It's huge! It will have 18 silos rising as high as 60 feet. The processing plant itself will be an acre in size. Impervious surfaces will cover 3 acres. And the plant will run 18 hours a day. The company claims in its application that this is "small-scale", but there is nothing small-scale about it!
The noise coming from the mill will be loud and continuous – for 18 hours a day. The company says that noise levels will be about 45-50 decibels. According to the World Health Organization exposure to this level of noise continuously is harmful to health. At the company's existing plant in Aurora, a sound recording showed that noise levels could be even higher, over 70 decibels.
Grain processing inevitably produces dust, including the most harmful form called PM2.5. This dust can travel for miles. The company claims that it will have equipment to capture dust but it admits that dust will be emitted from the plant. The company has not adequately addressed the PM2.5 risk.
The company initially claimed in its application that 10 tractor-trailer trucks arrive at its existing plant in Aurora daily and the same number of trucks will arrive at the new plant in Goodwood. Yet the Goodwood plant will be two and a half times the size of the Aurora plant. How can the number of trucks be the same? When residents complained about truck traffic in Goodwood, the company tried to lower that number to 4 trucks a day based on a new calculation, but residents are not convinced.
The company is a major importer of food commodities such as poppy seeds, sesame, millet, and sunflower. These seeds come from Third World countries that don't have the resources to control weeds like we do, and they come with nasty weed seeds that can be very harmful to agriculture. The worst of these weeds are so bad that the federal government bans them from seeds intended for planting. But seeds imported for food use are not subjected to the same government oversight. With over 10,000 tonnes of food grains and seeds processed annually, the chance that prohibited noxious weeds will escape to nearby rural lands is high. This mill should go in an industrial park where weeds can't escape and infest farmland.
The loophole the company is using to get around the the Oak Ridges Moraine legislation is to claim that the mill will benefit local farms. It says it will buy grain and seeds from local farmers. But is it just saying that so it can use this loophole? The company says that its existing mill in Aurora does not buy grains from local farmers. So why should we believe that the new operation will buy locally?
Uxbridge Council wants this real bad. The township needs more taxes but it can't expand its industrial tax base because of the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt laws. If this mill goes through you can bet that similar industrial developments will follow. Since much of the grain grown in Uxbridge is used for ethanol production, what will stop an ethanol plant from coming in next? These "agriculture-related" developments can be unrestricted in size and can locate virtually anywhere on township farmland. Don't let this door open!
March 21 – A survey conducted by the Goodwood Conservation Association has found that 93% of Goodwood area residents oppose the Grainboys mill. The grain-processing mill is proposed for the 12 acre property at 351 Durham Highway 47, just east of the hamlet of Goodwood. The proposed property is less than 300 metres from the Ridge Road residential community where many residents are angry with the proposal and with the politicians who support it.
More than half of residents who moved to the Goodwood after the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act was enacted in 2001 said that the legislation was a factor in choosing to live in the Goodwood area. If the Oak Ridges Moraine protection from development were to end, 72% of residents said that they would move away.
But Goodwood residents are not opposed to all development. More than 60% said that they would be comfortable with more residential development in the area, and about a third said that they would also be fine with commercial and institutional development such as stores, shopping centres, hospitals, schools, and government facilities. Only two residents in the Goodwood area supported industrial development such as factories.
When responses from the rest of Uxbridge Township are included, 91% of respondents said that they do not believe that the grain-processing mill is an appropriate development for Goodwood, suggesting that opposition to the mill is widespread across the township.
The full results can be viewed here.
[This story was updated to reflect survey results to March 21.]
March 15 – A long-awaited review of the Grainboys proposal to build an industrial-scale grain processing plant on rural land close to the hamlet of Goodwood was posted to the Township of Uxbridge website this week. In it planner Liz Howson recommends approval of the zoning application, saying that, in her opinion, “the proposed development conforms to Provincial, Regional and Township planning policy”, “is appropriate”, and “represents good planning”.
Howson attached a number of conditions. An environmental compliance certificate will be required from the province, and to get this certificate, a noise study and an emission report will be required. In addition, the company will be required to provide a detailed plan on how it will “mitigate any risk related to the spread of noxious weeds” and will be required to pay the cost of a weed inspector appointed by the township to “monitor the facility on a regular basis”.
