As our parliament considers a budget bill that would vastly transform our environmental protections in the absence of transparent public discussion, I am joining with colleagues across the country to say: Silence is Not an Option.
Today, with hundreds of others I am darkening my website and sending a single, unified message to decision-makers: Protect our Canadian values. Our land, water, and climate. Our communities. Our human rights and democracy.
Send a message now to your member of parliament and party leaders.
Visit BlackOutSpeakOut to join the campaign and to access tools to make your voice heard. Speak Out on twitter, facebook, and through your networks. Email or call your MP. And follow #blackoutspeakout during the day for updates and to join the conversation. In this historic Canadian moment, your voice has never been more important.
Thank you for speaking out and for standing up for Canada.
I took these pictures of a beautiful snapping turtle laying her eggs in the soon-to-be seeded garden bed of my neighbours whom, like Tracy and I, live on lands adjacent to the Dufferin Marsh.
This endangered creature needed to find a suitable place to complete her reproductive cycle, and she needed to venture beyond what to her is the imaginary confines of the Marsh: she needed to extend her search outside into a “buffer” area of the surrounding area, to the delight of my Neighbours’ school-age Children who will no doubt await the hatching in a few months.
This is a mere example of the value of these protected lands in the heart of our village, and why our Community Plan, despite its flaws, is so strong on protecting not only the Marsh itself, but by established buffer zones that further protect the Marsh and its many plant and animal inhabitants.
Recently the owners of our Brownsville Junction Plaza applied to the Township to begin the process of approval (or denial depending on your side of the issue) of their desire to erect a 5,000+ square foot professional office at the rear of the Foodland store, on a parcel at the corner of Cooper Drive and Doctor Kay. This parcel is clearly zoned in the Plan as an environmental constraint area, and for good reason.
In fact, the plaza owners via the Dufferin Marsh management plan are required to maintain these lands (which include storm water and other drainage assets required for maintain the Marsh).
Monday’s Council meeting saw this application come before Council for the first time.
Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? The Big Bad Wolf? The Big Bad Wolf? Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Tra la la la la.
Yesterday’s New Tecumseth Council meeting was unfortunately what I had expected – and disappointing.
As has become typical for my blog posts on this issue, there’s lots to read and lots to discuss. At the top here I summarize the key facts, issues and questions. For those of you who really want to dig in, keep on reading! And do please comment at the very bottom of this post.
The skinny on Monday’s discussion and eventual passed resolution on the matter is this:
New Tech Council blinked.
They aren’t willing to bet the bank they can assert their regulatory authority over landfill, in the face of only one lower court decision (Scugog) that (in obiter dicta) ruled against the Federal Government’s jurisdictional authority over regulating the manner in which site alteration is performed.
The loud clapping following David Francis’ excellent deputation (that, in essence, characterized this operation as a de facto land fill operation as opposed to an aerodrome expansion) was followed later with a room full of silent attendees following Council’s slightly modified approval of the Staff’ recommendation.
Another great Globe article below on how Kitchener is using incentives and a focused approach by their City and Council to attract new-age businesses to underused industrial sites.
We don’t have a stock of 19th century buildings in King to offer up. But between all three of King’s primary villages (including King City and Nobleton), Schomberg has the largest single amount of undeveloped zoned industrial lands in the Township.
In addition, Schomberg awaits imminent and eventual redevelopment for its now closed Schomberg Arena and Rona lands, respectively, plus two sizable brownfield sites visible to anyone traveling through our town.
Please excuse my focus in this post on Schomberg, the village I happen to live in. The principles are quite relevant across the Township and beyond. We have a particularly attractive development opportunity here with a dwindling shelf life. Read on and I think the principles I espouse will be clear.
This strategic approach to development seems like what we need to maximize these lands’ value to residents AND owners, by realizing several facets of our Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (proudly approved by King Council just this week).
