Council wants questions, residents want answers
by Roger Varley
A sizeable crowd from Goodwood was on hand for Monday’s meeting of Uxbridge council to hear discussion on the proposed zoning bylaw amendment being sought by Grainboys Inc. to allow it to establish a grain-cleaning facility just east of the hamlet.
Council received several letters from residents opposing the proposal and Ward 1 Councillor Pam Beach put forward a report asking council to delay its decision on the application for 30 days. Planning committee chair Gord Highet noted that it was long past the 150 days in which council is technically required to respond to the application, saying the application was now at the 260-day mark. He said that, technically, Grainboys could already have taken to issue to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) for resolution. LPAT was put in place following the dissolution of the much criticized Ontario Municipal Board.
In the discussion that followed, including the unusual inclusion of comments from the public, Councillor Willie Popp offered that the township needs to look at the way information is given to residents and what that information should entail. His comment came after one lady told council the Grainboys issue “sort of snuck up on me.”
“We don’t have to limit ourselves to the minimum Planning Act requirements,” the councillor said.
Eventually, council decided to give residents until the end of this week to email their questions to council regarding the proposed development. Then council will take a week to find the answers to those questions. Following that, they will await a report from township planning consultant Elizabeth Howson. That will take them into the first week of February, just short of the 30-day delay Councillor Beach had requested.
Former Ward 1 councillor Bev Northeast told the Goodwood residents there will be a meeting tonight (Thursday) at the Goodwood community centre to hash out what questions should be sent to council.
If the bylaw amendment is allowed, Grainboys proposes to shift its current operations – Port Royal Mills Ltd. – from an industrial park in Aurora to the agricultural land on Highway 47. The development would see the inclusion of 18 60-foot silos to hold the various grains the company brings in to process for the food industry. Most of the grains would come from Ontario, but some would come from the rest of North America and some from Asia. Grainboys has said it would involve about 10 truck deliveries a day.
On Tuesday, Highet said he hopes to take another unusual approach and make Howson’s report to council available to the public earlier than normal before it is presented in council.
“We hope to make a decision early in February,” he said, “but we could push it back if we have to. There are questions that need to be answered.”
In response to some residents’ claims that the grain-cleaning operation needs to be situated on an industrial site, he said Grainboys is “right on the line between agricultural and industrial.” He noted that the area where Grainboys proposes to situate is already a mixed use area, ranging from industrial (Cobra Manufacturing) to commercial (Richter’s Herbs) to agriculture.
Councillor Beach said that Grainboys had tried to acquire a site on Uxbridge’s industrial parks but there was no land available for them. She said she understood the concerns of residents regarding trucks, dust, noise and rodents, but offered that traffic on the arterial highway is not meant to be limited. As for rodents, she said Grainboys facility in Aurora is visited every week by health inspectors.
She also noted that, although there are no guarantees, the facility could be good for the township’s farmers and agriculture within Durham Region by giving them somewhere to sell their grains and also to help them with crop planning for future years.
Majority favours cannabis retail store
by Roger Varley
A survey conducted by the township regarding the possible presence of a privately-owned retail cannabis store in Uxbridge showed that out of 1,816 responses, 970 (53.4 per cent) favoured such a store. There were 776 people (42.7 per cent) opposed and 70 (3.85 per cent) unsure.
Of those 1,816, a full 1,628 people felt strongly enough one way or the other to add a comment to the survey explaining their position.
The survey also asked respondents what concerns they had about a retail cannabis store. Top of the list were proximity of such a store to schools and daycares and access to under-aged youth, with both concerns being expressed by approximately the same number of people. Yet 30 per cent said they had no concerns at all.
The vast majority of responses came from people over 30, with only slightly more than 10 per cent of responses coming from those under 30.
That demographic was clearly on display last week at a cannabis information session held by the township at the seniors’ centre, where the majority of those present were well over 30.
Mayor Dave Barton opened the session by reminding the 50 or so people present that the legality of such a store was not up for discussion since both federal and provincial legislation has been put in place. He said the object of the session was to have questions asked and for everyone to leave with more data than they came in with.
Det. Doris Carriere of the Durham Regional Police, one of five people on the panel set to answer the public’s questions, said there is no way of determining what impact such a store would have on Uxbridge, but noted that legalization of cannabis last October hasn’t caused much change in police operations. When asked how police would be able to tell the difference between legal product and illegal product (that bought from unlicenced dealers), he said it would be difficult since people are now allowed to grow their own, noting legislation allows four plants per residence.
Carriere also noted current legislation allows cannabis to be smoked on the street, but added that municipalities can pass bylaws restricting smoking in parks or other areas. Maria Vassoncelos, a tobacco enforcement officer with the region, said regional bylaws already have restrictions on where cigarettes can be smoked and the region is considering expanding that. Uxbridge deputy clerk Catalina Blumenberg, who moderated the evening, said Uxbridge council is also considering such a move.
Blumenberg also noted that if Uxbridge decides to opt-in to allowing a store, it would potentially mean tens of thousands of dollars for the township in extra revenue, although such money could not go into general revenue but would be earmarked for specified programs that are associated with the costs of legalization, such as education.
Much of the questioning centred on youth access. Anne-Marie Ho, a regional public health nurse, pointed out that many youth are already using cannabis.
“I don’t think we’ll see a huge increase,” she said.
Jeff Henryks, a digital science technician with Thermofisher Scientific, who said he runs tests on everything from cannabis to mining products, concurred.
