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The long and winding road project: Here’s the latest on Clearview Township’s 26/27 Sideroad project

In Clearview
Nov 28th, 2022
From Simcoe.com
Wasaga Sun

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The process for Clearview Township to get a development permit to upgrade the 26/27 Sideroad has now stretched seven years and cost the municipality more than $1.6 million in engineering and legal fees.

“The township is certainly concerned about the delays and mounting costs associated with this application, but it is important to remember that they have been, mostly, beyond our control,” Clearview’s chief administrative officer John Ferguson told Simcoe.com.

“Construction costs have increased significantly for many projects in the past year alone and have doubled since 2014. Our capital objectives will be pushed back a year to manage the increase in construction costs.”

A tribunal hearing the township’s appeal of a 2015 decision by the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) to deny a development permit for the sideroad had been scheduled to begin in November, 2021. However, the township requested — and received — an adjournment after the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks asked the municipality to provide a justification for the environmental assessment process used to determine the appropriateness of the project.

A year later, after submitting its background material to the ministry, the municipality is still waiting for a response. Ferguson said the municipality was last in contact with the ministry about 11 months ago.

He added there has been little in the way of additional costs for the road over the last year, given the matter is still adjourned.

A ministry spokesperson told Simcoe.com the township’s material is still being reviewed.

“The ministry continues to review all information submitted for this project. At this point we have not made a final decision,” ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler told Simcoe.com in an email.

The redevelopment of 26/27 — which is currently considered a “summer” road — is part of an agreement with Walker Aggregates and the County of Simcoe to upgrade the local road system and provide an east-west route between the 10th Line and Grey Road 31. The agreement includes the closing and transfer of a section of County Road 91, west of Duntroon to the aggregate company.

The tri-party agreement was endorsed by the Joint Board as part of the approval for Walker Aggregates to expand its operations west of Duntroon in 2012.

Between roadwork on 91 and the 10th Line, and the ongoing costs of 26/27, the municipality has spent more than $10.2 million — though Ferguson said some of the costs for work on the 10th Line work is unrelated to the agreement, and “was necessary to remedy the existing unsafe situation along that road and was necessary no matter what the future of 91.”

The new council is expected to see a 2023 budget request to finish work on the 10th Line.

The township had a $10.5 million budget for road work tied to the agreement, $7.5 million of which came from Walker in exchange for the transfer of 91.

The 26/27 project is controversial for neighbours, who also oppose the closing of 91, and the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust (BMWT), which backed the NEC decision to refuse the permit.

BMWT was particularly critical of the environmental assessment used by the municipality. It lobbied the ministry to require a more stringent assessment, a request that was initially denied by the then-minister Jeff Yurek, who determined the environmental assessment process followed by the municipality was appropriate.

Ferguson said the township continues to pursue its appeal as it has “an ongoing obligation to provide safe and reliable passage along the roads under its authority.

The township is bound by the terms of the joint board’s decision and the agreements with the county and Walker Aggregates, he said. “Unfortunately, it seems that the opposition to the closing of Township Road 91 has targeted (wrongly in the township’s view) the work proposed for the improvements to 26/27 Sideroad, apparently in the hopes of somehow relieving the township of the obligation to close 91.”

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