A Calgary-based developer says a large RV park proposed for a rural community on the shore of Bras d’Or Lake could be a big economic driver for Cape Breton.
Chris Skidmore wants to build the Ceilidh on the Lakes RV Campground on 40 hectares of land in Big Pond, about 35 kilometres southwest of Sydney.
Big Pond is best known as the home of the late Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil.
Phase 1 of the RV park would include 211 sites. When complete, the park could have as many as 541 RV sites and 64 tenting sites.
Skidmore first thought of the idea three years ago when he came to Cape Breton to visit his girlfriend’s parents. He owns a fifth-wheel camper and noticed what seemed to be a lack of RV sites on the island.
“I’d call a local RV dealership and they’d say, ‘Well, we’ve got people who want to buy trailers, but there’s just no sites.'”
When complete, Skidmore said the park will include a number of amenities, such as a pool, boathouse, clubhouse, convenience store and water playground.
Many not impressed
But the plans have not won over some in the community.
An online petition has been signed by 544 people and calls on the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to reject the zoning amendment needed to allow the development.
“This development is not consistent with the lifestyle of the community and will result in noise pollution, congestion and traffic safety issues,” the petition on change.org reads.
“Furthermore, the ecological sensitivity of the adjacent pond and its nesting birds, marine and wildlife residents will be at risk from sewage, surface run off and water-related activities.”
Among the opponents are Ann and Ed MacIntyre, who live a few hundred metres from the proposed development on land that’s been in the MacIntyre family since 1828.
The initial plans for the development called for 155 sites, and they were happy with that.
“I thought it would be a nice addition to the community,” said Ed MacIntyre.
But he said when Skidmore filed his plans with the municipality, the number of sites had quadrupled.
“By anybody’s calculation, if you have 605 lots, and you have a minimum of two people in a lot, that becomes 1,200 people,” he said. “If you happened to have three people, that’s 1,800 people. On a good day in Big Pond, we probably have 250 people.”
Zoning change needed
The MacIntyres said they also worry about the environmental impact, including the potential for runoff from the site into Bras d’Or Lake.
The Big Pond Community Council has invited officials from the municipality’s planning department to a public meeting Monday evening at the local fire hall.
Regional council will hold a public hearing on the development in January.
Skidmore said if the project meets provincial and municipal approval, he hopes to begin construction in 2018 and have the park open the following summer.