Sod Turning for Hanlon Creek Business Park

Tonight, we did a sod-turning for the Hanlon Creek Business.  Servicing will begin next month and continue through the winter.  Servicing close to the environmentally-sensitive areas will not occur until we complete addtional monitoring in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

These are my speaking notes for the event:

Good evening everyone, and thank you very much for coming to our official groundbreaking for the Hanlon Creek Business Park!

Thank you for accepting our invitation to be here to day. It is great to see so many business and community leaders out to support this important project.

In addition to all the people Peter mentioned, I’d like to thank and recognize the Members of City Council in attendance: Bob Bell, Ian Findlay, June Hofland, Vicki Beard, Christine Billings, Leanne Piper, Lise Burcher, and Gloria Kovach. Councillors Karl Wettstein, Kathleen Farrelly, Maggie Laidlaw and Mike Salisbury wanted to attend, but had scheduling conflicts and send their sincere regrets.

The Hanlon Creek Business Park is unanimously supported by this City Council. And, it has involved decision making from four terms of Council.

There has been a lot of discussion about this project over the past several months. Some of that discussion has been accurate and balanced – but a lot of it has not. So this evening, I’d like to provide some of the facts:

  •  This development will create good local jobs – about 10,000 of them.  That means more Guelphites will be able to live and work in our community, instead of commuting. And, we won’t need to sprawl outside our boundaries to accommodate our job targets under Places to Grow. 
  •  The business park will attract investment, providing business tax revenue to fund City services.
  •  This will be a new kind of business park, with an environmental design that is a model for others across Ontario.
  •  Its design comes after nearly a decade of studies and consultation.

Key features of the design include:

  • Protection of the heritage maple grove;
  • Restoration of 10 acres of meadowlands;
  • Protection of Provincially Significant Wetlands;
  • Protection of groundwater quantity and quality; and,
  • Increasing the tree canopy from 26% to 35%.

In fact, we will be making a number of improvements to a site that, over the years, has been subject to farming with pesticides and fertilizer applications; alterations to natural drainage patterns; and the introduction of non-native plants, which now dominate the site.

Sometimes, I’m asked why Council can’t simply re-open this project and start again. The answer is quite simple. In 2006, the Ontario Municipal Board Minutes of Settlement were signed by the City and a number of other parties. The City of Guelph is legally bound to meet its obligations under this agreement. And there are other obligations as well that we cannot ignore. We have committed millions of dollars to this project – dollars that we plan to recoup through the sale of City-owned land in the business park.

If we don’t develop and sell the land, Guelph taxpayers are on the hook for those millions of dollars. And, we will have no debt capacity for other projects that are waiting in the wings.

In essence, this project is about balance and fairness.

Building a balanced tax base brings fairness and affordability to residential taxpayers.

Growing local jobs means that the investments we make today are fair to our children in the future.

Respecting all voices and balancing different points of view ensures a fair and democratic decision making process.

That democratic process involved many of you here tonight. It included six study groups; an OMB hearing; a Public Liaison Committee; the Kortright Hills Community Association; the Environmental Advisory Committee; and the Economic Development Advisory Committee. It involved working closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grand River Conservation Authority.  Thirteen elected members of City Council voted for this project. The Federal government has supported it with more than $620,000 in funding. The Provincial government is cost-sharing with the City on the Laird interchange and has expressed its support.

I think the fact that so many of you have come out on a chilly October evening to celebrate this groundbreaking speaks volumes about the level of support this project has in the community.

I want to thank each and every one of you for the roles you are playing to make this business park project such an outstanding one.

No one likes conflict so your participation today is particularly appreciated.  For those of us who have dedicated a significant portion of our lives to democratic principles of inclusion and engagement, we find the circumstances under which we are required to meet tonight uncomfortable and troubling. 

This is, regretfully, an invitation-only event.  While invitation-only sod turnings are not unusual, this one had to be so.

Healthy debate and dissent is one thing.  However, when it crosses the line, these are the real repercussions when illegal activities, harassment and even the perception of intimidation attempt to undermine the democratic process and community decision making and why we can only ever have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour in a civil society.

Thank you.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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One Comment on “Sod Turning for Hanlon Creek Business Park”

  1. Paul Crawford Says:

    Today was a victory of democracy over anarchy. It was an honour to be at the sod turning today to watch history in the making that will benefit Guelph for generations to come. Thank you Mayor Farbridge.

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