Biochar facility goes to OMB
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | August 24, 2017|
Drag Lake residents and experts will address an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing Aug. 29-31, where they’ll oppose Dysart’s decision to grant a zoning amendment for a wood-processing project on Kennaway Road.
The planned 13,000 square-foot building, which Haliburton Forest introduced to the public last November, will have a large chamber that will convert purchased sawdust into biochar using pyrolysis (high temperature burning without oxygen).
The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. next Tuesday at the Dysart council chambers.
But the proposal, specifically its successful application for a zoning bylaw amendment, hasn’t been sitting well with some Drag Lake residents who have fiercely opposed the amendment since it was passed by Dysart council in February.
“One of our arguments is that the zoning bylaw is contrary to [Dysart’s] official plan, which is a big one,” said appellant Laurie Wheeler.
Part of the property is already zoned for general industrial uses and would permit the proposed biochar plant.
But Haliburton Forest Biochar (HFB) - an industrial start-up jointly owned by Haliburton Forest and the Beamish Family, who are the owners of Woodbridge Foam Corporation - want to build the facility on the southern part of the property, further from the road.
“And therefore out of public view,” said Malcolm Cockwell, managing director of Haliburton Forest in a witness statement obtained by The Highlander.
“Even though Haliburton Forest was able to proceed with the construction on the northern portion of the site … which was already zoned as general industrial, Haliburton Forest accepted the advice of the Municipality of Dysart, and proceeded with a zoning bylaw amendment application in order to ensure that its facility would be further away from the public road,” the statement reads.
Cockwell said building to the south will ensure an “efficient process flow” on the 20-acre site.
But land-use planning expert Allan Ramsay, who was retained by the appellants, maintains there hasn’t been enough information presented by HFB that would prove the zoning amendment will “not create land-use conflicts with existing nearby permitted sensitive land uses.”
“No assessment of air quality/odour, noise or light pollution impacts has been presented with the
zoning application,” Ramsay said in his witness statement.
Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA) for air and noise are being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), said Nina Shock, HFB project manager, during public meetings and previous interviews with The Highlander. If they don’t satisfy the MOECC, the project will not go forward. Cockwell said they expect to have full approvals by mid-September.
“Other than the ECA and some related approvals, nothing else is required to move forward with the project,” he told The Highlander. “The OMB case is only related to the location of the facility, not the existence of the facility itself.”
Residents have rallied around the appellants by raising money for legal fees and retaining experts, said Wheeler, one of the four people who filed an appeal in April.
“We’ve received a significant amount of support,” she said.
The facility, when completed, will initially create five full-time jobs, said Cockwell, including a project manager, two engineers, and two operators. That number could climb to 20.
“These will be year-round, good paying jobs based on green technology,” he said.
The appellants have also raised concerns about the facility’s potential to operate 24/7, but Cockwell said it’s not the company’s intention to have it run that much during the start-up phase.
“It is something that may or may not happen down the road, and there would always be someone on site during operations. Whether we run the facility during the day or night, there are strict rules in place with respect to lighting, noise, etc.”
OMB hearings in the municipality don’t happen often, said Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey, adding the MOECC approvals will be critical to the project’s ability to move forward.
“I think council has done a reasonable job emphasizing the MOECC approvals,” he said.
HFB has received funding from the Collaborative Economic Development Project and the Haliburton Community Development Corporation in 2016, according to Cockwell.
“More recently, the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy approved a substantial grant to assist with the overall advancement of HFB,” he said.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.