Myths and facts about Hanlon Creek Business Park

I have been hearing many misconceptions about this project. Here are some of the facts.

MYTH: The project will destroy an old-growth forest.
FACT: The heritage (what is incorrectly being referred to as old growth) grove of trees is excluded from development and is being protected, with the exception of two trees that are not in good condition and cannot be saved (one has fallen down.)

MYTH: Thousands of trees will be lost.
FACT: The tree canopy coverage will be increased from approximately 26% to 35%. About 2,500 trees and 5,000 shrubs will be planted to replace the 1,688 trees proposed for removal. Many of the trees to be removed are non-native and invasive species.  

MYTH: The site is part of the Paris-Galt moraine.
FACT: The natural heritage areas are not part of the Paris-Galt moraine. However, they do have important hydrological functions, which have been a priority throughout the years of planning for the site.

MYTH: The project will negatively impact Guelph’s groundwater resources.
FACT: Our groundwater resources will be protected. Operations that could potentially pose a risk to groundwater quality will be prohibited, and the rate of recharge to the groundwater system within the site will be maintained.

MYTH: The buffer zones in the plan are inadequate.
FACT: The Grand River Conservation Authority and the City of Guelph’s Environmental Advisory Committee both agree that the buffers are adequate, and have approved them. Buffers around wetlands and wooded areas were developed through a level of scientific study that is unprecedented for developments in Guelph, and which continues in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

MYTH: The City can get all the employment lands it needs by renovating empty factories and brownfields.
FACT: It is not feasible to expect that empty sites alone can accommodate the 32,400 new jobs required under Provincial Places to Grow legislation. The Hanlon Creek Business Park will be home to 10,000 to 12,000 new jobs. Vacant/ brownfield sites and new employment areas will both be needed to meet Places to Grow requirements.

MYTH: The project contributes to sprawl.
FACT: The opposite is true – this business park will help prevent sprawl into the surrounding countryside by being home to thousands of jobs within our city limits. It’s a key part of the City’s plan to meet Places to Grow requirements without annexing lands around Guelph. It will also mean more people who live in Guelph can work in Guelph, instead of commuting to another community.

MYTH: Pure Jefferson Salamanders have been found on the site.
FAC T: One dead Jefferson Salamander hybrid was found on Laird Road. Genetics indicate that a pure Jefferson sperm donor is present. Extensive investigations by a consultant have concluded that salamander habitat does not exist near the current construction site, and that the construction work will not affect the species. 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.

More about the Hanlon Creek Business Park.

About Karen Farbridge

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16 Comments on “Myths and facts about Hanlon Creek Business Park”

  1. Leonard Says:

    Thanks for clarifying these matters, Karen. Hearing these young people occupying the land talk about it, you’d think the last green space on earth was being destroyed by evil villains. In fact, from everything I’ve read, it is actually a model of sustainable development and as environmentally responsible as anything we’ve seen around these parts. Good job!

    I’m sure the protesters think they’re doing something constructive (no pun intended). In reality, they’ve done some damage to sensitive parts of this land, and are costing the taxpayers of Guelph – who support the development – money by holding up the construction.

    I hope the court orders them to take down their little forts, remove their protestor costumes and go play somewhere else.

  2. Jerry Prager Says:

    It’s a funny thing, protest and power, personally I hate most development, and feel like Ontario is the whore of Bablyon most of the time, call it the voice in the vanishing wilderness syndrome, but practically, with nothing but recycled land anywhere around here, if I have to have someone overseeing development, I’m glad it’s it’s you. Thanks for the myth/fact analysis.

  3. Cam Guthrie Says:

    Bang on. Keep going Mayor Farbridge. Stay firm and get these lands ready for employment. Stay strong.

  4. Scott R. Says:

    In reponse to Leonard’s statement – please don’t be rude. I just came from the site and if you could see it for yourself, you would see that they have a list of rules of conduct at the entrace to the site. These are people who are skilled in respecting the earth. The construction company, Drexlor, on the other hand has done an extensive amount of damage. Electrocuting fish, cutting ancient cedars and cutting a path as wide as a four land highway are just a few examples. Please, see it for youself.

    There are people out there who truely believe in thier cause and are willing to be arrested for it. Please be respectful.

    Come to court on Monday and see the truely constructive arguements that these people and thier lawyer (who is experienced in these types of cases) have and you’ll change your tune.

