Tribunal dates set for 26/27 Sideroad development permit, NEP amendment
A pre-hearing conference was held Wednesday to establish who would be participating in an upcoming tribunal to hear matters relating to Clearview Township’s application for an amendment to the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) and the appeal of a related development permit application for work to 26/27 Sideroad that was denied by the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) back in 2015.
The upgrades to the road were agreed upon a decade ago by the County of Simcoe, Clearview Township and Walker Aggregates when a deal was struck to close a portion of County Road 91 and transfer ownership to the quarry to facilitate its expansion. The expansion has proceeded while the roadwork that would create an alternative route for County Road 91 has been held up in legal proceedings.
There have been other hearings relating to the proposals for upgrades to 26/27 but it was the first for the NEP amendment. No evidence was given at the conference but parties were asked to state their positions.
Harold Elston, counsel for the Township of Clearview, cited three sections of the Niagara Escarpment Plan amendment to deem the roadwork on 26/27 Sideroad “necessary to the public interest after all other alternatives have been considered,” saying the language about exploring alternatives is vague.
Counsel for the NEC, Demetrius Kappos, noted two significant events after the development permit appeal hearing was scheduled, which caused some delay.
The first is the discovery from the consultant for the proponent that the proposed works would encroach into a provincially significant wetland.
“We were advised of that information. It caused a delay to the process,” said Kappos. “In addition, there was a new Niagara Escarpment Plan that came into force in 2017. As my friend (Elston) has indicated there have been some modifications to the policy that are relevant to the proposed works.”
He said permitted uses which in the past have dealt with the issue of whether or not infrastructure works were “essential” now focus on whether or not what is proposed is “necessary to the public interest after all alternatives have been considered.”
“Based on the application presented and the justification presented the commission questions whether or not the applicant has satisfied their onus of establishing that aspect of the proposal and whether or not there is justification for the plan amendments proposed in the face of that provision which again is found in all three sections my friend cited under the development criteria,” said Kappos. “Consideration of the development criteria is a relevant consideration when assessing a plan amendment and so we are here as a party on this aspect of the proposal.”
Singhampton resident Doug Dingeldein has sought participant status to represent community concerns about traffic.
“It’s pretty clear from what is being proposed for Sideroad 26/27 that it cannot handle that volume of traffic efficiently or safely. If 26/27 were to be rethought to be able to handle the current volume and future growth that is now being handled by 91 it would cause even greater damage to the Escarpment, and I don’t believe anyone is contemplating that so we are left with a community problem. What is the solution to this traffic problem?…” he said. “We have no solution from Clearview Township for what they are going to do with all this traffic.”
Also participating in the joint hearing is Walker Aggregates, Blue Mountain Watershed Trust, neighbouring landowners Wendy Franks and David Stevenson, the municipalities of Grey Highlands and Town of the Blue Mountains and a number of other individuals.
With many parties preparing to call multiple experts and a list of participants to present evidence, Ontario Land Tribunals is preparing for a lengthy process and have scheduled a hearing for Nov. 8 to Dec. 17, with an additional pre-hearing conference on April 28.
Image: Hearing Officer Helen Jackson presides over the pre-hearing conference.