Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini is joining the fight to save the 3.15-hectare Penryn Woods, in the south-west end of Port Hope, Ont.
The woodlot, which has hundreds of mature trees, is adjacent to a new subdivision that’s being constructed by Mason Homes.
Phase 5 of the subdivision will involve the removal of a large part of the woodlot.
“This woodlot is intricately tied to who we are as a community, and to who we are as people who live in this community,” Piccini said at a news conference at Penryn Woods on Tuesday morning.
“Today, we stand at a crossroads. Do we want to continue on a suburban trajectory to become one giant suburb of Toronto, or do we stand up and say, ‘no!'”
Piccini said he didn’t agree with plans to clear-cut wooded areas for development.
“It means collectively standing together to talk about smart development — about building communities that don’t just clear-cut and build single-detached housing.”
Piccini pledged that his team will work with residents to get information for the upcoming hearings of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) that were initiated by the developer.
He launched saveourtrees.ca to link residents to a petition and forms to be a participant in the virtual LPAT hearing, scheduled for May 28.
“I’m encouraging all of you to stand up today and make sure your voices are heard. This is our future. This is our community. This is rural Ontario,” Piccini said.
The citizens’ group and not-for-profit organization PHorests 4 R PHuture has retained its own legal counsel to participate in the upcoming LPAT hearings.
“The AON-Mason Homes phase 5 proposal needs to be rejected,” group member Claire Holloway Wadhwani said.
“Our concerns look to the past and to the future. Penryn Woodlot must be permanently protected due to its value and significance to our town’s ecosystem, our heritage and our tree canopy.”
Wadhwani said the group also contends the planning process for phase 5 has been “since the outset, plagued by errors, omissions and confusion.”
“Confusion, we believe, the developer is trying to use to push for a phase 5 plan, that not only runs contrary to their own originally stated vision for the Lakeside Village community, but also to multiple plans that have been subject to past OMB rulings,” she said.
Canadian gardening author and Penryn advocate Mark Cullen also joined the news conference to lend his support to the cause.
“Cutting down biologically rich wood to build homes, especially where there are alternatives, is not acceptable anymore,” he said.
The Municipality of Port Hope declined an interview with Global News.
A spokesperson for the municipality said the applicant for the proposed phase of the subdivision has appealed its planning applications for the subdivision to LPAT.
But on the advice of its legal counsel, the municipality is not able to comment further due to the appeal.
Global News Peterborough has contacted Mason Homes president Gord Mason for comment on this story.