Observatory lands hearing to stretch into September
A hearing will decide the result of a five-year fight to save one of the Town of Richmond Hill’s few remaining green spaces after it was sold to a developer in 2007.
The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing, which began Aug. 7, will be extended to Sept. 5 and 6 after nearly three weeks of debate over the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) lands.
A local preservationist group, the Richmond Hill Naturalists (RHN), appealed an earlier settlement concerning the site, prompting the hearing. Originally, the settlement would see the town purchasing 99 of the total 189 acres of the DDO lands, leaving the rest for residential development by the landowner. The town bought a 12.1-acre area known as the “panhandle” directly from the landowner in late June.
The RHN aims to preserve 100 per cent of the lands instead and wished to put forth their objections to the settlement in a public forum, said president Marianne Yake.
“Some of our concerns, which were most important to us — the treed areas and the wetlands — certainly looked like they were not being protected in the way we had thought,” she said.
Chief concerns included protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine aquifer, which supplies large amounts of potable water within the GTA, and maintaining ample woodland for wildlife to live on.
The RHN called several witnesses before the board, including an ecologist, hydrogeologist, arbourist and others, to discuss how development may affect the land.
The town’s legal counsel was contacted but was unable to comment on the case.
The board will decide the fate of the lands after the hearing’s final arguments.
The town’s purchase of the remaining lands will close Oct. 12 if the original settlement stands. Final arguments are expected Sept. 10.