By Brandy Harrison
MORRISBURG — Held up by government approvals and mired in a legal challenge for more than two years, a proposed South Dundas grain terminal has cleared one of its last hurdles: the building permit.
Although it was issued one year ago, a small group challenged that decision in court and late last month, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice gave the grain terminal the green light.
But Ontario Grain Terminals’ plan to build two 20,000-tonne storage bins and an industrial dock on the St. Lawrence River between Morrisburg and Iroquois can’t break ground yet.
It still needs environmental compliance approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). The approval, required if a business produces emissions, was denied in December due to insufficient or inadequate supporting documentation.
In a 29-page ruling on Jan. 19, Superior Court Justice Ronald Laliberte Jr. upheld the building permit issued by the Municipality of South Dundas.
Opponents of the project had appealed the permit under the Building Code Act, arguing that a grain elevator didn’t meet bylaw restrictions for light industrial zoning, which stipulate low emissions, daytime operations, and infrequent movement of products and heavy trucks.
Laliberte ruled that the chief building official’s decision was reasonable and supported by compelling expert opinions and that grain storage is consistent with bylaw interpretations of warehouse and transportation depot.
“At minimum, his decision falls within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes which are defenceable both factually and legally,” Laliberte wrote.
The Concerned Citizens of South Dundas, represented by local residents Chris Rowntree and Charles Crober, said the project would produce adverse effects such as noise and emissions and wasn’t the minimum 1,000-metre distance from sensitive land use — a breach of the Environmental Protection Act and ministry guidelines and policy statements. The group also argued the building permit required environmental compliance approval first.
“There is simply no connection between the issuance of the building permit and the MOECC,” said Laliberte in his judgement.
Ben Currelly, chief executive officer of Port Hope-based NorAg Resources Inc., is behind the grain terminal proposal, along with Cornwall property owner Tom Kaneb. Currelly declined to comment, stating that they would wait out the appeal period. “Things will become clear in time,” he told Farmers Forum.
The residents group is considering its options, including an appeal and continuing to advocate through the environmental compliance process, said Lesley Rowntree, who lives east of the proposed terminal on Lakeshore Drive.
“We are trying to find our feet,” she said. “We were stunned. We obviously failed to make our case.”
But for farmers, it was a step in the right direction.
The terminal could potentially create a more competitively-priced market and cut trucking costs, said Morrisburg crop farmer Warren Schneckenburger. A new storage option could also prevent another harvest-time storage jam, he added.