Zoning for hybrid “tourist resort-health clinic” to be reviewed by council, neighbours concerned
By Stephen Petrick
A neighbour of a new Algonquin Highlands business, described as a hybrid tourist resort-health clinic, plans to speak against the facility at Thursday’s council meeting.
Plans for Dimensions Algonquin Highlands are coming to fruition, but as the business intends to offer its guests a space to try “psychedelic therapies” the project has faced scrutiny and is still waiting for some municipal approvals.
Amber Meirik, who lives on Canopy Lane, next to the Maple Lake property where the resort is going up, says she’s worried about the safety of her family – including her teenaged daughters – given that Dimensions isn’t a typical resort. She has concerns about guests, who in a drug state, could wander off and cause harm to people in the area.
‘I really don’t like the fact that I’m a wide-open sitting duck, right beside it,” she said.
Dimensions Algonquin Highlands is intended to be a flagship resort for a new
company known as Dimensions Retreats, which wants to capitalize on the growing “wellness tourism” industry.
In a spring press release, it said it offers guests a chance to “immerse themselves in the healing benefits of nature” and that it offers “healing modalities and plant medicines” including “cannabis and cacao, as permitted by the local municipality, as well as psilocybin to guests that have received approval by Health Canada’s Schedule 56 exemptions and Special Access Programs.”
Several months ago, Algonquin Highlands’ planning department, thinking the project was a typical tourism resort, approved its construction, as the property was already zoned for that purpose. However, as new details emerged, a stop work order was issued, and Dimensions had to apply for a zoning variance to allow it to offer psychological services and other wellness activities.
That application is expected to be addressed in a report to council for its July 21 meeting, which is expected to be held virtually at 9 a.m. (The agenda and the report weren’t publicly available at the time of this writing).
When contacted last week, Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to weigh in on the matter yet.
“While we are aware of differing public opinion on both the property and the application, it’s inappropriate for any member of council to provide public comment about the property or the application without having heard from all parties to the matter,” she said in an email. “Re-zoning applications are considered within the lens of land use planning as opposed to personal sentiment, and our role is to go into these meetings with open minds, to hear from all parties, and debate an outcome.”
Meirik feels Dimensions hasn’t always been honest about its intentions. She says she would have been happy if the company was re-booting the retreat as a standard tourism operation – the 45-acre Maple Lake property was once the home of Mishpacha Resort.
She’s hoping that if the project can’t be stopped, the municipality will at least enforce the installation of a gate. She says other neighbours in the area have the same concerns.
When contacted by the Times, a Dimensions spokeswoman, Melanie Coates, said construction of the Dimensions Algonquin Highlands is nearing completion. It’s waiting to hear the result of the July 21 meeting to see if it has the go ahead to provide additional services that would “bring our amenities up to a luxury level to serve the modern well-being retreat guest,” Coates wrote in an email.
She said about 20 staff have been hired to work on the site, but they’re not hosting guests yet, as they’re still going through a training period. They hope to welcome their first guest in the fall.
In a spring interview with the Times, CEO Chris Dawson touted Dimensions as a safe, supervised place for people to take medicine, while under the care of therapists.