    >S

  5. paul falconi Says:

    why not visit the site and then claim that theecosystem surrounding the stream won’t be destroyed … also look at the 100 plus year old cedars already removed … I looked at them closely and have dozens on my property (none near that size … a couple were unhealthy …many had years to live as others which will be destroyed grew.

    If you haven’t been to the site you lack credibility.

  6. Virg Says:

    Sorry, Leonard, but the Mayor has some of her facts wrong. Even though the buffer has somehow gotten through all of this process legally, it is totally inadequate to protect something as sensitive as a wetland and as important as our groundwater.

    The proposed buffer is useless, only 50′ wide, and contains a road and a ditch, instead of a 100′ minimum no-touch zone. This is no protection at all for the wetland and our water if a truck should have a spill on the road, or even from regular traffic. Perhaps this was considered alright years back when the OMB approved the plan, but we know better now. We should chage the buffers now, before it’s too late.

    Environmentalists, ecologists, and biologists have complained about this from the outset. The Public Forums held have been packed with dissenters from all over the City, who were treated in a patronizing way and completely ignored. Not once has anyone at the City said they would even think of altering the buffer in any way, they just pretend it’s all fine.

    Also, the planting of new trees is all very well, but those skinny little trees will not replace the 1,688 old existing trees until decades from now in terms of habitat, water hydrology and carbon sequestering.
    It must be remembered also that across the Hanlon at Southgate, the land sits empty, a scraped desert. Developers do not always actually plant the trees they say they will. Even if they get around to it later, the creatures who once lived there will all be dead.

    And why is industrial development allowed to be so wasteful of space? Many of the City’s existing industrial areas are surrounded by acres of grass and a few trees, which provide no environmental benefit and only increase the amount of roads and traffic needed to navigate these areas. This is poor zoning and contributes to sprawl and servicing expense.

    While the wetland is to be left in place, roads will surround it, which will kill most of the amphibians during their migration. Look at the Speed River – there is almost nothing alive in it. We need a healthy ecosystem in order to have a healthy planet, this is why wetlands and forests are so important.

  7. BK Says:

    Virg,
    Although I agree with 99% of what you’ve written I would take exception to your thoughts of industrial space being surrounded by acres of grass and trees being a negative thing. It is true what you’ve said about more road to go around them and I would question the use of gasoline to keep it all mowed but please think of the southwest corner of Elmira and Woodlawn and how awful it would look if those acres of grass and trees weren’t there. The density of businesses along Woodlawn is staggering and when one reaches an oasis of green it is such a relief. I have often commented that it looks good compared to what surounds it which seems to be maximum use of space for business enterprises.

  8. James D. Lauckner Says:

    It is simply foolish to build on a wetland.

    WET – LAND

    Bill Nye says it best:

    I hope this all goes well.

  9. Kent MacMillan Says:

    Is economic growth our most noble goal as Canadians?
    I have seen first hand what happens to the air quality from destruction of old growth forest in Mississauga and Toronto in search of economic growth. Record numbers of children with respiratory illness from birth being the most obvious. There is only one way to stop this from happening here in Guelph. We have to learn to say no to provincial growth targets and stand up for protecting our greatest assets. Guelph should be a leader not a follower in this progressive mindset towards the future. Our legacies should be different from that of our parents and grandparents that have allowed so much destruction to happen. We are the ones left to change these paths not continue in old ways….

  10. Matt Says:

    A breakdown point by point, with the most important first:

    “FAC T: One dead Jefferson Salamander hybrid was found on Laird Road. Genetics indicate that a pure Jefferson sperm donor is present. Extensive investigations by a consultant have concluded that salamander habitat does not exist near the current construction site, and that the construction work will not affect the species. 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.”

    Particularly important is the point aobut “work with the Ministry of Natural Resources.” It came out in court today that the City has known all along that the MNR was saying this development should never have begun, and should not proceed. The district manager of Guelph’s MNR took the stand today in court and re-confirmed that the MNR has never been in approval of the HCBP construction contract. The City has known that all along and has been saying things publicy that are the opposite.

    Again: the City has been consciously going against the serious concerns of the MNR, and the recommendations of Dr. James Bogart, the pre-eminent expert on the Jefferson Salamander.

    ————————

    “FACT: The heritage (old growth) grove of trees is excluded from development and is being protected, with the exception of two trees that are not in good condition and cannot be saved (one has fallen down.)”

