/Company wants to bring treehouses to Minden Hills

Company wants to bring treehouses to Minden Hills

By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Treehouses won’t solve the housing predicament in Minden Hills, but there’s an effort afoot to make them a tourist draw to the area.

Township council heard an application when it met March 30 to rezone a property from designated rural to recreational commercial and hazard land zone to accommodate tourism establishment use.

The proponents are Cameron and Lauren Green of Fort Treehouse Company, which is billed at Canada’s premier luxury treehouse company.

But these aren’t your hobbled-together childhood treehouses of found-lumber and discarded nails picked from the floor of your father’s workshop. They’re “a transformative getaway experience that surprises the senses and inspires true exploration,” according to the website.

According to the information submitted in the application, the property currently has a single detached dwelling still under construction. It’s to be serviced by pole mounted solar panels and propane as well as a private individual well and septic system.

The property is 15.26 acres with about 152.4 metres (500 ft) of frontage on Geeza Road.

The proponent hopes to build  luxury treehouse rental accommodations, a single detached dwelling, retail space for the sale of food and beverages, A Welcome Centre, and a residential housing unit.

The dwelling will include a detached garage.

Cameron Green said he’s been working with consulting arborists to identify suitable trees on the property.

“Through our selection process, we have to find trees that are the right distance from one another, the right species, sugar maple being preferred in our area, and have the health that’s required at the size that’s required to support the structures that we’re proposing,”  

During a site visit, municipal staff saw that the condition of Geeza Road adjacent to the subject property may not be adequate to facilitate the proposed development.

As the proposed development will change the use from residential to commercial, the application should include demonstration that the subject property complies with required sight lines for a commercial entrance. 

As a result, Staff directed that the applicant submit a Scoped Traffic Impact Brief to demonstrate that no impact to the township road will result from the proposed development; determine the adequacy of the existing road adjacent to the property and to determine the nature and extent of any improvements that may be required to the existing road to facilitate the proposed development; and to confirm that required sight lines for a commercial entrance can be met. 

Sue Harrison, a planning consultant working with Fort Treehouse Company, said all requested reports have been provided and are awaiting to be peer reviewed.

She said some projects as they evolve become something they weren’t initially intended. In those cases, she said further studies are warranted.

“But this project has remained substantially the same throughout this process,” Harrison said. “So we’re surprised by this request (for more information).”

She said a scoped traffic assessment is not necessary.

“In my experience, a traffic analysis is typically required when there’s a significant development,” she said. “To address traffic concerns, volume of traffic, safety on the road, access of emergency vehicles.

“In reality, this is a very small-scale development.”

On an average day, Harrison said, there would be four to six cars added to the existing traffic levels. But a scoped traffic study would add another four to six months to the development review process.

“And I ask to what purpose?” she said.

The development’s impact on nearby wetlands has been reviewed by RiverStone Environmental Solutions Inc. And an aquifer assessment was completed by EXP Services Inc. Both studies are awaiting peer review.

Bev Wicks of RiverStone said steps have been taken regarding proposed treehouse placement that would prevent wetlands and buffer zones being traversed by people.

“It’s not fish habitat here,” she said. “It is really just a spring that starts a watercourse flowing.”

Councillor Tammy McKelvey asked why the development’s initially six treehouses have been scaled back to only three.

Harrison said Green submitted development plans that detailed up to six treehouses. The first phase would see three built and, should the proponents see fit to add more in the future, they wouldn’t have to go through another rezoning process.

“(Municipal) planning staff did not want it to include the additional three, so we revised our ask to go back to the original three (treehouses),” Harrison said.

Coun. Pam Sayne applauded the treehouse idea.

“I’m really excited about this and I’m really looking forward to hearing what our planner has to say about this,” Sayne said.