Thursday October 29: Escarpment commission hears Clearview re-application for road upgrade
You can join the NEC’s virtual meeting on a project it denied five years ago that threatens streams, slopes and wetlands
The Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) is holding a virtual meeting on Oct. 29 2020 at 2:15 pm to consider the Township of Clearview’s application to reconstruct Side Road 26/27.
Clearview first made application to the NEC for reconstruction of the road in the fall of 2015. The application was denied on November 27, 2015. The Township’s revised application to amend the NEP is finally coming to the Commission and the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office.
To join the meeting you are required to register via e-mail with Jennifer Olah at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will send a link and you can listen or watch on your computer or telephone. Also, a copy of the Staff Report will be available from the NEC website by Friday, October 23 at this link: https://www.escarpment.org/Commission/Meetings.
The problem is the impact of the proposed road upgrade on the Niagara Escarpment environment and the adjacent wetlands and also the headwaters of the Pretty River, a cold-water fish habitat that flows into Georgian Bay. Our concern arises from the Consolidated Hearing Board’s Minutes of Settlement for the Walker Duntroon Quarry. The Road Improvement Agreement between the County of Simcoe, the Township and Walker approved a closing of a portion of County Road 91, the main road up the Escarpment connecting Simcoe and Grey Counties. The portion of the road abutting the quarry lands would be transferred to Walker. The Agreement had little public input.
One of the conditions of the hearing decision was that Clearview Sideroad 26/27 had to be upgraded to handle the traffic no longer able to use Road 91.
Clearview made their first application to the Niagara Escarpment Commission in November 2015. The BMWTF testified in opposition at the hearing.
The application was refused by a vote of 12 to 1 for the following reasons:
· The road project did not meet the test of “essential” as alternatives were not taken into consideration,
· A tunnel under Road 91 was provided making the case for reconstructing 26/27 as “essential” not the case,
· Further development of the road would offend the objectives of the Niagara Escarpment’s two most sensitive land use designations i.e. Escarpment Natural and Escarpment Protection.
· Further development of the road would cause environmental harm to cold water streams and steep Escarpment slopes.
Clearview appealed the Commission’s decision to the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office in December 2015. In carrying out further environmental assessment on 26/27 in the spring of 2016, additional wetlands not identified in the original assessment were discovered. The BMWT engaged our environmental expert to investigate and the presence of additional wetlands was discovered. This will now require Clearview to seek an amendment to the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
The Township’s revised application to amend the NEP is finally coming to the Commission and the NEHO.
A municipality, in carrying out road construction in Ontario, must do a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment. Clearview chose to carry out the work as a lowest-level Class A project. We believe higher-level a Schedule C undertaking would be more appropriate as it allows for public input and consideration of alternatives. We asked Ontario to “bump-up” the MCEA, to no avail.
We are convinced that reconstruction of 26/27 is not a satisfactory solution for the loss of 91. Alternatives need to be studied and there are other viable options available that should have been considered in the MCEA process.
We plan to hire expert witnesses to provide opinions on the proposal that will be presented to the NEHO. We will also mount a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the threat and encourage the public to make their concern known to decision makers at the Niagara Escarpment Commission and to the local Clearview level and the Province of Ontario.