About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Protesters Win Again!?!

The improbable story of the Hanlon Creek Business Park occupation seems to be continuing unabated with another court victory under the hat of the occupiers that took over the lands of the Hanlon Creek Business Park to stop construction over two weeks ago. In court Monday, a provincial judge reserved his decision to grant the City's injunction until his written decision is delivered to attorneys on both sides at the end of this week. Justice Douglas Gray also upheld the conditions put down by Justice Bonnie Wein in last week's decision, but now protesters have to allow the city to do additional repair work such as removing log barriers and filling in trenches dug by the protesters, obstructing vehicles from entering the site.

Basically it came down to our old friend Jefferson Salamander. Amongst the evidence presented was a correspondence from the Ministry of Natural Resources from May and July that recommending the City not proceed with construction until further examination was done for the presence of the Jefferson salamander’s habitat following the discovery of a hybrid salamander on the site in April. Ian Hagman, Guelph district manager for the Ministry of Natural Resources, as a witness for the city testified that no legal action was taken to stop the city from doing construction on the site. Without knowing the exact spot of the salamander's habitat, the Ministry's hands were tied. Friday, HCBP protesters through their attorney filed their own montion of injunction against the city claiming that their environmental assessments weren't extensive enough.

In response to yesterday's rulings, and allegations that in the ruch to build the park that the city mat not have done their due diligence, the city posted this note on its website today:

A hearing at the Superior Court was held yesterday regarding the City of Guelph's motion for an injunction to end the occupation of the Hanlon Creek Business Park lands by protesters, and the protesters' motion to enjoin the City from continuing construction. The Court reserved its decision on both matters. The presiding judge indicated that a decision may be rendered by this Friday.

The City has worked diligently with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to take precautions and mitigate potential impacts to any potential Jefferson Salamander and/or its habitat on the Hanlon Creek Business Park site.

In advance of yesterday's injunction hearing, in response to a July 31 letter from the MNR to the City, both organizations collaboratively established a process to mitigate any potential impacts of the City's current work on the site - construction of what is know as Culvert A. Those discussions continued this morning and are ongoing.

Five action items are the outcome of an August 5 meeting between City officials and the MNR. They are recorded in meeting minutes submitted during yesterday’s proceedings. Among them is acknowledgment on the part of MNR that the culvert construction does not contravene the Endangered Species Act (ESA 2007) or any existing legislation. The MNR agreed that the City could recommence and complete the construction of Culvert A, as the work will be undertaken with due diligence and supervision consistent with the objectives of the Endangered Species Act.

Regardless of the outcome of the injunction process, the City of Guelph remains committed to determining the extent and location of potential Jefferson Salamander and/or its habitat in the Hanlon Creek Business Park.

The City further maintains that the Hanlon Creek Business Park is a crucial component of Guelph’s future. The Park is intended to provide 10,000 to 12,000 new jobs, and is part of the City’s plan to accommodate 32,400 new jobs by 2031 without sprawling beyond the city’s boundaries.

"A strong tax base and jobs are necessary parts of building a secure and prosperous future for the citizens of Guelph,” says Guelph’s mayor Karen Farbridge. “The City is committed to building a better future, but we are becoming increasingly concerned about our ability to do so."

Environmental protection, enhancement and monitoring measures for the Hanlon Creek Business Park exceed that of any other development in Guelph’s history because of the City's active involvement in the project. The City of Guelph has successfully partnered with two private sector developers to achieve this high level of protection of natural heritage lands, including preservation of the old growth forest.

From the HCBP Occupation Blog:

Today was another interesting day. Another packed courtroom of a diversity of supporters, and a long day in court. At the end of it the judge clearly didn’t know what to do. The lawyer for the 5 remaining named defendants presented evidence about how the City of Guelph has been blatantly ignoring serious concerns of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), and even though the MNR is not legally binding in this situation, the fact that a self-proclaimed ‘green’ city council and mayor have been ignoring the MNR’s concerns is pretty obscene. To top it off, the City, Mayor and all, have been saying as recent as a few days ago that the “At all stages of the project, the City will continue to work with the Ministry of Natural Resources, exercise all due diligence and conduct ongoing monitoring.”

So to clarify we called to the stand Ian Hagman, District Manager of the MNR here in Guelph, and he confirmed what they have been saying in letters all along – that the MNR’s position is that the City should never have started this construction, nor should the construction continue.

Based on this obvious inconsistency, the judge has taken a few days to think about his position. We will be notified by writing any day this week, or next week, or his decision on the injunctions today.

With another moral and judicial victory for the protesters, the city's carrying a lot of egg on their face, especially since they were the ones that brought about the injunction in the first place. It'll be interesting to see how Justice Gray rules this Friday.

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