A Calgary-based developer has put a 47-hectare parcel of vacant land up for sale at Beaconia Beach, passing the torch to someone else to continue a plan for a 120-cottage-lot development with canal access to Lake Winnipeg.
The sale ends a chapter in an almost five-year saga that saw work on a 600-metre-long boat channel, dug through a lakeside marsh, halted by the province in 2010 after cottagers complained about the potential environmental harm. Even though the channel was eventually approved last year, developer Robert Rettie said he's no longer eager to pursue the development.
"Plans have changed," he said Thursday. "I think I've had the land for seven years or so and we don't get out there as much anymore, so I decided to sell it."
The listed price is $650,000 and it's been on the market for about six weeks. Located just south of Grand Beach, it comes with a conceptual plan for the 120 lots and extended canal system to the lake. Rettie's house at Beaconia is also being sold.
Rettie said he's not selling the land out of frustration with opposition to the channel and proposed cottage development, but that it's more difficult to make the trip to the province each summer from Alberta.
"It's a beautiful property," he said. "There were lots of critics, but the people who actually live in Beaconia would like to see their town revived."
Rettie had the boat channel dug to better protect his two watercraft and had received approval from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which oversees projects on major lakes and waterways, and the Selkirk and District Planning Area Board.
But the Manitoba government halted the project after several area cottagers and the Eastern Beaches Conservation Coalition complained. It ordered a provincial environmental review take place before any work could continue. The province later found no negative impacts to Lake Winnipeg were expected from the channel and issued an Environment Act licence, but with provisions to address erosion, sedimentation and wildlife concerns and to cover the use and maintenance of the canal.
The province says since the licence was issued, the boat launch and docking facilities in the original plan have not been constructed, and no apparent maintenance has occurred on the channel.
"As a result, the usefulness of the channel for its intended purpose is doubtful," a provincial spokesman said.
Vicki Burns of the Save Lake Winnipeg Project said the issue over the boat channel raises concerns no serious oversight occurred.
"I think that there is now broad acceptance that Lake Winnipeg is in a threatened state, and if we are serious about trying to restore the health of this lake, we have to be serious about carefully examining and planning any new developments," she said. "It doesn't mean 'no more development' but it needs to happen in a manner that seriously considers and minimizes or completely avoids any negative consequences to the health of the lake."
Matthew Fitzgerald, assistant manager of the Red River Planning District, said there is no active subdivision application to develop the land for cottage lots.