Key missing facts on the 26/27 SR
Mayor Doug Measures issued a statement to set the record straight on the 26/27 Sideroad, however, there are a few key facts that were not mentioned that are of the utmost importance for the decisions our council needs to make today, for the upcoming hearing and for moving forward.
The history of this strange agreement between the County of Simcoe who gave County Road 91 to the township for $1 who in turn promised it to Walker Aggregates is one for historians to unpack. And yes, far too much time money and energy has been spent on this affair. More than a decade after the original agreement Clearview council needs to take a fresh look at the proposed road closure of County Road 91 and the redevelopment of 26/27 Sideroad.
In the original Minutes of Settlement between Walker Aggregates and Clearview Township in February 10, 2010 Clearview committed to upgrade the 26/27 side road as soon as possible. Upon completion, the upper portion of County Road 91 would be transferred to Walker Aggregates and they would commence extraction activities. As Mayor Measures correctly pointed out, this did not happen, and it was not until four years later that the quarry was approved in the Joint Board Report. The Joint Board, (Municipal and Environmental) approved the quarry but not the road upgrades as that was outside their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, they acknowledged that public road works were essential to the successful and safe operation of the quarry and stipulated that they must be in place prior to the opening of the quarry. By this time major cold-water streams and wetlands along with steep escarpment slopes had been identified beside the existing 26/27 Sideroad and the Niagara Escarpment Commission had to approve a development application for the side road.
In 2015 the NEC turned down the application as alternative solutions had not been explored. In that same year Clearview council gave Walker permission to dig a tunnel under County Road 91 (a viable alternative to the 26/27 road development) and, as Mayor Measures says, the extraction of the quarry is well underway. Walker is now carrying on business without constraint so why is the development of 26/27 and the closure of County Road 91 still under consideration?
In 2021 these are the facts:
The expansion of the 26/27 Sideroad will at best be a two-lane road (existing road allowance is 20 meters) not highway size. It will devastate the sensitive ecology of the escarpment. When completed it will not be adequate for farm equipment, firetrucks and other emergency vehicles. Moreover, original projections in 2010 and repeated again in the 2015 Joint board report were for “light traffic”. (It was to be paved when 400 cars per day was reached.) It will not be adequate for the thousands of cars and trucks that now use the road daily. With today’s traffic levels, the intersection where the 26/27 side road meets the 10th line will be far more dangerous than the current junction at the 10th and County Road 91.
Surrounding municipalities are against the closing of County Road 91. The Town of Blue Mountain, Grey County, the Town of Collingwood all actively oppose the closure of County Road 91. They say this road is critical for regional transportation and its closure is not necessary since Walkers has a tunnel and is proceeding with its quarry business.
The original Minutes of Settlement committed Council to sell the top portion of country Road 91 to Walker only, if and when, the 26/27 side road was upgraded. Clearview still owns the road. County Road 91 does not need to close and for the good of the region should not be closed.
The Minutes of Settlement state that subsequent councils are free to make their own decisions. There is nothing in the contract that requires council to continue to fight to implement an idea that may have made sense in 2008 but is actually harmful in 2021. This council can stop fighting to redevelop the 26/27 side road.
Walker has been accommodated by council allowing it to build the tunnel and to engage unhindered in its quarry operations. They have been accommodated in good faith. County Road 91 is critical regional infrastructure and must remain open. It is a solution everyone can live with.