“I don’t think this will affect the number of youth using it,” he said. “I hope legalization will keep it out of the hands of youth. (But) at the end of the day (a store coming to town) is going to happen. You have a top-notch LCBO store here. In 10 years, that’s what cannabis stores will be like.”
Ontario’s “Open For Business” Act could be cause for concern in township
by Nancy Melcher
“New Bill Poses Danger to Ontario’s Greenbelt.” “Tell the Ontario government to stop Bill 66, save the Greenbelt and protect our water.” “A Sprawling City Is A Shrinking Greenbelt.”
These are recent headlines regarding the Ontario government’s Bill 66, “Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act” which was introduced on Dec. 6. The Act is designed to cut red tape for development throughout the province, including the township of Uxbridge. However, critical protections currently in place for the environment, land, water and wildlife could be avoided. Additionally, developers may bypass planning requirements and land use restrictions.
There’s uncertainty and speculation surrounding this legislation, and many details appear to be missing. However, if Bill 66 passes, Schedule 10 of the Act introduces significant amendments to the Planning Act. Also, land use restrictions in many existing laws would not apply, including the Clean Water Act, the Greenbelt Act, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, and the Great Lakes Protection Act.
Municipal councils would apply to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing requesting an “open for business planning by-law.” If granted, developments approved under the new zoning by-laws would not require site plan approval or public consultation. They could be exempt from conformity with existing official plans, provincial plans, water protection policies, Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine legislation, transportation planning policies, and development plans.
It’s possible that an industrial development could be located next to the headwaters of a river. Runoff from the site would flow into the river with consequences for everyone downstream. Groundwater could be contaminated from the operations. Paved surfaces don’t absorb rainwater the way soil does, so erosion and flooding risks would increase. Ignoring official plans could allow the wrong types of developments to occur on sensitive lands, and result in a patchwork of urban sprawl.
With regards to how the bill may affect Uxbridge, Mayor Dave Barton says, “We must find a balance between protecting our environment and creating jobs close to our homes. I hope that our municipal and provincial governments can work together to find that balance.”
Many organizations are opposed to Bill 66. Land Over Landings proclaims that “Bill 66 violates the Premier’s campaign promise to not allow development in the Greenbelt and curtails public engagement in municipal discussions regarding that expansion.”
The Green Durham Association says, “We think public consultation must be part of the process – we can’t see any justification for leaving this important step out. And checks and balances are one of the core elements of the democratic process and this Bill as it is currently written effectively strips away all of these.” During his election campaign, Doug Ford said he would open the Greenbelt for development. That statement was widely condemned, and Ford quickly reversed his position, promising instead to protect it. Provincial and municipal data show there is land already available for housing needs for years to come. However, Section 10 of Bill 66 may be used for other development that jeopardizes drinking water and the environment.
The proposed legislation is undergoing a public review. The Environmental Register is accepting submissions with respect to these regulations, and the deadline for submissions is Jan. 20. Online comments can be submitted via the Environmental Registry of Ontario websites: ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4125 and ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4239.
Cosmos readers may reach out to MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy at firstname.lastname@example.org, at Queen’s Park 416-327-2333, or at his constituency office at 905-509-0336.
Goodwood News with Bev Northeast
Keep your eyes on the sign at the community centre for the date and time of the Ratepayers meeting to discuss the zoning application by GrainBoys.
Also, if anyone is interested in preserving the Goodwood Community Hall, contact Eleanor Todd at 905-640-1580. Let’s not allow the Hall to disappear the way many of our other historical buildings. The past is important, the present should protect and the future will honour.
Does anyone remember or have any knowledge of a log cabin north That was on Conc. 3 during the 50s? It was a school called “Bear Cave.” If anyone knows of this cabin, or a rug that was created there, please contact me at 905-640-3966 or email email@example.com
The Baptist Church starts a new sermon series this month. Jan. 20 music by Steve Riches; Jan. 27 music by Ralston and Bonnie Evans. For more information, visit goodwoodbaptistchurch.com
Where have all the birds gone?
Submitted by Derek Connelly
The recent bird count, held on Dec. 27 in Uxbridge, saw reduced numbers of our feathered friends.
At -15C overnight there was very little water open for waterfowl, and with reduced habitat and less people feeding at feeders, the numbers of birds plummeted this year to 4,300 birds. This was the lowest in the last 10 years, down 3,400 birds from last year. Even European starlings took a hit, dropping to 133 from 709 last year. Evening and Pine grosbeaks were a welcome addition from the north this year, while Purple Finch were missed. Once again, we added summer birds to our increasing list of birds found at Christmas, with James Kamstra photographing a Chipping sparrow and a very rare Ovenbird.
Our species count, despite these additions, was down to 45 from 48 last year.
Participation was similar to other years in numbers with a number of birder recruits, whom we hope have caught the birding bug and join us next year! Thirty people observed in the field while 20 watched at home feeders. Seven hundred and eighty km were driven and 59 km walked during the 83 party hours, while 3.5 hours were spent owling, adding 3 Barred owls to the count.
Thanks to Carol Coleman Trotter for hosting the pot luck for those in the field, Kim Adams for inputting the data, and all the birders and people that kept their feeders full and helped with the count.
Winter’s weather is hard for all of us – consider lending a hand to the birds by keeping a feeder full. As climate and habitat changes we are responsible for their livelihood too.
Visit northdurhamnature.com for a complete bird list and more nature events this year.