I was a member of the Economics working committee, and we identified how important sustainable economic development is for King: Not merely to capitalize on King’s historic strengths (including equine, agricultural, natural and heritage attractions), but:
- New, wealth-creating sectors that encourage King residents to live near where they work; that
- Diversify King’s economy to include new high value-added products and services, where they make sense; and particularly,
- Compliment our Plan’s three other pillars: Socio-economic, Environmental and Financial sustainability.
My first post on this issue (click to read it here) is quite full. At risk of becoming incoherent I’ve created this post to provide my accounting and critical analysis of the special New Tecumseth Council meeting held yesterday.
Following that meeting, key are the facts that: 1) the Township issued an “Order To Discontinue Activity” (their fill by-law’s nomenclature for a Stop Work Order) as a result of the unanimously approved motion at Council’s March 26th meeting. And 2) the Ontario Ministry of Transport shut the site down on March 28th, apparently as a result of traffic issues; the site entrance has had concrete barriers placed in front of it, barring trucks from entering or leaving.
Below is a detailed account of the Special meeting, including a link to the staff report for Council’s review and approval. You may not want the play-by-play, so for your convenience here is a summary of what I believe are the critical points that this juncture:
1) The key rhetorical argument – that 1493690 Ontario Inc. is relying upon, from which there is so much haze rising in the room (my words):
Aerodrome and aerodrome landing strip construction, including landfill operation, hanger construction, as a matter of fact, any aspect of an aerodrome construction or operation, is within the regulatory authority of the Federal government. Period. No requirement for a permit; no requirement for a water or hydro geological tests, etc.
The fact is, this is not the law. Transport Canada will affirm to New Tecumseth in short order that landfill operations are within their regulatory control in order to protect the environment.
2) These lands are on highly sensitive Moraine lands, very restricted via the Moraine Act for development of nearly any kind. Even if the aerodrome owners can argue their activities are an exception to the Town’s fill bylaw, in my opinion the Moriane Act removes virtually any legal approval of development.
3) The next logical steps in all this is comprehensive soil sampling and testing of the site, followed by remediation, for which the Town has the authority to order. How long the owners’ lawyers can maintain the haze surrounding (1) above will determine how quickly these are addressed.
It was another packed Council chambers in Alliston as Council met exclusively to update concerned residents on the status of the motion against 1493690 Ontario Inc., or to be transparent, Mr. Ralph Palmisano and his (apparent) investor partners (unknown who they are) who have a stake in the aerodrome they are apparently expanding with the need for copious amounts of landfill.
I urge you to study this road widening issue in King Township and to sign the petition. Please read on …
Roads, roads roads! We seem to need more and more of them. And the more we build, the more traffic they generate, and the more we build.
The Province and York Region are all analyzing the GTA for future transportation needs. Several studies are underway to identify corridors for vehicular traffic, including the Province’s GTA West Corridor Study (basically creating another 407-series type highway between Burlington and Vaughan) and the Region’s plans to identify one or more additional interchanges on Highway 400 and the resultant road widenings to accommodate this east-west traffic flow.
Nothing is set in concrete – yet (or is that asphalt?). Note that none of this analysis includes alternate transportation models, such as rail (to move freight and take the burden off the roads, not to mention the environment – yet I digress here).
So guess what? Seemingly independently to all of this, York Region looks to be getting its ducks in line to widen King Road to 4 lanes from 2 between Highway 400 and Nobleton. The left hand doesn’t seem to be talking to the right hand here!
I’ve been helping some concerned citizens of New Tecumseth investigate a sprawling, overt and largely unregulated landfill operation on this small aerodrome located on the north side of Highway 9, just west of the King-Caledon border.
Be sure to read Part II of this story here.
Landfill coming from large Toronto-area construction projects has created a lucrative and surprisingly unregulated stage for long-term risk and damage to sensitive agricultural soils and aquifers, as this example readily demonstrates.
