Deal allows biochar project to go forward
Haliburton Forest pleased with outcome, some residents disappointed
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | August 31, 2017|
After a rocky start to an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing at the Dysart council chambers Aug. 29, appellants opposing the municipality’s decision to grant a zoning amendment for a wood-processing facility on Kennaway Road, reached an agreement with the municipality, allowing the project to proceed.
OMB chair Mary-Anne Sills had a strong message for the general public and legal counsel during the hearing Tuesday morning, a day before the settlement was reached between both parties.
“I don’t want the public to be misled about the board’s jurisdiction,” said Sills Aug. 29.
The point was raised after Peter Pickfield, legal counsel for the four appellants, continued to raise potential air and noise impacts associated with the proposal.
“The board has no authority to say ‘I don’t think they’ve [Haliburton Forest Biochar] met those conditions.’ That’s out of the board’s hands,” she said.
Sills repeated the point several times during the first day of the hearing, and at one point, asked how the facts presented to the board by Pickfield and his witnesses, were relevant to the zoning amendment.
After the hearing Tuesday, all parties met to reach an agreement about the zoning amendment, which Dysart green-lit earlier this year.
“We’re really happy to get back to work and are ready to do what we’re supposed to be doing … I think we’ve been very transparent throughout this process,” said Malcolm Cockwell, managing director of Haliburton Forest, after the second day of the hearing, which lasted no more than five minutes.
The change to the amendment is minimal, but now restricts Haliburton Forest Biochar (HFB) to build the facility on the southern portion of the property currently zoned extractive industrial, and further limits it to the manufacturing of wood products and wood processing.
The initial amendment would have allowed HFB to build on the northern part of the property if they wanted to.
Laurie Wheeler, one of the appellants from Drag Lake, said she’s very disappointed with the outcome.
“By moving back [further from the road] it allows them to build something much bigger. We have a major chemical manufacturing plant coming to Haliburton,” she said.
Wheeler maintained there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the project, especially when it comes to environmental impacts relating to air and noise.
Land-use planning expert Allan Ramsay, who represented the appellants, said during the hearing Aug. 29 that 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.”
In addition, he said the proposed rezoning of the subject lands from extractive industrial to industrial does not conform to the land-use designation policies outlined by the municipality’s rural land use designations.
“The proposed use would not represent good planning and should not be approved,” he told Sills.
Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA) for air and noise are being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). If they don’t satisfy the MOECC, the project, which Haliburton Forest introduced to the public last November, will not go forward.
Cockwell said he expects those approvals by mid-September.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.