|Today's date: Tuesday May 21, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 20|
We Cover The County...
Puslinch site plan agreement with Maple Leaf Foods under fire for being rushed
by Mike Robinson
Although it passed in a 3-2 vote, councillors here have mixed opinions on speeding up the approval process for the Maple Leaf Foods distribution facility on McLean Road.
On July 18 council held an extended discussion on the proposed site plan agreement for the facility - specifically regarding the need for water monitoring.
The site plan was just one of several documents reviewed, including:
- Environmental Registry notice of a decision for environmental compliance approval with limited operational flexibility (air and noise);
- correspondence from Mallot Creek Group, a consultant working for Maple Leaf Foods, responding to comments from township engineering firm Gamsby and Mannerow and township hydrogeologist Stan Denhoed; and
- correspondence from Anderson GeoLogic, another consultant working for the proponent, providing an updated water balance assessment report.
Councillor Wayne Stokley said when he first started reading the information, he contacted Denhoed in regard to what was happening. He was glad to see many of the issues were resolved.
“There was a difference of opinion as to what should be happening regarding storm water management,” Stokley said. He added his only concern is “this has happened so fast.”
He said, “A lot of people felt pressured to deal with the issue and still maintain the standards for the township.”
He understood the dilemma Maple Leaf Foods had in wanting to start the project right away, “But there may be times we need to slow this down a little bit, to ensure that everything is done to the standards of the township.”
Mayor Dennis Lever stated, “I met with all of the consultants and the GRCA early in the application process and explained that because this was a commercial enterprise coming in, that speed was going to be an absolute requirement.”
At that time everyone seemed confident the timetable could be met, Lever said.
“When we are dealing with very large commercial enterprises, time is a critical component of any proposal.”
Lever stressed, “This was a competitive proposal - between us and other municipalities. One of our competitive advantages was the fact the land was very near to being ready for development.”
He explained a lot of work required for rezoning was already done.
“Everyone was aware of the requirement for speed and believed they could meet the timetable - which originally was the end of May,” Lever said. Since it was now midway through the summer, Lever believed there had been enough time to maintain the required standards.
“Certainly they ran into some issues they did not anticipate and it took longer,” Lever said. “But with large commercial proposals of this kind, time is of the essence.”
Puslinch is used to large gravel pit proposals where years are involved, “that is never going to be the case in commercial operations such as this,” he said.
Stokley said “I’m just concerned that with other commercial enterprises coming to the area, we maintain the high quality of work, and we always mandate things which are in the best interests of the public.”
“There is a fine line between the recognition of the need for speed and what happens to the township. We really have to balance the two.”
The mayor agreed.
“Absolutely. Had I not had a commitment from all of these people at the beginning, we would have walked away because we would not have been able to meet the requirements - and they would have gone somewhere else. That was the bottom line.”
Councillor Susan Fielding echoed Stokley’s concerns with the speed at which this was moving along.
“While I wholeheartedly understand that companies have deadlines, I feel we represent the public and our residents in Puslinch. I do not want to lower our standards because somebody is in a hurry.”
She too was concerned with the speed of the process and the pressure it has placed on those involved.
“We are getting (documents) at the last minute and trying to read them.”
She illustrated the point with the site plan agreement which underwent two sets of changes that day (July 18).
“I still feel we have been very proactive as a township trying to commit to high standards. I’m not willing to forsake that.”
Lever reiterated that if those involved had not committed to meeting the May deadline, “the township would have walked away from the negotiations.”
The mayor maintained “everyone thought they could meet the timetable, and it is now a month-and-a-half later, so there is some anxiety. It is time to get moving.”
Lever noted that as councillor Fielding had mentioned, the township had received numerous versions of the site plan agreement. He asked council if they had any comments on the three versions of the site agreement before them.
“I assume we are looking at the last version,” Stokley said.
That was the version he agreed with most because it dealt with the storm water management and additional monitoring and reporting to the township for the first five years.
In the first version of the agreement, Stokley said that aspect was not really mentioned what the monitoring was all about.
