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COVID-19 is excuse as Simcoe County tries to close down process for proposed Freele Tract waste facility

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In AWARE News Network
Apr 29th, 2020
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Freele Tract

Freele Tract – C. Rutherford photo 

Friends of Simcoe Forests Outraged as County of Simcoe uses COVID-19 in effort to avoid LPAT hearing over the proposed waste processing complex in the Freele County Forest

News release from the Friends of Simcoe Forests 

The County of Simcoe is using the COVID-19 pandemic to ram through approval of the Environmental Resource Recovery Centre (ERRC), a large waste processing complex in the Freele County Forest. Last year, the Friends of Simcoe Forests Inc., a local citizens’ group, appealed the decision to establish the ERRC in the Freele County Forest to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

On April 17, 2020, the County of Simcoe sent a request to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) asking the Minister to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order to the ERRC.

The issuance of a Minister’s Zoning Order would terminate the LPAT proceeding and would leave the legal, planning, and technical issues with the ERRC unresolved. FSF is unaware of any instance where a Minister’s Zoning Order has been issued for a project while a matter was before the LPAT.

“We are outraged,” said Mary Wagner, President of the FSF.

“We have participated in the local and provincial planning process in good faith for 4 years. Local residents have spent time, money and resources to prepare for the case. The County is now attempting to circumvent the LPAT hearing and citing the pandemic as a reason for trampling on citizens’ rights to engage in the democratic process.”

FSF has long been opposed to the site chosen by the County of Simcoe to place a major waste management and processing complex within the Freele County Forest.

“This proposal is fundamentally at odds with the Ontario’s environmental and planning laws,” Mary Wagner added. “We want to have the County take care of its waste – but not here, this is not an industrial site, it’s the wrong place for this facility.”

FSF and two local businesses have appealed the matter to LPAT.

“The issuance of a Minister’s Zoning Order would be extremely unfair at this late stage and would fundamentally undermine public trust and confidence in Ontario’s planning regime,” said Cindy Mercer, a local resident and member of FSF.

The County’s move comes after a controversial decision by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in September 2019 to introduce modifications to Ontario Regulation 311/06 (Transitional Matters – Growth Plans) to exempt the proposed site from the natural heritage policies under the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. FSF has challenged the legality of the regulation to LPAT.

The closed Environmental Registry posting is found here:

FSF is a local non-profit organization that seeks to protect and conserve forests in Simcoe County. FSF has expended significant time, resources, and money through tireless fundraising efforts to prepare for the LPAT hearing process which is currently underway.

FSF’s expert consultants have raised serious concerns about the adequacy of the County’s technical studies in relation to the Significant Woodland and four types of Significant Wildlife Habitat found on the proposed site.

“We continue to be subject to unfair measures by the government authorities to prevent us from raising legitimate arguments in this case,” said Cindy Mercer. “Ontarians should be entitled to an opportunity to engage in the LPAT hearing process without political interference. “

FSF is calling on the public to write Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark urging him not to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order to the ERRC.

Here’s the link to a suggested template for your letter. 

AWARE Simcoe letter to Minister Clark

See also:

Simcoe Forest deserves due process

Oops, whose fault were the delays in the Freele Tract waste project?

County’s MZO issues for projects in Springwater

5 Responses to “COVID-19 is excuse as Simcoe County tries to close down process for proposed Freele Tract waste facility”

  1. Bill French says:

    I am also quite worried with the recent delegation of authority in Springwater to the CAO that Council may easily sidestep criticism and may not even weigh in or object to a MZO for the Freele Tract. Don’t be surprised two years from now when the MSP and the ERRC are a done deal through MZO’s that both our current heads of Council will suggest the decisions were out of their hands because of COVID-19.

  2. R.W. Wagner says:

    During a recent County Meeting of the Whole, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Springwater Township both voted in favour of a motion to have County Staff attend the LPAT hearings, to pursue the conversion of the Freele Forest to the site for this large scale garbage depot. They cast their votes without any visible regard for the petition and any survey results gathered from their own constituents. They could have voted against the motion, but they did not. They could have abstained, but they did not. It appears that they they find it more expedient to represent the County downward to their own Township residents, rather than representing their Township residents upward to the County.
    The Deputy Mayor in particular was a non-entity during the period of time when she was the Ward Counsellor for the Ward which contains the Freele Forest. During the last municipal elections, I specifically asked her for her thoughts about the financial impact on residences belonging to her constituents who had the misfortune of living adjacent to the proposed site. Her reply was identical to the replies which had been given by the previous Warden of Simcoe County, i.e. she felt we should wait until the technology was selected to gauge the impact on property values.
    That was a ludicrous response. Any reasonable person would understand that, If any of the affected residents attempt to sell and escape this situation, their Realtor is required by law to inform prospective purchasers of the County’s intention to construct a garbage depot in their midst. How likely is that that the prospective purchaser would respond by saying “Really, what technology are they planning to use?” Isn’t it far more likely that they would say “Really? Thanks, but no thanks, I’m going to look elsewhere.”
    To date, there has been no provision built into the County’s cost projections for any type of reimbursement to the affected homeowners and business owners.
    Now, the technology has been selected, and the County’s most recent response (courtesy of its Mr. McCullough) is that we will need to wait until the facility has been in operation for a period of time in order to assess its impact on property values.
    The County simply refuses to transparently disclose the process for the affected residents to be made whole. Instead, their tactic seems to be evade, evade, evade; delay, delay, delay.
    And where is our own Township Council in this matter? The votes cast by our Mayor and Deputy Mayor at County meetings would suggest that they have abdicated their responsibility to their own constituents, and are simply playing politics.
    If that is the case, why do we need a Township Council at all? If the County is going to call all the shots, why not save the province some money by disbanding the Township Council (and possibly others), and then have Township Staff report directly to County officials? The Province has reduced the size of Toronto City Council, why not Township Councils as well?
    What in the world is going on?

  3. David Strachan says:

    Unfortunately, governments everywhere seem to be more impressed with “progress” and “moving forward” than “preservation” and “moving with nature”.

    • Ann says:

      You’re right David. Politicians are only interested in continuous growth which the planet can’t support, especially when they’re destroying the environment that we need to survive in the process!

  4. R.W. Wagner says:

    In this case, using an existing industrial site would still exhibit progress and moving forward. Why the fixation on ravaging one of our dwindling number of forests?

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