Counties council unchanged on cement plant vote
Boos and cries of “Shame” greeted the results of a second vote by counties council on a rezoning request for a controversial cement plant project in L’Orignal.
The eight mayors on the United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR) faced a standing-room-only audience Wednesday morning, as the spectator gallery of council chamber was packed during a June 14 special public meeting for a review and second vote on a zoning amendment request to the Official Plan (OP).
The vocal protests began as Planning and Forestry director Louis Prévost read out the conclusion of the second review report. The report recommendation was for UCPR council to stand by its original vote to allow the rezoning amendment in spite of opposition from around the Village of L’Orignal.
“It is still very clear that part of the population of the region of L’Orignal is concerned with this project,” Prévost stated. “Despite this strong public opposition, there is no reason to change my initial recommendation. It is my professional planning opinion that OPA 30 to the county Official Plan represents good planning and that it conforms to the Provincial Policy Statement 2014.”
At that point, and several times later during the special meeting, the boos and other vocal protests became so loud that warden Gary Barton, who represents Champlain Township as mayor, had to call for order and even threaten to either eject anyone who continued to disrupt the meeting or clear the chamber altogether.
The OP amendment deals with a piece of property just outside of the Village of L’Orignal in Champlain Township, where Colacem Canada Ltd. plans to build a cement plant. The project has been the focus of controversy for months now with local residents, township council, and Action Champlain, a grassroots community group, all opposed to the project and the rezoning.
Earlier in the year, UCPR council had approved the rezoning change to the OP but then decided to hold a second review of the issue, along with another public hearing, to deal with a complaint from Action Champlain about a procedural error with the original public review process. The second public hearing took place last month in Vankleek Hill, with more than 400 people attending, and the second vote was then scheduled for June 14.
The results of the registered vote remained the same with five of the eight mayors voting for the zoning amendment. Mayors Gary Barton of Champlain Township, Robert Kirby of East Hawkesbury Township, and Jeanne Charlebois of the Town of Hawkesbury voted against the amendment. A registered vote means that the actual tally considered the “weight” of the vote for each municipality represented on counties council. The weighted vote result was 19-7 for the amendment.