By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The city will host two public meetings on a controversial fill site proposed in Oshawa’s north end.
Whitby-based company Hard-Co Construction is seeking the city’s permission to use Wilson Road, north of Columbus Road, to access its property at 3440 Wilson Road N. for the proposed fill site.
The proposal is currently in the hands of development services staff, with a report to council and committee pending.
At the Jan. 13 development services committee meeting, several residents living in the area of the proposed project were on hand.
They asked committee members to support a motion put forth by Ward 1 city and regional councillor John Neal, a staunch opponent of proposed fill site, to host a public meeting on Hard-Co’s plan.
As previously reported by The Oshawa Express, there was a similar operation just north of Columbus Road a few years ago, which is no longer active.
Resident Allen Frank lives in the area of the intended development.
He raised concerns about what materials would be going into it, claiming he has seen evidence of materials such as rebar, used tires, and waste oil dumped at the former fill site.
Frank said residents’ voices were not heard in the past, and he doesn’t want to see that happen again.
“The least we can do is have a full meeting with the full council, and inform people of what’s going on in their backyard,” Frank said.
Clint Cole is another resident who lives near the proposed site.
He also called for the public meeting, as he is concerned about possible health effects related to the fill site.
“We may not see what is happening under the ground, but that does not mean nothing is happening that could be adverse to our health,” Cole said. “I’m worried…and I’m appealing to this council for help. Because I think public health should trump everything else.”
Cole said the issue goes beyond the scope of a simple site alternation under the city’s bylaws.
Furthermore, he notes the city’s site alteration bylaw hasn’t been updated since 2006, and he believes it pales in detail compared to other municipalities such as Whitby, Scugog, and Clarington.
Larry Harding, vice-president of Hard-Co Construction, also spoke at the meeting.
He said his company has been involved with development projects in the city for decades, and they are “not in the business of owning a fill site.”
However, he states the materials must “go somewhere,” which is why they are proposing what they are.
Harding defended his company, noting in the past, they have dealt with fill as directed in permits they’ve received from the city, while others have done so illegally and unsafely.
“I don’t know why we are looked at as the bad guys,” Harding said.
As Harding laid out some details of the proposal, Neal became increasingly agitated, stating he’d never heard any of the information from city staff.
“Am I getting a report today? Because it sure sounds like it, but I don’t like where it is coming from,” he said.
As Neal continued to press Harding with questions, Ward 3 city and regional councillor Bob Chapman spoke up, noting he felt Neal’s actions were out of order, and he was “attacking” the delegate.
Committee chair and Ward 2 city and regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri attempted to intervene, with all parties starting to speak over each other.
Marimpietri then called for a five-minute break. Upon reconvening the meeting, he asked all involved to be “fair with each other.”
Neal then questioned Harding where he received “assurance” the property in question would be appropriate for a fill site.
Harding noted the company hadn’t received this “assurance” from anyone.
“Whether or not we have assurance, this is where we are now, to get the permit then we’ll have assurance,” Harding said.
Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr asked Harding where the fill would go if the city didn’t approve his application.
Harding said because other municipalities won’t accept fill from other cities, it would likely need to be trucked even further away.
“If it’s not allowed anywhere in Oshawa, that creates quite an issue,” Harding said. “It’s going to make the cost of all development, public and private, much higher.”
Mayor Dan Carter brought forth a motion asking for two public meetings on the issue, one in the day and one in the evening.
He also asked for any documents provided by Hard-Co in support of the proposal to be peer-reviewed, and for all documents and related reviews to be made public.
Commissioner of development services Warren Munro suggested Hard-Co itself host a public information centre on the proposed fill site, and foot the bill for the facility and advertising.
However, Neal and Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey argued this would lead to a “one-sided” presentation, and asked for the city to host the meeting.
“I would ask that city staff host both the public information session and the public meeting, not the proponent of the application,” Neal said.
Munro said if the city hosts the public meeting, representatives from Hard-Co are not obligated to attend. However, Harding did note his company would be willing to do so.
The committee ultimately voted to direct staff to schedule both a public meeting and public information centre, news welcomed with cheers from those in attendance.
The dates of the meetings are yet to be determined.