Biochar rezoning approved by committee deferred by council

By Angelica Ingram

Published Dec. 13 2016

A proposed biochar facility that Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve wants to construct on Kennaway Road is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On Dec. 5 the Dysart public planning committee recommended approving a rezoning application following two public meetings filled with questions from neighbouring residents. Concerns have included drainage issues noise traffic and emissions.

Last week the Haliburton County Development Corporation submitted a letter to the municipality in support of the proposal said Dysart planning director Patricia Martin.

The facility will be constructed at 1088 Kennaway Rd. a property already owned by Haliburton Forest and zoned for industrial purposes.

President of the Drag and Spruce Lakes Property Owners Association Karl Gonnsen questioned whether the type of facility being proposed was permitted under the general industrial zone as he believes the biochar facility is a waste disposal plant.

Dysart planning director Patricia Martin is classifying it as a processing plant.

Gonnsen requested that council postpone the zoning change until the required environmental approvals were in place.

“The problem is we’re not getting the information we need” he said.

Gonnsen added that as president of the association he wasn’t in a position to say whether or not they were against the proposal as there were too many unknowns.

One of the biggest areas of concern was smell he said.

General manager of the Haliburton Forest Malcolm Cockwell said staff would be happy to meet to answer any questions.

Chairwoman of the public planning committee and Dysart Deputy-reeve Andrea Roberts said she had to trust the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and added there is a rigorous approval system the applicant must go through.

Resident Jim Blake said he was a nearby neighbour to the project and has reviewed all the research about biochar.

Blake said the proposal was “a most desirable business for Haliburton County” as it was locally owned and had the potential to create 20 year-round jobs and infuse money into the county.

Area resident Jim Miners said Gonnsen did not speak on behalf of everyone in the lake association as there has been no vote taken among association members which he wanted on the record.

“He does not speak for me” said Miners.

The committee recommended the zoning change be approved. The file was on the Dec. 12 Dysart council agenda where councillors further discussed the proposal and the zoning application.

Martin said the facility was definitely permitted for the zoning classification and that the municipality was fortunate to have a proposal like this coming forward.

Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey said he thought more information should be available before approving the application and suggested deferring it until January.

“We need to find answers” he said.

Planning committee member and Councillor Nancy Wood-Roberts said she was in support of the project.

Councillor Susan Norcross however agreed with Fearrey that more information was needed.

Cockwell wasn’t sure what more information was needed for the rezoning and said he didn’t expect to have approvals from the MOECC in place until the spring.

He confirmed the kilns couldn’t be operated until the approvals were in place.

The zoning application won’t impact if the facility can be constructed but rather where on the property it will be located.

“We’re going to build a building one way or another” said Cockwell.

The file was deferred to the January meeting of council.