A route plan for trucks will be required, with deliveries restricted to between 8 am and 5 pm. There will be no limit on the hours of operation which the company says will be 18 hours a day, five days a week. Other plans required include a water and sewage plan, a stormwater management plan, a well monitoring plan (to run for five years), a lighting plan, and a landscaping plan. In addition, a study of the project’s impact on the underlying aquifer will be required.
The public will have no opportunity to comment on any design or technical matters once the project enters the site plan and regulatory approval stages. All of the conditions imposed by the planner will therefore be assessed without public input and oversight.
The planner made no mention about previously expressed misgivings about the company’s inadequate responses to public comments and questions. Instead it seems that she went out of her way to address insufficiencies so that she could recommend approval. For example, she took the initiative to reach out to the provincial chief weed inspector to craft a plan for the monitoring of noxious weeds, a problem for which the company had offered no plan and had not sought expert advice. But the approach that planner and the chief weed inspector came up with fails to address the weed seeds problem because they have misunderstood the nature of the risks and where the critical control points lie.
Residents are disappointed that the planner did not question key inconsistencies of statements made by the applicant. For example, in its Planning Justification Report the company makes no mention of the grains and seeds that it imports, yet the company is listed on the Industry Canada website as a major Canadian importer for six commodities including poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. The company has never provided full details of its imports, only providing dribs and drabs of information at meetings and only when challenged. Imported grains and seeds present a major source of weed seeds which could harm nearby farms if weed seeds fall on soil and develop into infestations.
Much of the justification of the proposal turns on what the company says it will do. It is not currently taking deliveries of grain from farmers directly but it says it will at the proposed location. This is important because if the company does not say it will buy locally then it cannot claim to be an “agriculture-related” use under the Oak Ridges Moraine legislation. But if the company is not upfront about what it imports, or backtracks on the number of trucks arriving at its facilities daily, or downplays the noise coming from its plant, then how can the company be taken at its word? It is disappointing that the planner did not question the company’s word in her report.
The residents of Goodwood are not deterred. They will meet soon to discuss the planner’s report and to develop an action plan. For the residents, the planner’s report is not the final word on the Grainboys application.
The planner's report is available here.
February 26 – On Monday Uxbridge Council decided to delay the vote on the Grainboys grain-processing mill to April 8. Since the start of the year this is the fourth time council has delayed the vote. The delays seem to reflect a growing unease about the application and about the approval process.
Both Councilor Gord Highet and the planner, Liz Howson, expressed concerns about the latest responses from Grainboys to public questions and comments. The company chose to answer the dozens of submissions received using a spreadsheet to link a series of stock answers to each question or comment. Councilor Willy Popp noted that the company did not deal adequately with questions about truck traffic.
Council directed that the planner's report must be released "no later March 11th, 2019". The planner's recommendation to approve or refuse the Grainboys application is crucial. Council generally follows the planner's recommendations when it votes on zoning applications.
February 21 – Responses to public comments about the Grainboys mill proposal from over 100 people are posted on the Township of Uxbridge website. The undated and unsigned document appears to be from Kresho Petrovich, the semi-retired founder of Port Royal Mills who is spearheading the application from his home in Pickering while his sons run the business in Aurora. Earlier responses to public comments came from the company's planner and consulting engineers, but it appears Mr Petrovich prepared these latest responses himself.
Comments and questions were categorized under topics such as "noise", "traffic" and "rodents" and a spreadsheet was used to match them to a set of stock answers. Few of the answers contained specific or new information; many simply referred to previous responses from 2018. To those who had deep concerns about the proposal and had posed detailed questions or comments, the responses were disappointing, and looked like they were aimed at providing the barest answers required for the vote to proceed.
Now that the responses are in, the planner, Liz Howson, can prepare her report, which now is expected to be ready for council on Monday March 11th. Council will vote on the mill zoning application on April 8th.
The company's responses can be found here.
If you are concerned about the mill this is the time to let your councilor know how you feel!
