Kitchener-Waterloo

Proposed glass plant blocked by Guelph Eramosa Township council

Township council voted in favour of upholding a bylaw that would keep the land at Highway 124 and Wellington Road 32 for dry use only.
Guelph Eramosa Township council upheld a motion to keep a bylaw in place to ensure a piece of land between Cambridge and Guelph zoned for industrial use would be "for dry use." That means any company who builds on the land would not be able to draw significant amounts of water. (Provided by Guelph Eramosa Township)

Guelph Eramosa Township council has blocked a plan by a glass company from China to build a manufacturing plant on land between Cambridge and Guelph.

In a 4-1 vote Monday night, township council voted in favour of approving a motion by Coun. David Wolk to uphold a bylaw that would keep the land at Highway 124 and Wellington Road 32 for dry use only. That means any industry that sets up there cannot use significant amounts of water.

A packed room at Monday night's Guelph Eramosa Township council meeting. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

'Kudos to our council'

Susan McSherry, an area resident and spokesperson for the group GET Concerned, was thrilled that council voted in favour of upholding the bylaw. She said her group was questioned about the legitimacy of their concerns until the City of Guelph expressed the same reaction. 

"Council were able to see that they had to uphold their bylaw," said McSherry. "Unfortunately this project should never had started, so kudos to our council for recognizing that error was made."

McSherry, who doesn't believe the process is over yet, was thrilled that the community backed their concerns.

Xiny Glass Holdings had planned to use 1.6 million litres of water a day to manufacture the glass. The company representatives said the water, which is used to cool the manufactured glass, would be recirculated within the system to reduce usage of water from the local aquifer.

Xiny Glass Holdings said the $450-million project would have employed up to 400 people, mostly workers in the engineering field.

Susan McSherry, an area resident and spokesperson for the group GET Concerned, was thrilled that council voted in favour of upholding the bylaw. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Disappointed with process

Coun. Mark Bouwmeester was the lone dissenter in the vote. He said he had many of the concerns residents had but he was disappointed with council's process.  

Bouwmeester spent over 30 minutes responding to the motion that was on the table last evening, ignoring the heckling from some people in the crowd of around 250 people in attendance.   

"I don't feel it's appropriate for five elected politicians to start acting like we're hydro geologists or specialists, that's what we pay people for," said Bouwmeester.

"What I feel badly about is that we never got to the next stage, never had an opportunity to ask those questions. I have all the same concerns of everybody that spoke here. We're all on the same page, it's just that the process doesn't sit well."

In a 4-1 vote Monday night, township council voted in favour of approving a motion by Coun. David Wolk to uphold a bylaw that would keep the land at Highway 124 and Wellington Road 32 for dry use only. Councillor Mark Bouwmeester was the lone dissenter in the vote. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Refuse the motion

Xinyi had completed technical reports from local firms to answer the concerns of residents. Those reports have been completed but it's uncertain if they will be presented with the latest roadblock. Xinyi Glass Holdings did not speak to reporters after last night's meeting but indicated it would issue a written statement.

Neil Dinsmore, a spokesperson for Xinyi, spoke as a delegate at the council meeting and told council the Xinyi technical reports were supposed to be reviewed by township experts and present their findings to the township before a decision was made.

Dinsmore called on council to refuse the motion and allow the second public meeting to take place in order to gather public input. 

"The supplemental information requested by the township has been received but has not been reviewed by your township staff, county staff or your consultants," he said at the meeting. 

Dinsmore said council should defer this motion until information provide by Xinyi has been reviewed by planning consultants, review agencies and experts. 

He also said the motion gives a negative perception that Guelph Eramosa Township is closed for future economic development.

Neil Dunsmore, a spokesperson for Xinyi told council, the motion gives a negative perception that Guelph Eramosa Township is closed for future economic development. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Refused the work

Coun. David Wolk told Craig Norris on CBC's Morning Edition that council has been very clear "this property in question has been zoned for a variety of businesses for industrial use, for 25 years."

"We refused not so much the application, but the work that was going on by the Xinyi people simply because the amount of water they want to take is just way beyond what our bylaw would accommodate," said Wolk.

Wolk said for the township there is no next step as council has made it clear it was not acceptable for that property.

Xinyi Glass Holdings did not comment on the decision and said it would issue a statement.