The Mysterious Case of the Ontario Monks and a Nursing Home That Got Another Greenbelt Development Approval

Did a monastery and peaceful retreat center sprawling across Ontario’s protected Greenbelt also once serve as a long-term care facility for elderly priests and monks? After two years of determined investigation, local environmental advocates say there is no evidence of a former long-term care facility on the sensitive land of Oak Ridges Moraine and permission should never have been granted to build a new one.

Under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act (ORMCA), officials can approve moraine development in King Township if the land was previously used for the same purpose. That “pre-existing use” was the justification given for giving the green light to a new 160-bed facility last year. But advocates argue that the evidence clearly indicates there was never a long-term care home at the site.

Apart from the occasional home visit, doctors did not attend the monastery, states a letter from a local doctor who treated Mary Lake Shrine of Our Lady Grace for 50 years. The letter was submitted as part of a formal complaint to two provincial ministries by an environmental citizen group called STORM (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine). Freedom of information requests submitted by STORM to the municipality did not turn up any paper records of a previous long-term care facility at the site, about 60 kilometers north of Toronto. And multiple requests for Canadian National Observer Requests sent to the provincial Ministry of Long-Term Care for information on previous licenses for a facility at the site were not responded to.

In his letter, Dr. Paul Randall noted: “While they may have hired an outside nurse occasionally, the majority of their medical care was performed in our King City office, not on-site, as would always be the case. case in long-term care in Ontario.”

The lack of evidence was consistent with the letter submitted by Dr. Paul Randall, who also has not seen any record of a long-term care facility registered on the site. Document presented by the environmental group called STORM (Save The Oak Ridges Moraine)

Quinto Annibale, lawyer for the promoter, St. Rita at Marylake Long Term Care Homeand president of the boarddismissed the coalition’s accusations as completely unfounded.

Annibale said a long-term care facility has been present on the property since about 1956.

“This has been confirmed by King Township in a report accepted by council some time ago,” Annibale said in an email. He went on to say that out of “an abundance of caution,” he received confirmation from the King Township committee of adjustment that a long-term care facility existed on the land as a “legal and nonconforming use” as part of the approval. .

“I’m not sure what the fuss is about,” Annibale added.

Under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, officials can approve moraine development if the land has previously been used for the same purpose. But advocates argue that evidence indicates there was never a long-term care home at the site.

King Township says it urgently needs more senior beds, as it currently only has 36 long-term care beds for more than 27,300 residents, one of the lowest ratios of beds per person over 85 in Ontario. And it has the support of the provincial ministry of long-term care, which approved the new development in 2023. Annibale noted that construction is underway and the facility will soon be serving the public.

However, the environmental group is determined to stop the project. Is demanding The Ford government is investigating the approval of long-term care homes under the Ontario Act. Environmental Bill of Rights. The request was sent to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, which acknowledged receipt, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Approval for the $59 million nursing home was granted last year by King Township and the province to the landowner, Augustinian Fathers (Ontario) Inc., for the construction of a three-story facility. Annibale said Canadian National Observer that the developer, St. Rita at Marylake Long Term Care Home, will operate the house. Both entities, the developer and the land owner, are non-profit corporations and registered charities. The Ministry of Long-Term Care will fund the nursing home’s operating costs, with a total provincial investment in Marylake exceeding $350 million over 30 years, Annibale said.

After two years of determined investigation, local environmental advocates say there is no evidence of a former long-term care facility recently used to justify building a new one on the sensitive land of Oak Ridges Moraine in King Township. Photo by Abdul Matin Sarfraz/National Observer

But STORM members maintain the development, which began construction in the fall of 2023, was approved under false pretexts and poses “significant risks to the natural heritage of the moraine.” The region is recognized as one of the province’s most important ecological landforms and is dotted with wetlands, lakes, many fish species and sensitive ecosystems.

“There is an absolute and complete loss of democracy in this particular situation,” said Catherine Flear, president of King of climate action, an organization that is part of the coalition. “We, as a group of citizens, have been fighting this request for months and have presented extremely balanced logical information, but it has been completely ignored by the municipality.”

Flear said Canadian National Observer Development is not only in the Green Belt, but also in the moraine, which is the backbone of the Green Belt and is very important for water supply and natural habitat.

Efforts to build the long-term care facility date back to 2020, when King Township council initially denied Augustinian Fathers (Ontario) Inc.’s request to ask the province for a ministerial zoning order to build the project. However, the following year, King Township planning staff recommended approval citing it as a pre-existing use.

The environmental group filed a freedom of information request seeking evidence that there was previously a long-term care home at the site, but for 26 months, the applicant refused, forcing the group to file two appeals, the complaint states. by STORM. Eventually, a provincial judge was assigned to the case and some information was released. However, evidence of a pre-existing long-term care facility was never presented, according to the complaint.

The lack of evidence was consistent with the letter submitted by Dr. Randall, who also has not seen any record of a long-term care facility registered on the site. Randall said all LTC homes in Ontario must be licensed and inspected by the ministries of health and long-term care. Among other requirements, they are required to have a medical director as well as a nursing care director, he added.

“I have never seen any evidence of this in Marylake, which I believe has functioned simply as a retirement home for its elderly brothers and priests,” Randall said. The doctor concluded that characterizing the retirement center in Mary Lake as a “long-term care home” is a significant misunderstanding or exaggeration.

The construction site is located between mary lake and a wetland of provincial importance. Environmental advocates say it creates ecological risks and possible pollution from construction activities.

“It is clear that the degradation of water quality will negatively affect these wetlands and lakes. The plans, laws and regulations that were implemented to prevent these contaminants from damaging and destroying sensitive ecosystems in the moraine must be maintained,” said Bruce Craig, president of Concerned Citizens of King Township (CCKT).

Opponents allege The approval of the care center violates Section 14 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act (ORMCA) and the Federal Fisheries Act.

A statement from the King Township mayor’s office said the project can be built with sufficient safeguards for the environment.

“King Township has a strong record of protecting green space, and this redevelopment is no exception,” the statement said. “The facility will be built entirely on already developed land and will be limited to three floors. “Comprehensive studies confirm that this new facility represents a significant ecological improvement for the site, including a net benefit to groundwater, considering the age of the existing structures and infrastructure.”

Both the Ministry of Long-Term Care and King Township also say public consultations were held prior to approval, ensuring public input was gathered before deciding on a proposal for the long-term care home.

Canadian National Observer He contacted the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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