    This comment ignores the central 100-150 acre old growth forest… which is not being cut down, but is not being protected either. Surely karen has been made aware of the arborists and biologists who have been presenting information at numerous meetings with city staff and the environmental advisory committee that a 15-30 meter around a sensitive native ecosystem will NOT protect it from decline. You just can’t surround an old growth forest with hundreds of acres of industry and expect it to last much longer. This development will ultimately kill the forest, it would just take a few decades.

    ————————–

    “FACT: The tree canopy coverage will be increased from approximately 26% to 35%. About 2,500 trees and 5,000 shrubs will be planted to replace the 1,688 trees proposed for removal. Many of the trees to be removed are non-native and invasive species.”

    When asked how long it would take for the canopy to actually grow out, Peter Cartwright, General Manager of Economic Development, said 20-30 years. That’s a long time, considering the negative health impacts of air pollution that are damaging people right now.

    ————————–

    “FACT: The property is not part of the Paris-Galt moraine. It does have important hydrological functions, which have been a priority throughout the years of planning for the site.”

    The following is from the City’s own Environmental Impact Study. See for yourself at http://www.resistanceisfertile.ca/pics/eis.pdf.

    “3.2 Geologic Setting

    “The study area (the HCBP) is located on the northern base of the Paris Moraine, part of the regional Horseshoe Moraines physiographic feature. The Paris Moraine is generally comprised of the Wentworth Till, a stony sandy silt till deposit, which extends to about the southern edge of the study area. The moraine is reported to be generally “hummocky” and “hilly” in nature, ranging in elevation from about 330m to 345AMSL. The moraine forms a local
    ridge running east-west at the south limit of the study area.”

    Hmm. Did they lie in the EIS, or did they re-define the definition of a moraine, just to say the moraine is no longer on the HCBP lands?

    ———————

    “FACT: It is not feasible to expect that empty sites alone can accommodate the 32,400 new jobs required under Provincial Places to Grow legislation. The Hanlon Creek Business Park will be home to 10,000 to 12,000 new jobs. Vacant/ brownfield sites and new employment areas will both be needed to meet Places to Grow requirements.”

    The following is from Mayor Karen Farbridge, presenting at the Guelph Real Estate Pulse Conference, January 10, 2007:

    “We will give industrial, infill and brownfield development approvals priority at City Hall….

    “We must increase the number of infill and brownfield projects.

    “We know there is more we can do to improve your experience of working with City Hall – like… mediation services to assist with tricky infill projects and incentive programs to encourage brownfield development and investment in the downtown.”

    Just to be clear: The City’s desired tenants for the HCBP’s first phase are firms in the biotechnology, agri-science, nanotechnology and associated fields. Of the estimated 2,000 workers laid off from manufacturing jobs in Guelph in 2008, it is unlikely any would be hired as researchers in these offices. The industrial section of the HCBP would not be built up for years, if ever. The HCBP is not a solution for working class families.

    The City’s Brownfields Strategy says Guelph has 175 brownfields – former industrial/commercial sites that may be toxified. In 2007 at a Guelph Real Estate Pulse Conference, Mayor Farbridge said, “We will give industrial, infill and brownfield development approvals priority at City Hall….” Yet by supporting the HCBP, she insists on ruining an existing ecosystem to create new employment lands.

    The City says the HCBP is essential for new jobs, but the city’s Employment Lands Strategy shows the HCBP makes up only 22% of vacant employable lands. Other sites exist that are zoned and graded for industrial/commercial development; some have sat vacant for years.

    The City says they must maintain a 5-year surplus supply of employment lands, in order to keep growing in perpetuity. The HCBP is said to be essential to this goal. But a January 2009 article from tri-city business journal Rex Magazine reports that a 5-year supply of industrial space will become vacant in the tri-city area this year. Prices for industrial properties have fallen up to 50%. The HCBP is not necessary for new employment lands, nor for remaining competitive with surrounding areas.

    Numerous developments around the city sit vacant due to the current economic climate. Economic and political leaders say hard times are just beginning. It’s not possible for the City to guarantee the HCBP will ultimately be filled and put to use.

    ——————

    “FACT: The opposite is true – this business park will help prevent sprawl into the surrounding countryside by being home to thousands of jobs within our city limits. It’s a key part of the City’s plan to meet Places to Grow requirements without annexing lands around Guelph. It will also mean more people who live in Guelph can work in Guelph, instead of commuting to another community.”

