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