News Local

County hosts meeting on proposed Environmental Resource Recovery Centre

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Rainbow Valley Road East resident Cindy Mercer speaks to Simcoe County councillors on Tuesday during a public meeting about the proposed organics and materials processing facilities planned by the county for a forested site on Horseshoe Valley Road east of Highway 27.

Rainbow Valley Road East resident Cindy Mercer speaks to Simcoe County councillors on Tuesday during a public meeting about the proposed organics and materials processing facilities planned by the county for a forested site on Horseshoe Valley Road east of Highway 27.

SPRINGWATER TWP. — Residents concerned about the proposed Simcoe County organics processing and materials management facilities had a chance to voice their concerns on Tuesday.

County council held a mandatory public meeting to consider a proposed amendment to the County of Simcoe Official Plan to facilitate the development of the facilities on a tract of Simcoe County Forest at 2976 Horseshoe Valley Rd. W.

Council has agreed on the location of the site, after vetting more than 500 other sites, but there are many steps before any final decision will be made.

While the name of the project may have been officially changed to the Environmental Resource Recovery Centre, opposition by local residents remains the same.

Members of Friends of Simcoe Forests are vehemently opposed to the chosen location for a number of reasons, according to spokeswoman Mary Wagner.

"Simcoe County has so many forests and they’ve done a great job with their stewardship up until this point where they are looking to take this forest and use it for this project," she said. "Why place a facility right into the heart of a forest, when industrial land is available?

"What we’re asking them to do is look for alternative sites and leave forests as forests," Wagner said, adding that although the county considered more than 500 possible locations for the facilities, too many of them on the short list were in forests.

"The public consultation, from everything I heard, was negative (for the project). People were talking about the loss of forest and how much forest is valued by them, and their families," she said. "There was real concern about the wildlife, the water, about noise, odour and traffic, which was another huge concern."

According to county officials, the footprint of the newly named Environmental Resource Recovery Centre is anticipated to be 11 acres of the 207-acre tract of forest, or approximately 5%, and would allow for continued forest management activities and use of the forest for recreational purposes.

The county owns approximately 33,000 acres of forest property, the largest municipally owned collection of forests in Ontario.

Debbie Korolnek, the county's general manager of engineering, planning and environment, said existing industrial areas were considered.

"It has to be a certain size and a suitable site did not come up through that process," she said. "It has to be a certain size. Groundwater is a really important consideration so a lot of gravel pits and the type of things that you might think would make a great site were vulnerable from the groundwater perspective.

"So those sites were tossed out."

Korolnek said the site has been chosen and was never pre-determined as many residents have suggested.

"But there is still a lot of work to do before we actually put a shovel in the ground. It’s not a done deal yet.

"Not only do we have to get the planning approvals done, there will be a business case with financials we’ll be presenting. Then we have to go through a whole environmental approval process with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change," she said, adding that would include how the facilities operate, what hours they operate, the technology on site to control odours and what traffic is going to be like, among other things.

"That (process) comes with its own public input process as well through the Environmental Bill of Rights," Korolnek said.

Residents can still provide comments for the proposal by visiting www.simcoe.ca.

There will be a public meeting in Springwater Township on June 19 that deals with the township's Official Plan Amendment for the Environmental Resource Recovery Centre.

imcinroy@postmedia.com