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article imageOntario decides on controversial Guelph business park development Special

By Stephanie Dearing     Aug 27, 2009 in Environment
Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources, Donna Cansfield, has made her decision on the Hanlon Creek Business Park located in Guelph. The decision is certain to make all parties unhappy, but is a small win for the opponents of the development.
Ms. Cansfield relayed her decision today via telephone. A written decision is not yet available, but will be soon. "The construction may only proceed on the culvert with restrictions on the time when work may be done. Silt fencing must be put in place, and no work is to be done at night," Ms. Cansfield said. The only work that she has approved is the construction on the culvert. In the meanwhile, the City of Guelph is to monitor the site for the Jefferson Salamander and next spring, the Ministry of Natural Resources will review the monitoring results, assessing the development in view of those results with the City and stakeholders. Any further decisions on the development will be made based on the results of the monitoring.
A fact sheet sent from Ms. Cansfield's Media Desk states, "The construction site for the Hanlon Creek Business Park in Guelph has been identified as possible habitat for the Jefferson salamander, which is a threatened species under Ontario's Endangered Species Act. The Ministry of Natural Resources' first priority is protecting species at risk and their habitat. Following meetings between ministry and city of Guelph staff and a review by the Minister of Natural Resources, it has been decided that protective measures should be put in place so that limited work may proceed on the site."
The City of Guelph was anticipating a favourable decision, and has already contacted the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) with a request to extend the current culvert construction deadline of September 15th. Dave Schultz, Manager of Communications with the GRCA declined to provide the date of the extension that the City had requested, saying it was "moot." Schultz said that the GRCA requires more information from the City in the form of a firm date, before it can make a decision. He said that permit deadlines are related to fish life cycles and movement, and are set by the federal government. He did not know what kind of fish live in Tributary A. Schultz said that he couldn't say when a decision would be made on the extension request. Certainly this will be a priority issue for the City of Guelph. However, Donna Cansfield's office stated that the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans has stipulated the September 15th deadline, and this deadline must be observed.
Shultz corrected information published an earlier article published on Digital Journal about the bridge that will cross the tributary. He said that technically the crossing is a culvert, but is more like a bridge. The open area under the bridge will be 3.6 meters wide and the bridge itself will be 35 to 40 meters in length. The culvert will allow a roadway to be constructed over the creek, which connects two provincially significant wetlands. One of those wetlands contains an old growth forest.
The Mayor of Guelph, Karen Farbridge, and Guelph's CAO, Hans Loewig are meeting this afternoon with legal staff to discuss Donna Cansfield's decision, and it is anticipated that the City will deliver a statement later today. The Hanlon Creek Occupation group did not know about the decision until they were contacted today via email, and it is anticipated that they will have a statement soon. An update will be made as more information becomes available.
The business park development has been opposed by City of Guelph residents for the past nine years, all the way to the Ontario Municipal Board. On July 27th, just as construction on the culvert was starting, a group of protesters moved onto the site and halted the work. The protesters were seeking to halt the entire development in order to protect the ground water system, the old growth forest located on the property, the provincially significant wetlands and the at-risk Jefferson Salamander, all located on the land, which has been earmarked to become a new Business Park by the City.
After a court hearing for an injunction filed against the site occupiers by the City, in which a surprise injunction was filed against the City by the protesters, Superior Court of Ontario's Justice Gray decided to suspend all work on the site for 30 days while the matter went to Donna Cansfield for her consideration. Justice Gray's decision was made on August 13th.
Update I: Mayor Karen Farbridge said "The city is very pleased that the Minister has responded so quickly while within the 30 day time line given by the judge. We are also very pleased with the content of the letter [from Donna Cansfield]. It is clear unequivocal that in her decision the Minister has given the city the authority to proceed, so this releases the city from the 30 day injunction that prevents us from moving forward with the construction. The city has, as it has throughout this process, remains committed to working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and also with the Grand River Conservation Authority to ensure that we proceed with extreme care with this development through every part of its phases."
Update II: An email from a land protector calling him or herself "Salamander Jim" states that the protesters feel as if they have been "sold out by another politician." Further comments will be made soon.
Update III: The City of Guelph has posted a notice that states that water monitoring equipment was removed from Tributary A during the time of the occupation, and is missing (stolen). According to the City, the company hired to conduct the monitoring, Aecom, learned of the alleged theft on August 19th but only reported it to the City today. The equipment is valued at $2,000.00. The City also said that Aecon could not proceed with monitoring during the occupation from July 27 to August 14th. However, readers should note that the original adjournment of the hearing for the City's injunction, issued on August 4th, stated that personnel were to be allowed onto the site for the purpose of monitoring (as well as a few other purposes), and this was upheld by Justice Gray, when he heard the case on August 11th. Because his decision was deferred, the first order was continued, with some minor modifications. City's counsel had argued that personnel could not enter the site with protesters in occupation, but Justice Gray succinctly stated that a court order providing access should be sufficient.
A separate and more in-depth report will be filed tomorrow to look at this new development.
More about Hanlon creek business park, Donna cansfield, Ministry natural resources, Jefferson salamander, Old growth forest
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