Bottom Line: Municipalities are responsible for regulating ALL landfill within their jurisdictions. Specifically, this is so regardless of whether or not specific industrial activities are regulated by higher levels of government.
Aeriel view of active landfill fill operation at Volk airport property on Hwy 9, adjacent to the Tecumseth Pines community. Photo courtesy New Tecumseth Free Press (www.madhunt.com)
In this case, New Tecumseth has a quite effective Site Alteration and Fill Bylaw. (Click to see it here) Thing is, they were not imposing it in this case, or at least, not until now.
The Good News:
New Tecumseth Council has woken up to this. A Stop Work order has been issued against the fill operation.
You could substitute “King Township” in this article and it would be just as relevant.
I’ve updated and republished this post (in case you are have deja vu) as I am delighted to see there is growing interest and concern of late for our heritage “future” in King, yet the challenges we face are ever more apparent. Councillors are talking publicly about these issues AND seeking input.
Most noteworthy: Our newly-minted Council has approved a contract Heritage Planner in the approved 2011 budget as a means of providing due diligence to the cataloging of our heritage properties AND to stop the “reactive” mode discussed in the article. I’m delighted.
An excellent step forward, as championed by Councillor Cleve Mortelliti (King City).
Debbie Schaefer has generated some good community discussion on this topic on her blog in her post, “Re-vitalizing King City: ideas from others“.
Is it time, now, FINALLY, for our historic village cores to receive heritage designation?
We’re not new to this: We tried with Kettleby, and it failed (though for identifiyble reasons I won’t go into here);
King is desperately short of money to invest in heritage (the contract Heritage Planner role, for example, is a re-shuffling of funds);
Passionate volunteers are in short supply to do the work for designation: it’s substantial.
This timely article (below) makes it a requisite for preservation – but it’s not the only one. We have cultures in conflict that have given heritage preservation little voice.
THIS MUST CHANGE.
Please read on …. and COMMENT! You’ll see other King concerned citizens already have.
On April 21st I took multiple shots of the progress of the project from the high grounds east of the site from several angles.
I posted 43 images on Google Picasa including 2 of the site prior to construction starting (it was a beautiful sight).
Click here to see the photo album.
Feel free to download and share these images – I’ve uploaded them in full resolution. You can also leave comments on the images if you wish to point out anything.
Mayor Pellegrini requested Enbridge to present an update of the pipeline construction process (currently underway in Pottageville) at the 9th Council session yesterday evening. I was there, and here is an accounting of my key observations.
And if you are new to this issue, you may find my previous post: Game Over for the Pipeline Debacle worth reading.
PLEASE COMMENT below this post folks!
I must say Enbridge’s presentation to Council read like their letters to Council and other interested parties emphasizing their safety record, adherence to standards etc. I don’t think anyone doubts these “facts”. The trouble is, there have been some alarming accidents where proximity to populated areas is a huge concern. Especially when in our case, human safety could have been addressed by merely selecting an identified alternate route, missing Pottageville altogether.
[If this issue is new to you, I suggest you read my 2010 post on this issue first. And the photo to the left is of the active pipeline construction published by the King Sentinel on April 13, 2011.]
Monday March 21st was a sad day for Pottageville & Kettleby:
The Ontario Energy Board rejected our new Council’s request for a reconsideration of the planned route of the 18km long dedicated high pressure natural gas pipeline through the populated areas of Pottageville and Kettleby, its sole purpose to fuel the peaker plant.
The Board had four considerations to determine whether it would allow a hearing to proceed (for those of you who are interested, I’ve reproduced them below with each key rationale).
Of most interest is the fact that with regard to the two first considerations, the OEB placed the full weight of their failure on our previous Council majority:
“The Board finds that there is no convincing explanation for the failure of the Township to make a request for review on a timely basis. In fact, there is ample evidence that the Township was not only aware of the original proceeding, but that it was an active participant in the planning of the project …”. [page 10 and my underline]
I’ve written extensively over the last year about this new facility.
