MORRISBURG – Both sides in the debate over a proposed grain terminal on Lakeshore Drive in South Dundas have laid out their case to the new municipal council.
The Concerned Citizens of South Dundas and a team of farmers – Steven Byvelds and Warren Schneckenburger – shared their views on the Ontario Grain Terminal for the UTI property, a deep water port.
Mayor Evonne Delegarde prefaced the presentations saying there would be no questions or discussion on either side, since it’s become a legal issue.
She told the crowd of over 70 people at the South Dundas Municipal Center Tuesday night, the municipality had received a position from its planning consultant in August and has also received legal advice.
Part-time resident Linda Nowicki was first up, speaking on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of South Dundas.
Nowicki tried to draw similarities to a situation in Wawa – where she was mayor – on a proposed development on a piece of industrial land that was a brownfield and was met with strong opposition. She said the project went ahead but then headed into a court battle where the municipality was forced to rezone the property with significant legal costs.
“We don’t want to go court. I don’t think anybody does. But we truly believe that this needs a rezoning.”
Nowicki claims that South Dundas “has been officially silent on the matter” of the grain terminals. “I cannot find any debate of the issue in an open public meeting, maybe I missed it. There’s been no resolution, debate and vote to support this project,” she claimed.
“That needs to happen,” Nowicki said.
She also alleges an environmental compliance approval to the Ministry of Environment by the proponent has “misrepresentations” and “failures to address any part of the operation south of Lakeshore Drive,” such as how the grain would get to the ship.
Nowicki questioned whether the advice from the planning consultant in August was shared in an open meeting of council.
Among the group’s demands were that council publicly state that it supports the project through a council resolution and to weigh whether it (the grain terminal) will benefit the community. Nowicki also asked for the planner to speak at an open public meeting where the public can ask questions.
The Concerned Citizens of South Dundas believes $17 million of residential assessment – houses near the grain terminal – with a tax revenue of $227,000 could be negatively impacted by the grain terminal.
Farmers Steven Byvelds and Warren Schneckenburger – who operate 1,000 and 3,000 acre farms respectively – say the grain terminal is a very important economic project.
Schneckenburger said, with over 1,500 farms in the area and a crash crop sector over $165 million, the terminal would benefit the largest economic sector in SDG.
He says opening a new market with the grain terminal could increase the price farmers get for their crops by 10-25 cents per bushel.
“This may not seem like a lot to an outsider but over millions of bushels it really adds up,” Schneckenburger said.
With bigger crop yields, Schneckenburger says the current system with one large-scale port in Johnstown is creating a “significant bottleneck” in the system – farmers aren’t able to get their crops – specifically beans and wheat – to market fast enough.
Schneckenburger says thousands of farmers are united behind the project and he warned council about the “artificial truths” it may have already heard.
Byvelds says the $6 million project has the potential to create $2 million in spinoff economic value, typically because farmers like to spend their money locally. The project would also generate nearly $193,000 in taxes per year ($60,210 SDG, $45,063 South Dundas, $87,600 Education).
Byvelds said the grain terminal is a clean land use, saying “this is not Wawa.”
The former South Dundas mayor says the project has been approved by planning and building staff and has met current zoning requirements.
“It has been approved by MOE to a high urban setting standard – not just rural – no noise, no dust, no light pollution, the whole nine yards,” Byvelds said.
Byvelds says South Dundas needs economic development and “beggars can’t be choosers.” He warned council that, if the project is stopped, it will send the message that South Dundas is not open for business.
“They will go where they are welcome like North Dundas and South Stormont,” he said.
South Dundas council received both reports but won’t be taking any action as the next steps are up to the developer.