Simcoe hands over Cty. Rd. 91
By Laurie Watt Stayner Sun
DUNTROON – Simcoe County has decided to download a section of County Road 91 to Clearview Township, a move that will result in part of the road becoming a restricted access road and another portion of the road being closed.
County council decided last Thursday to no longer maintain a section of the picturesque road that links with Grey County and that serves as a Collingwood bypass to Thornbury.
The move facilitates a Walker Aggregates’ proposal to expand the Duntroon Quarry and use County Road 91 as its primary haul route. The application is the subject of a 10-week joint Environmental Review Tribunal and Ontario Municipal Board hearing that’s to start April 12.
As well as the Clearview Community Coalition, the joint board hearing includes the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“Rather than letting it go to a hearing and be tried on a fair basis, the municipalities are lining up with the developer in opposition to their citizens. Walker has asked both Clearview and Simcoe County to come to the hearing,” said Clearview Community Coalition president Janet Gillham, who has attended joint-board prehearings and joined in teleconferences.
“We’re suggesting this is way too highly sensitive (land). It’s at the headwaters of the Grey Sauble and Nottawasaga watersheds.”
Her husband compared the plan to Site 41 – a plan the county spent millions on, but finally shelved last summer over concerns about water quality.
Enabling escarpment land to be further mined, as well as cutting off an east-west bypass, would adversely affect tourism, commerce and quality of life in the western part of the county, Bruce Gillham told county councillors Thursday.
“(The road) cuts through the brow of the escarpment and gives an amazing view of the Nottawasaga Valley and Georgian Bay. It is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in Ontario. It would be unfortunate to lose that view, but on a more practical level, closing the road would reduce the east-west service providing by the network of county roads.”
Known once as the Old Mail Route, it linked Barrie with Owen Sound. It later became an alternative for local residents wanting to avoid traffic backlogs on Highway 26, but also for tourists heading to destinations such as Lake Eugenia, Beaver Valley and the Talisman Resort.
It’s also known for its incredible views, especially in the autumn.
Simcoe County has agreed to pay Clearview Township $2 million to take responsibility for the road and required improvements.
Essential upgrades are expensive, due to numerous changes in elevation, the Clearview coalition noted. In descending from the escarpment into Duntroon, the road has eight slopes where the grade is eight per cent or more – that benchmark being the Ministry of Transportation’s recommended maximum grade. The road also has 20 vertical curves that do not meet the 80 km/h design speed, and in the winter, the road is susceptible to icing.
Not a controlled access route, the five-kilometre section of road the county is looking to hand over – between Duntroon and Grey Road 31 – has 43 rural residential driveways.
The county-approved agreement, obtained Thursday by The Sun, says Walker will pay the county’s legal and hearing expenses, and Clearview had struck the same agreement, with the addition that the company will also pay for peer review consultants the township hires.
It also expects Walker Aggregates to pay $7.5 million for a section of the road, as well as required improvements to not only Simcoe Road 91, but also upgrades to the 26/27 Sideroad intersection.
The agreement states that part of County Road 91, between Nottawasaga Concession 10 and the east boundary of the proposed quarry will be a restricted access road and that a portion of the road adjacent to the quarry will be closed. It is this portion of the road that Walker will buy. Nottawasaga Sideroad 26/27 will be improved to a year-round open gravel road for local traffic.
Clearview mayor Ken Ferguson, in a news release issued last week, called the agreement a “win-win” for everyone.
“The township will benefit from up to $10.5-million dollars for road improvements with the township paying only $1-million,” he said, adding, “We get major road improvements at little cost to the municipality and we also reduce the amount and speed of traffic that were a concern to residents.”
Grey Highlands Coun. Paul McQueen said he heard about the planned downloading – and likely closure – just two days before Simcoe County approved the plan.
“As a neighbouring municipality, we should have a say or some discussion on a proposal that can affect our ratepayers,” said McQueen.
– With files from Michael Gennings