies to produce the East Lake Stewardship Plan, completed in 2015 in collaboration with French Planning Services, Quinte Conservation and PEC Planning Staff. The Plan was officially received by the Municipality and deemed to be a valuable tool for the County, intended to be used in future planning decisions for East Lake.

Submitted by Sec. Barbara Wyatt on behalf of the FOEL Executive