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City given six months to extend Harbour Road

OPA triggers 1976 agreement after council turns down driveway proposal

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The City of Oshawa is potentially on the hook to construct a full extension of Harbour Road past Farewell Street.

At the Sept. 24 regular meeting, council narrowly voted against a potential agreement that would see the Oshawa Port Authority (OPA) build a private driveway, running east from the end of Harbour Road.

The OPA had agreed to cover the full cost of the potential driveway. The port has pointed to growing truck traffic with the new McGinnis Cement operation and the upcoming installation of a grain storage facility as the reasons for needing another access to their site.

At its June 29 meeting, council had turned the proposal down, then quickly moved to approve it after it became apparent the OPA could trigger an agreement signed in 1976 that binds the city to build a full-service road in the area.

According to the agreement signed in 1976, it stipulates that the road would be 1,983 feet, asphalt pavement with complete concrete curb and gutter work, storm sewers, and sidewalks. The agreement states that the construction must begin upon six months of the written notice from the OPA and costs would be split 50/50 between the city and port.

“There really wouldn’t be anything that stops us from building that road,” city manager Jag Sharma stated at the June meeting. “If they triggered the agreement, then we would have to fulfill our obligation.”

On Sept. 26, the city received correspondence from OPA president Donna Taylor giving the city six months notice to construct the full-service road.

The city’s share of the road is expected to be approximately $1.3 million.

A special council meeting has been scheduled for Friday (Sept. 28) to discuss the OPA’s notice.

In originally agreeing to the proposal, the city had requested a 120-metre strip of land be conveyed to the municipality to act as a buffer for the nearby Second Marsh. The land in question is owned by the federal government.  However, at Monday’s meeting, staff brought back a revised proposal for council’s consideration.

In late-August, the city was advised by the Port Authority that it had consulted with the federal government on the matter.

It was suggested the best way to create the Second Marsh buffer was to extend the term of a land use, development and municipal services agreement between the OPA and the city for an additional 25 years.

That agreement is currently set to end on July 15, 2020.

Commissioner of Development Services Paul Ralph said he believed the 25-year extension was the city’s best bet.

“It’s my hope that the city will convince the federal crown of the importance of the buffer,” Ralph said.

Councillor Amy McQuaid-England immediately took issue with the revised proposal.

She questioned why there was no documentation of the federal government’s stance on the issue and reasoning for declining to convey the land to the city.

“I’m not aware of comments from the federal crown. You’d have to talk to the Port Authority,” Ralph stated.

However, the commissioner later noted an earlier letter from Transport Minister Marc Garneau stated there were no surplus federal lands in the area available for sale to the city, and the OPA’s message was “consistent” with that.

McQuaid-England was incredulous that no formal documentation from the federal government had been provided to council.

“I just feel we’re missing a huge piece of this, which is the public crown’s decision,” McQuaid-England said, adding she didn’t “trust” that what the OPA was telling the city was “accurate.”

“All we have is broken telephone with the port…,” McQuaid England said. “I just don’t think we have enough information to make this decision.”

She added that she felt uncomfortable locking the incoming council into a 25-year-agreement with the information she was seeing.

Ralph again stated that the 25-year-agreement would “still protect” the Second Marsh, and give the city time to convince the feds to convey the land.

Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki agreed and warned turning down the proposal would negate progress the city has made with the OPA.

He said in the past there was “no co-operation or dialogue” with the OPA and the previous Harbour Commission.

“I don’t want to go back to that,” Pidwerbecki said.

Secondly, by agreeing to the private road proposal, Pidwerbecki said the city would be “off the hook” for splitting the costs of a full road.

Councillor John Aker said he didn’t feel the city “will do any better by delaying this,” and the current or future federal governments may eventually agree to sell the city the land.

Mayor John Henry called the new proposal “the best deal that we could get” in terms of creating a buffer for the Second Marsh.

“This protects that berm [of land],” the mayor stated.

An amendment was added to the motion requiring official documentation from the federal government of its position on the matter before entering into the new agreement with the OPA.

Council eventually voted six to five against the amended proposal with McQuaid-England, Bates, John Shields, and councillors John Neal, Joseph Kolodize and Doug Sanders opposed. Henry, Aker, Pidwerbecki, and councillors Rick Kerr and Dan Carter voted in favour.

After the vote, Aker could be heard saying “there’s a year’s work.”

Kolodzie attempted to have the original motion reconsidered but was voted down seven to four.