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Taking a new tack at Oshawa’s waterfront

Councillor calls for more open communication between city and port authority

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The ethanol plant is gone for good, but the tension that it caused between the city and the port authority seems to be sticking around.

After it was announced in October that the arbitration between the port and Farmtech Energy, the company previously approved to build an ethanol plant on Oshawa’s waterfront, had ended and no plant would be moving forward, council was optimistic about the future along its short chunk of Lake Ontario shoreline.

However, if things are to take the next step, one councillor says things need to change between the Port Authority and city council and staff.

“I think we need to change how we do business with each other and I think everything is changing all over, so I think we have to take a new tact,” says Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki.

Pidwerbecki says that since the ethanol plant was scrapped for good, there has already been interest shown in the lands in and around the harbour. That’s all well and great, he says, but adds that in order for things to progress successfully, there needs to be communication.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re not building any more impediments that are going to stop the growth,” he says. “We don’t want to get into another deal like the ethanol plant down the road.”

Approved in 2012 by the Port Authority despite council’s strong objections, the proposed ethanol plant never materialized. The details of the arbitration deal that killed the project are still not public. Gary Valcour, chair of the Port Authority’s board, previously told The Oshawa Express that further comment may be provided after the board had a chance to meet and discuss the matter.

A further request for comment for this story to Valcour was not returned as of The Express’ press deadline.

For Larry Ladd, an Oshawa resident and waterfront activist, big changes are needed in order to move forward at the waterfront, calling on Marc Garneau, the federal transportation minister, to investigate how things progressed toward the decision to approve the ethanol plant.

“I truly believe, under Mr. Valcour’s leadership, the wrong directions were taken and I believe that he firmly pushed this issue,” Ladd says.  “He’s the wrong guy for business, particularly down there.”

Prior to council’s summer recess, the city had reached out to the community for interest in developing a marina and boat launch at the harbour, part of the requirements under the settlement agreement that led to Oshawa getting the land back from the federal government. The city has also taken steps to meet the other requirements of converting the land to parkland uses by obtaining a draft certificate of property use from the province in order to move forward with remediating and containing contaminated soil on the property.

Staff received a pair of responses to their original request for expressions of interest – however, Pidwerbecki says he is unsure what stage that process is at. He says prior to the end of the year, the city could be putting out another request for expressions of interest (RFEOI) to further gauage community interest.

“Without the ethanol plant, it’s already shown that there’s interest there,” he says.

In December 2015, council approved a consultant to assist with the development of the terms of reference for the first RFEOI, with a budget of $8,500.

According to Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services, a report on revised terms for a new RFEOI will be coming to the committee’s next meeting on Dec. 5.