Funding for Simcoe County waste project in jeopardy over tribunal delays

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The County of Simcoe has requested a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing after council heard funding for a new waste processing plan is in jeopardy due to delays.

It is hoped that the minister’s order will speed up progress on the county’s Environmental Resource Recovery Centre (ERRC), planned for a site in Springwater Township, just north of Barrie.

The project has been delayed by applications to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). It was first proposed in 2010 as part of the region’s waste management strategy. The facility would receive Simcoe County’s organics and recycling material to be broken down into compost, fertilizer or fuel.

The province has granted an official plan amendment to allow the facility in the forest. However, the three groups appealed the decision: the owners of Nicholyn Farms adjacent to the Freele Tract, Edward Kracjir and Friends of Simcoe Forests, a local environmental advocacy group.

All three oppose the site chosen by the county in the middle of a Simcoe County Forest.

According to a staff report, the County is currently awaiting its fourth LPAT case management conference and a hearing date has not been established.  The current path for obtaining approvals is likely to take another two years or more and has already cost more than $1.5 million.

“The County is also at risk of losing over $2 million in provincial funding towards the materials management component of the project if delays continue,” Jen Slykhuis, Special Projects Supervisor wrote in a staff report.

Officials say an MZO would establish land use permissions and set specific requirements for new development, such as minimum frontage, access and servicing requirements.

New development must conform to the provisions of the MZO and the permissions of the MZO would override those of the applicable in-effect official plan(s) and zoning by-laws (in this case, the County of Simcoe Official Plan, Township of Springwater Official Plan and the Township’s Zoning By-law 5000)​.”

The MZO is an option available for all projects requiring Planning Act approvals, but typically designated for critical infrastructure.

“While we believe the (LPAT) process is important, the County requires a decision on this project to enable further planning around waste collection, processing and future contracts for processing, transferring and collections,” Slykhuis said, noting that the province recently granted an MZO to economic development lands in Oro-Medonte and a seniors complex in Innisfil.

County Council recently supported a privately-initiated application for an MZO to support the development of a seniors facility in Elmvale.

“An MZO is a very specialized planning instrument given to cover projects important to the public, and ones that meet very important and urgent municipal and provincial goals.  The County is confident that the ERRC meets these criteria,” Slykhuis concluded.

A provincial grant received for the project from the Continuous Improvement Fund brought in a total of $2.2 million. If the facility is not operational by the end of 2023, the county will lose that funding.

Key considerations for development of the ERRC:

The ERCC will:

  • create more than 100 direct and indirect local jobs and result in a local capital infrastructure investment in the range of $35-$50 million.
  • allow the County and its residents/businesses to recover and sell valuable resources, such as compost/soil amendment products, to the County’s local agricultural community.
  • provide waste infrastructure support to 16 municipalities

With a design capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year, this critical infrastructure will increase much needed organics processing capacity in the province and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions from currently hauling organic materials to Elmira (currently travelling 3600 km/week) for processing.

Currently, county landfills are filling up so fast it’s costing the county, and therefore taxpayers, $1.65 million a year to transfer some of its waste to Hamilton, and the cost is only going up. Landfill space in Simcoe County is expected to be fully at capacity within seven years.

If the minister’s zoning order is approved by the province, the county will still be required to go through a detailed environmental compliance approval process, which allows for public participation.

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