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Union Street subdivision plan on hold again

Woolwich council continues to have concerns about a proposed residential development’s proximity to heavy industrial plants, including Lanxess and Sulco Chemicals.

It’ll be back to  the drawing board yet again for a developer looking to build a small residential subdivision adjacent to Elmira’s Union Street industrial area.

In particular, the proximity to the Lanxess chemical plant and the CCC Sulphur Products facility make for ongoing concerns about possible noise and odour issues.

Meeting by videoconference Tuesday night, Woolwich councillors opted to defer a decision on a staff recommendation to approve the residential project, allowing time for yet more adjustments that might help ward off future problems.

Prior to this latest iteration of development plans for the former apple orchard site on Union Street, Hawk Ridge Homes had twice been turned down by Woolwich, the region and the Ontario Municipal Board since first pitching the idea in 2009. The latest revised plans calls for 12 single-family and 24 semi-detached homes. Currently dead ends, Bauman and College streets would be opened up to Union Street, allowing for north-south lot configurations on the property bounded by First Street to the south

In a effort to further buffer the proposed new homes from the industrial plants, the latest plan would see a large block at the corner of Union and First streets will be left for commercial purposes, said Arlene Beaumont, a planner with W.E. Oughtred & Associates representing the applicant.

“There will be no residential use on that block.”

Councillors, however, remained concerned about the possibility of future problems at the site if the project was to go ahead.

Although manager of planning Jeremy Vink stressed that the township does not make planning decisions based on the worst-case scenarios, the proximity to the Lanxess plant – formerly Uniroyal, Crompton and Chemtura – has been an ongoing concern.

Local environmental activist Alan Marshall drove home that point by reiterating the long history of problems – fires, explosions and toxic releases – related to the operation.

“Is it OK to put human beings in harm’s way as long as somebody is financially profiting? Does that make it OK?” he asked, saying the subdivision would be too close to the industrial operations.

That closeness has been a constant concern raised by CCC Sulphur Products president Ron Koniuch, who said the facility, also known as Sulco Chemicals, is just 100 metres from the development site, whereas provincial guidelines call for 300 metres.

Noise issues are likely to occur, both from an operational standpoint and from the rail line the serves the plant.

Koniuch noted the facility has seen an increase in volume since the last noise studies were done, with more business meaning there are now 25 rail cars per week. That means more shunting of train cars, work that is done between midnight and 4 a.m.

He said the actual noise levels from the operation are likely much higher than what’s reflected in the study prepared by Hawk Ridge Homes – the decibel levels are likelier higher than the applicant’s noise consultant has reported – 118 to 130 decibels rather than 110.

People moving into the new homes would experience more noise than they’d been told to expect, he predicted.

“When the noise complaints do come in, do you think it’s going to be sufficient for us to tell the neighbours that the textbook said you should be OK?”

Koniuch asked for more time, suggesting until the end of next June, to respond to Hawk Ridge Home’s latest plan. Councillors agreed to defer a decision, but on a timeline that would be much earlier in the new year.

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