    Given the above comments and facts, it seems a bit of a doublespeak to say that destroying farmland with an industrial development will “help prevent sprawl into the surrounding countryside.”

  11. the cloudwalking owl Says:

    Kent:

    Great! You are opposed to exponential growth. Why pick on Guelph city Council then? Why not take on the Federal or Provincial governments then? Or, why not try to work with one of the groups like “Buy Nothing Day”? Or “Ad Busters”? That are trying to educate the public. Or one of the other good groups working on these things.

    Or conversely, why not organize for reform of the Ontario Municipal Board? That way the Council will not be afraid of having their planning over-ruled if they try to do too good a job protecting the environment. Or to cut back on the population growth targets for Southern Ontario? That way they won’t have to deal with the huge population growth that Queen’s Park is imposing on the city.

    Again, why pick on Guelph Council? There are no ends of issues to deal with, why have you chosen this particular one to focus on as opposed to all of the others? Have you considered how much money you are costing the city? And how many other projects that the Council will not be able to fund if too much money is spent on this delay?

    I would argue that Karen Farbridge and many people on Council are people who have fought long and hard trying to protect the environment. But because they are on Council, they have an obligation to work within the rules that govern the city. As such, they are attempting to limit the damage that the private sector will do if they are allowed free reign under the Places to Grow legislation. Moreover, they also have to work within the constraints of the electoral system—if they outstrip popular opinion too far, they will lose the next election and probably be replaced by a bunch of Neanderthals (like those they replaced in the last election.)

    What sort of responsibilities do the people who are squatting on the site have? Do they run the risk of being voted out of office if they refuse to listen to voters? Do they have other projects that they might have to cancel if they waste too much money on the occupation? Do they have to worry about what will happen if the Ontario Municipal Board rejects the city plan and offers a private developer an exemption to it?

  12. Brian Holstein Says:

    If you read the Smart Guelph document that the mayor brought into effect in her first term you will find that we are not taking the paths of our parents and our grandparents. There is a triple bottom line: the goal is not simply growth. It is about making smart community building decisions that balance economic, social and environmental perspectives.

    Of course there are compromises on all three sides – that is what a politician must do: work for all the people, not simply special-interest groups who would pave everything or would outlaw any development. Either would be silly.

    The HCBP addresses all three aspects of Smart Guelph through intelligent and conscientious compromise – a practice that some people seemingly cannot understand and/or refuse to accept.

  13. Stacey Says:

    I was adamantly opposed to the development initially, however your clear and logical facts have given me some pause Mayor Farbridge. Thank you for the concise statements. I’m more inclined now to the idea that no development on the site could lead to much missed opportunity for our City and residents alike. Knowing the City and residents as I do, I’m confident that amicable discussion between the parties will lead to a final development decision that maintains both the beauty and economic strength of our fair City.

  14. Steve Says:

    I was also adamantly opposed to the development initially, however the fact that you feel the need to post this page of “Myths vs. Facts” solidifies my initial opinion. The presentation of these few points as consise facts without further discussion of the underlying concerns exhibits my point. The issues that you address are not the only reasons for opposition to the HCPB, however the course of action taken by yourself and city council labeling those opposing this development have eliminated any faith that I may have had in city council.

  15. James David Lauckner Says:

    “Operations that could potentially pose a risk to groundwater quality will be prohibited,”

    My concern is that this is all very nice in the form of discourse. As many have witnessed first-hand, the workers have already made mistakes (i.e. the silt fence) that show a disregard of their effects on the sensitive land.

    THIS operation could potentially pose a risk to groundwater quality… thus, said operation will be prohibited.

    The major concern is that WATER is ENDANGERED…. Likewise all water beings.

  16. andrew l Says:

    in this age of persuasion it is easy to market development as sustainable. much of this reminds me of the conflicts over building the red hill expressway in hamilton, which was sold, in part, as an environmental project that would improve the red hill valley. the escarpment was blasted, the creek chastised for erosion (its water shed long ago paved), and a road shoved down the valley for hundreds of millions of borrowed dollars.

    experience can be a good antidote to spin. we might believe elephants can be hung from cliffs by their tails until we’re standing underneath them. problem is, trees and amphibians don’t relate their experiences very loudly, and we humans are so good at explaining things away.

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