Other than select current and previous Councillors who have consistently supported my calls to tell the emperor he has no clothes, I’ve been standing quite alone, hollering in my disgust at how our current and future tax dollars will be appropriated to pay for this excess.
The other shoe is about to drop on us taxpayers. It’s not the fault of our new Council; it’s indeed a legacy of our previous Council majority’s vain indulgences.
The debt burden that we taxpayers will have to bear is the legacy of this facility. Think about that when you get your final tax notices this Spring.
A “plan” isn’t worth the paper its printed on if it merely sits on a shelf. Yet that’s what King’s 1995 “Future 2000 Strategic Plan” has been: It had not been updated since its publication, and for obvious reason: it was a document with no life.
An effective plan is one that reflects and builds on an approach: a living, breathing ongoing focus of resources that adapts to changing dynamics.
Council will soon be updating our Strategic Plan (as well as several other inter-related planning tools and processes). I have a keen interest in these initiatives because, besides being trained in business strategy, I’m acutely aware that King lacks the wealth-generating economy necessary to pay for our unique lifestyle.
If we don’t figure out how to sustainably increase our tax base while at the same time preserve and protect our natural, heritage and artistic assets, I fear we’ll ultimately be split up and absorbed into our surrounding municipalities.
I’ve reproduced the Globe and Mail article below because it builds on the focused planning that made cities like Stratford transform their economies.
If King continues with our default historic laissez faire approach we’ll continue to be an economy where sluggish growth comes from low-wage retail stores serving our new subdivisions and increasing through-traffic.
In July 15, 2009 Ward 4 Councillor Bill Cober stated quite clearly that, “the new arena would pay for itself”.
This is the same Councillor who statedat January 17th’s Council meeting that, “… the Township was lucky to get $300,000…this money is a gift”.
This is striking because the new arena was sold to us taxpayers based on a formula that saw no tax burden in its construction. And I note, this was at a time when the Township was at, or very near, its statutory debt ceiling.
$300,000 is likely the “right” number for a facility such as this (though the contract duration is still excessive at 25 years. 8-10 is more typical).
The real issue is why in the analysis phase the sober warnings of Councillors Mortelliti, Laidlaw and Underhill were ignored: In their pursuit for this facility and stimulus funds, the previous Council majority committed King to a highly naive budgeting formula: the naming rights alone specified a $750,000 contribution to the $4.72 million Township cost portion.
What this means is, the $300,000 received by Trisan is not a “gift” as Councillor Cober states, but part of a funding requirement.
Where will the $450,000 come from the “deal” shortfall?
Answer: Our Taxes.
I made an address to Council in September of 2010, for I could not help but criticize what I knew would be a predictable vote on one critical piece of the new arena’s funding formula, passed by Council last April in a similar, predictable vote. I chose a lighter-hearted approach to get my point across (the full text of my address is below) for I guessed there would be no shortage of negative criticism of this taxpayer giveway.
And I was right.
Trick is, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the name proposed itself; or the fact that Trisan, an established local contractor, was the only respondent to the Township’s Expression Of Interest (EOI); or the fact that the original “deal” was for the effective life of the facility (50 years or more – Mayor Pellegrini reduced this to 25); or, the fact that the “deal” is for only $300,000.
These facts all degrade what I refer to as the “ART” of the matter here: the presence (or lack) of A ccountability, R esponsibility, and T ransparency of these critical Council decisions that so affect our taxes moving forward.
Why, you ask?
Because Council made its narrowly-passed decision to approve the new Arena facility based on a formula, spelled out on Page 34 of in Parks Recreation & Culture Department Report PR-2010–6 based on several funding sources, several of which bear little resemblance to reality.
Any shortfall in funding AND/OR cost overruns of the new facility, will have to be borne 100% by our property tax base, and at the time they’re incurred unless Council can find scarce debenture room.