A friend asked me last week why members of Council have been “silent” on the Hanlon Creek Business Park issue. I suppose I never thought that I was being silent — because Council unanimously endorsed the project. Our collective position is very clear.
The recent events (most notably the on-site protest, injunction, Minister’s approval and the decision to resume work next year) have been widely reported in the media. No one from the media has ever contacted me, or any other member of council that I am aware of, other than the Mayor. The Mayor has the support of Council on moving forward with the HCBP, as evidenced by the vote to approve the site plan.
We are not moving forward blindly. This is a well-planned project that has been through years of extensive consultation and a thorough public process, resulting in environmental conditions that will protect and enhance the land. I attended the public meeting of LIMITS, including a second meeting where I was the only councillor in attendance, and have become well-read on Jefferson Salamander breeding habitat, among other things. I have also walked the site and am familiar with its natural heritage, beauty and features. I am deeply committed to protecting our environment, water sources, public health, trees, air quality, etc.
My support of the HCBP is not in conflict with these values. I truly believe this project is different. I believe this project balances the environment, economy and social/cultural fabric of our community. I do not believe the Jefferson Salamander is compromised by this project, nor the old growth forest or wetlands that protect our water supply. Land uses will be limited to those that do not pose a risk to the site. Significant wetlands and old growth forest areas are not being paved over. This is not a typical “industrial park” that you may think of in other parts of the city. Great care has been taken, and will be taken, to ensure the development meets the goals of the Community Energy Plan. A significant portion of the site has been farmed for the past century. The finished development will have more trees than the current site.
I am hopeful the project will move ahead successfully when work resumes in 2010. When it comes to protecting the natural heritage of our city as a whole, there are still areas that need protection and require public participation and diligence. The city has developed a Natural Heritage Strategy that will unfold over the next year. I encourage members of the community (including HCBP protestors) to participate in the democratic public process related to the NHS.