The Dolime Quarry land will become a part of the City of Guelph on January 1, 2022. This announcement comes from Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark who came to Guelph first thing on Monday morning to announce that he’s signing the Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) that will rezone the quarry once it’s shut down. The struggle to secure the site is over, and the countdown to redevelopment begins.
“This morning’s announcement is a result of a great deal of work from many people and organizations that even began for my time many, many years ago,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie at the announcement. “Every step we’ve made to protect our communities drinking water has always felt like little minor progresses here and there. But today, this is the big step that we needed.”
Guthrie phrased this morning’s announcement as a major leap forward in securing Guelph’s drinking water. In 2008, the quarry’s operator breached the aquitard, a dense layer of rock that protects the main aquifer deep underground, and in 2019 the City reached a deal with the land owner, the County of Wellington, and the Township of Guelph/Eramosa to expropriate the land to Guelph, shut down the quarry and redevelop it. That’s where Clark’s comments were phrased.
“Like most communities in Ontario, Guelph is facing a housing crisis. severe shortage of housing supply is driving, rental housing, and affordable homeownership even further out of reach,” Clark said. “As our province enters a period of economic recovery, our government is working hard to get shovels in the ground to create jobs and make it easier for people to have the housing they both need and deserve. ”
Monday’s announcement is a cap stone to year where the details of the deal were finalized. This past summer, the County, the Township, and the City all swiftly approved the annexation of the quarry, and the application for an MZO to rezone the property. With the MZO signed, the Quarry property south of Wellington Road and west of the Hanlon Expressway will become part of Guelph on New Year’s Day, but this obviously not the end of the story.
“Some of that is written in stone at this stage […] We will move into the process, sort through all of our approvals that will come forward to get to housing, but we’ll follow through with what RVD [site owner River Valley Developments] wants to do,” explained CAO Scott Stewart. “There isn’t a set timeframe, but we’ll go at the speed of RVD and we’ll make sure that the appropriate approvals from our perspective are in place as well to make this happen as soon as possible.”
“The blasting has actually stopped already, they’re just cleaning up the site waiting for this announcement,” added Jennifer Rose, general manager of environmental services. “They have to go through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to do a shutdown plan for the quarry, and that’s totally on them and has nothing to do with the City.”
Rose explained that the ball will be in court of RVD on when and how they proceed with redevelopment, and they will have to follow all of the City’s planning processes throughout the site’s redevelopmment. The City’s involvement is limited to planning at this point, and Rose added that she would be following up with RVD later on Monday to learn about their timeline for shutting down the quarry.
“It’s been a long time coming, and it’s certainly been a big piece of my work for the last couple of years, so it’s a nice solution to our drinking water problem that’s for sure,” Rose said adding that she’s still actually pretty busy.
For Minister Clark, this is one of the rare instances where the use of an MZO seems uncontroversial. Previous MZOs in Stratford, Cambridge, and Pickering have been met with widespread community objection, and have resulted in the MZO being pulled in select cases. What’s the Guelph lesson?
“The Guelph lesson is that this has been an ongoing community conversation,” Clark said. “You’ve got a situation where the County, the Township and the City have come together, and have done Indigenous consultation too, and now the Ministerial Zoning Order has provided that certainty. I think anytime we can work collaboratively to create more housing opportunities, and at the same time protect safe drinking water, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
*Updated December 6 – Edited for clarity.