Five GTA municipalities are taking action to stop Canadian National Railway from building a 400-acre rail and truck distribution facility in south Milton. And that town’s mayor has a warning for the federal transport minister, who happens to represent Milton.
“There’s a federal election coming up, and this is the biggest issue,” said Mayor Gord Krantz, who said he’s disappointed that local MP and Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt won’t pick a side on an issue that’s consumed his town.
Krantz has stated that the CN plan does not fit the current residential-employment land use for the area that has already been approved.
Raitt said in a written response Monday, “While this process unfolds, I will continue to encourage CN to engage the community in a discussion to try to find solutions that are amicable for all.”
A joint statement released Friday from all the Halton municipalities highlights issues they have with the proposal CN submitted for approval to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the body that will analyze and possibly approve CN’s plan.
The statement says: “CN has provided incomplete information; CN has improperly narrowed the scope of relevant environmental effects; CN has failed to identify all possible federal approvals; and CN has not demonstrated how this project is exempt from the Canada Transportation Act railway line approval process.”
A lawyer’s letter on behalf of Halton Region, Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Halton Hills accompanying their joint statement was also sent to the assessment agency.
The letter states that the five municipal governments are opposed to CN’s plan, which the Star revealed last month.
The letter points out that because of intended planning uses for the area by Milton and Halton Region, CN officials “specifically advised the region that CN had no intention to ever locate the present project at this location.”
It also lists a number of health, safety and environmental concerns the project presents, using the Lac Megantic disaster as an example of the risks.
“Clearly this submission highlights some legitimate concerns, and CN has a legal obligation to respond to these in a satisfactory manner,” Raitt stated in an email Monday.
CN also provided a response to the joint statement from Halton: “CN has been part of the Halton community for many years and will continue to be a good and socially responsible neighbour.
“From the outset, CN has been committed to a comprehensive engagement process with the community and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA)…Also, this is the beginning of the process and CN will provide additional information in due course and as requested by the CEAA. The CEAA Project Description process allows municipalities and individuals to identify areas of concern and to suggest what they would like, to ensure their concerns are addressed by the environmental analysis.”
Local politicians and about two dozen Halton residents have told the Star they do not want the facility built on 1,000 acres of land owned by CN in south Milton. Krantz and Milton’s chief administrative officer Bill Mann told the Star that as many as 1,500 trucks could move in and out of the facility every day, along with four trains travelling daily back and forth from the east and west coasts filled with commercial goods going in and out of the GTA.
“I would say that about 90 per cent of Milton is opposed to this,” said Krantz, who has emphasized the impact the massive distribution hub would have on the adjacent residential areas, some of which are currently being constructed. He says he’s lined up what he expects will be a unanimous council vote Monday evening to adopt an interim control bylaw that could stall CN’s plan. The bylaw would prevent the development from moving forward until it’s determined to be in compliance with provincial and local planning requirements already in place for the area.
“I understand a group of effected developers have also drafted a letter to CEAA,” Krantz said. “I believe about 300 homes right next to the proposed site have already been pre-sold. Buyers didn’t know anything about this plan. There’s going to be a lot of problems.”