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Continue fight to protect Henderson Forest, Aurora ratepayers' group urges councillors

Battle over 2 properties on Oak Ridges Moraine has been going on for 4 years
April 1, 2021
Lisa Queen

With a tribunal decision on Aurora’s Henderson Forest now under review, a ratepayers’ group is asking council to stand together in continuing to protect the environmentally sensitive land.

The fight over two properties at 672 and 684 Henderson Dr. in the Henderson Forest on the Oak Ridges Moraine has been going on for four years.

Proponents Michael Stanek and Losar Developments Inc. want to build two estate homes on the properties.

After Aurora’s committee of adjustment rejected the bid, they appealed the decision to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), formerly the Ontario Municipal Board, a provincial body that rules on land use issues.

On Jan. 26, LPAT ruled against the development, but the proponents asked for a review of the case.

At a March 23 committee meeting, Henderson Forest Aurora Ratepayer Association president George Skoulikas asked councillors to indicate they will continue to support residents fighting the development.

“Development is not an appropriate use for these mature woodlands. They serve their rightful purpose now as mature woodlands,” he said.

The proponents could not be reached for comment.

Calling the development application “environmentally irresponsible,” Skoulikas says the properties are of enormous ecological value.

They are home to mature woodlands with trees well over 100 years old, wetlands, a section of Tannery Creek and a wealth of wildlife, including endangered bats, snapping turtles, painted turtles and red-headed woodpeckers, he said.

Losing the lands to development after a long and costly fight would set a dangerous precedent, signalling other environmentally sensitive lands are open to development, Skoulikas said.

Councillors suggested the town will continue to oppose development on the properties.

Defending the town’s position would cost money, but it’s the right thing to do to protect these environmental lands, Coun. Wendy Gaertner said.

Coun. Sandra Humfryes also it’s important to protect the sites.

“They don’t know who they are working with. You (the ratepayers) will never give up. We will never give up,” she said.

But while the fight is not over, Coun. Rachel Gilliland said the proponents could bring forward a new application to develop the properties if they lose the LPAT review of the Jan. 26 decision.