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What Now?

Fall-out from Provincial Zoning Order still unfolding

What a difference a day makes. On Monday April 12th, 2010 it was business as usual in our long six year battle against St Marys Cement's (SMC) plans to establish a greenfield quarry in the midst of our rural residential and agricultural communities. That all changed on Tuesday morning, April 13th, when MPP Ted McMeekin announced that the Province had issued a Ministerial Zoning Order freezing the zoning on the proposed quarry properties, effectively stopping the quarry.

Since then, there has been a constant stream of activities as we first researched what exactly had been done, and then explored what it meant for our communities. Our phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from the stakeholders we had been working with, as well as with calls from new parties interested in what had happened. At the same time, our issue in North-East Flamborough received some excellent news coverage from all the local media outlets, and even made the pages of the Toronto Star. Clearly, the Province's intervention in our long battle was something that attracted a great deal of attention and interest.

But what exactly has happened, and where does it leave our fight? As explained in our last email update, a Ministerial Zoning order, or MZO, is issued by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing under the Planning Act. In this case, the MZO ensures that the current zoning on the proposed quarry site is maintained. The proposed quarry property lands are currently zoned as Agriculture and Conservation Management. In order to proceed with the proposed quarry, SMC had submitted applications to change the zoning to industrial extractive. With the MZO in place, that change will no longer be possible and therefore, SMC will be unable to establish a quarry on the property.

This is tremendous news and something we should all feel very good about. The six long years of presenting our case against this proposed industrial operation has paid off. The substantial technical and regulatory arguments that we have consistently put forward have been heard.

But as the news sunk in, and the cries of joys subsided, our minds turned to: OK, what's next? While the Province has spoken, and spoken very clearly on the issue, is the fight really over? What options, if any, does St Marys Cement have?

Our community's lawyers tell us that SMC has two key legal options available. They are:

  1. Request that the Ministerial Zoning Order be changed or revoked
  2. File an application to the courts to have the Ministerial Zoning Order judicially reviewed.

The first option is to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to change or remove the Ministerial Zoning Order. The ask could also include a request for a hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and the ask can be made at any time. The lawyers have also explained that if the Province believes that a matter of provincial interest could be negatively affected by any change or lifting of the MZO, then the Province can give notice of a Provincial Interest. This is where the 30 days we have been hearing about comes in. If the Province is to give notice of a Provincial Interest, it must do so 30 days before an OMB hearing would start. Declaring a Provincial Interest would make any decision made by the OMB subject to final review and decision by the Provincial Cabinet.

The second option the company has is to file an application for Judicial Review of the decision by the courts. This review would explore whether the Minister acted within his jurisdiction, or not, when he issued the MZO. Our lawyers tell us that there is no time limit, in law, for the company to make this application. However, they believe that the courts may take the application less seriously if too much time passes between when the decision was made and when the company files. We should expect something to happen within the next few weeks, to a few months, at most, if SMC takes this path.

The company could choose to pursue one, or the other, or both options. We will keep an active watch on SMC's next steps and determine what actions, if any, we need to take as a community. One would hope that St Marys Cement would realize that once again they stand alone in their pursuit of an open pit limestone quarry at this location. It is our opinion, that it is time they accept the fact that they speculated on being able to get the approvals necessary to establish this proposed development and that the stakeholders involved have evaluated their proposal and decided against it. It is time they moved on, but only time will tell if they are willing to do that.

In the meantime, and after some reflection, we have decided we should be celebrating this significant milestone in our battle. Clearly, this Provincial intervention is a game changer. Rather than being on the defensive, with the Province's support and action, our community concerns now have the upper hand. Thanks again to our local MPP Ted McMeekin, who has been working tirelessly at the provincial level in order to make this happen.

While we stated in our earlier email that popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate might not be appropriate yet, we do think that some enjoyable time spent with family and friends would be an appropriate way to mark this tremendous milestone.

We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy a family celebration at the Carlisle Golf and Country Club on Sunday May 16th from 1 to 4pm. We will be offering a free barbeque lunch and at 2pm, we will cut a celebration cake to mark the occasion. For the kids, we will have some entertainment and face painting to make the day special for them. Please mark the date in your calendars, and try and find the time to join us at some point during the afternoon. We have worked hard as a community over these past six years. Let's take a moment to acknowledge the success that our hard work has made possible.

In a more serious vein, on Tuesday June 15th, we will be holding our 2010 FORCE Annual General meeting at 7pm in the Lawson Park Recreation Centre. More information will be made available closer to the meeting, but we have a special quest speaker lined up, and by that time, we hope to have a better understanding of what actions SMC may be pursuing. Depending on what happens between now and the AGM, we would also use the AGM to start discussions about how we will allocate the hearing reserve fund that we may now not fully require. So once again, please mark the date in your calendars and plan on attending.

We have also decided to cancel the FORCE Golf Tournament originally planned for Friday June 11th. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes, but we hope that under the circumstances, the decision to cancel is understandable. Any registration fees already submitted will be returned over the next week or so.

Even after two weeks, this dramatic turn of events is still a little unreal for many of us. We should be very proud of what our Communities have accomplished. We stood up for our rights and we met the challenge head on. We remained professional and grounded in the facts of the situation. We pooled our resources together, and together we are succeeding. The final battle may not be over yet, but momentum is in our favour now. Let's stay united and engaged in order to complete what we set out to do; "Stop The Quarry."

Community Family Celebration

Sunday May 16th 1 to 4pm
Free BBQ and Entertainment for the Kids
Cake Cutting at 2pm
Carlisle Golf & Country Club
523 Carlisle Road, Carlisle

FORCE 2010 Annual General Meeting

Tuesday June 15th 7pm
Lawson Park Recreation Centre
322 Concession 11 Road East


Together We Will Succeed!