Stokley still had questions regarding monitoring wells and groundwater monitoring. He wondered whether contingency plans were directed to issues such as spillage or stormwater management - or both.”
Lever said the contingency plan only relates to spills - not stormwater.
With the proximity of nearby wetlands, Stokley remained concerned not with just the impact of a 100 year storm, but more extreme storms where there is the potential for a lot of water coming down very quickly and in great amounts.
There is still a considerable amount of property not yet developed and Stokley wondered if there would be an examination of the cumulative effect of the development.
Lever said the stormwater from the site would be going into a wetland, then into a creek.
“It is following a natural path,” Lever stressed.
Lever also had concerns with there being three versions of the site plan agreement.
He noted the initial version spoke of stormwater management and about a professional engineer being brought in.
Another version recommended a continuous water monitoring program and monitoring for five years. The third version included more regarding the scope of the plan.
Lever said his concern was that “we are proposing more monitoring systems and we don’t do anything with the results.”
He said he had seen this in other situations where individuals were being asked for water monitoring.
Council receives the report, sends it off to a consultant to be evaluated ... and nothing ever happens.
“My feeling about this is that I don’t see that putting monitoring in this, especially for five years, is going to provide any benefit to anyone other than adding to consultant costs.”
While he agreed there were aspects of the third version of the agreement which needed to be part of the final agreement, Lever remained concerned with proposed changes to the storm water management which he described as “coming on the fly”.
The first version of the agreement came on July 17 at 1pm, the next version on July 18 at 12:53pm and the third version at 4:01pm that same day.
“I agree there are too many changes coming in too fast.”
Lever did not believe any of the changes were needed with the exception of the proper name of the company the municipality was dealing with.
Fielding asked whether comments were received regarding the proposed changed.
Clerk Brenda Law said there were not. “I take that as a no objection.”
Stokley said township hydro geologist Stan Denhoed believed monitoring wells were necessary.
Lever pointed out that the proposed monitoring was not in the wetland, it was to determine the flow of water into the wetland.
“We already have a report from our consultant that a change in the form of a few centimetres is not looked at as having an impact.”
Fielding said the discussion reminded him of the issues surrounding the creation of Carroll Pond.
At the time, Carroll Pond was the largest undertaking of its kind in the township, she said. It has only been recently that council decided that monitoring no longer had to be as stringent.
However, Fielding said the Maple Leaf Foods proposal is still relatively new, and the agreement alludes to possible future expansion.
“I would care to err more on the side of caution for our residents,” Fielding said.
She believed the monitoring could provide future information for the municipality. She agreed the monitoring need not be in perpetuity, but she too would like to see monitoring at least initially.
Lever pointed out that the Carroll Pond monitoring was for water quality, not quantity.
Councillor Jerry Schmidt had no serious objections to the site plan, nor to striking the monitoring clause.
Councillor Ken Roth agreed. He suggested it would be different if the monitoring was of the wetland.
Roth said if a storm water pond overflows, monitoring will not make any difference. He too favoured eliminating the monitoring.
Stokley was still not convinced.
He stressed the monitoring would not be a cost incurred by the municipality, but by the proponent.
Lever countered the municipality would still need someone to evaluate the reports.
Fielding suggested that if council was reverting to a previous version of the site plan agreement, it needed to be recirculated to all the parties involved.
Stokley agreed the reports have been progressive.
“To ask council to vote on something preceding that, would not have the comments from the individuals it affects.”
Lever said his preference would be to keep main portions of the agreement, but use the initial version’s schedule C which did not including monitoring requirements.
Councillors Schmidt and Roth agreed to the approach.
Stokley and Fielding opposed the move.
Stokley contended this was an example of the fundamental flaw in speeding up the process “and doing things on the fly.”
He said there was an agreement in place, and now council had gone back and changed it.
“I disagree with that.”
The site plan agreement was passed as altered with Lever, Schmidt and Roth in favour while Fielding and Stokley were opposed.
August 3, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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