Let your councillor amd the mayor know what you think about the mill – before Council votes. Here are the phone numbers.
[This story was first revised when the planner's report did not appear in the February 25 council agenda. It was further revised when council delayed the vote to April 8 and directed the planner to produce her report by March 11.]
February 21 – A batch of 11 documents in support of the Grainboys proposal for a mill in Goodwood were published by the township last week. Most are technical reports meant to bolster the company's zoning application for its property at 351 Regional Highway 47 in Goodwood. Included among the documents are the company's responses to recent public comments and questions; but others date back as far as April of last year. The late posting of technical documents long after the deadline for public comments has passed raises questions about the application process and whether it has been as open and fair as it should be.
The application process has been plagued with irregularities from the beginning. Many residents of Goodwood knew nothing about the proposal until very recently. The township notified only the owners of properties adjacent to the proposed site and in June last year held a public meeting that was sparsely attended. As the largest development in the Goodwood area if built, with structures up to six stories tall, the township should have known that the project would interest far more residents than just the immediate neighbours.
After the public meeting, comments and questions were answered by the company in August, but those answers were not published by the township for five months. Some residents believed that the company had lost interest and the project was dead. But long after the legal 150 day deadline was past when council must decide on zoning applications, the project seemed to be revived when the company was urged to hold an open house in Goodwood.
The open house was just three weeks before council was expected to vote on the proposal – and more than nine months after the company first submitted its application. But the company did not make a presentation to explain what was proposed, instead it opted only to answer questions from the public. For many residents, this was the first they heard of the project and they did not know enough about it to ask questions.
Then, at the end of January, it was discovered that Councilor Beach had a conflict of interest because her family grows grains. Under Ontario law councilors must recuse themselves when they are in a conflict of interest, and they must not discuss with or otherwise try to influence the other councilors. But Councilor Beach should have known from the beginning that she was in conflict. And she should not have gone on local radio to promote the open house on behalf of the company as she did in early January. As a proponent of the mill from the beginning she undoubtedly has influenced the other councilors.
To the residents of Goodwood the late appearance of technical documents is just one more reason why this application process has not been fair. Many are angry that this was being put through without adequate involvement from the community most affected.
February 13 – At its meeting on Monday, Uxbridge council was forced to delay its planned vote on the Grainboys mill from February 25th to March 18th. The delay became necessary when Grainboys failed to respond to recent public comments. Without the company's responses the planner, Liz Howson, cannot prepare her report. Since there is no council meeting scheduled before February 25, council was forced to delay the vote.
Mayor Barton argued that the vote could still be held on February 25th if the company responds soon, but council member Willie Popp took issue with the short time the public would have to review the planner's report. Initially council moved the vote to March 25th but changed it to the 18th when it was realized that the planner has a scheduling conflict.
During the meeting residents were told that the company's responses had just been published on the township website. But on checking the website it was realized that the document was an old set of responses from August 2018. This old report is still on the township's home page as of this writing.
The planner's report on the mill proposal was supposed to be published prior to the February 4th council meeting. But Liz Howson told council that Grainboys was looking at building the mill on a different property and, additionally, had not responded to public comments.
Howson added, however, that Grainboys told her that the alternate site is no longer under consideration and that the company will proceed with the original mill proposal in Goodwood.
Why is the planner's report so important? Because the members of council rely on the planner's recommendations and vote accordingly. In all cases that we have reviewed this is how council votes.
If you are concerned about the mill this is the time to let your councilor know how you feel!
Call the mayor or your councillor and let him or her know what you think about the mill – before Council votes. Here are the phone numbers.
Here is the status report from the planner, Liz Howson.
January 23 – Council received 79 submissions from residents in Goodwood and around the township – almost all objections. It also received a petition signed by 22 residents. This was after our emergency meeting of residents held in Goodwood on January 17. Read them all the submissions here, here and here.
March 15 Uxbridge approves rezoning for grain mill with many conditions, The Standard.
(Contrary to what the headline suggests the Grainboys zoning application has NOT been approved yet!)
March 15 Group forms to save agricultural land, fights grain mill, The Standard.
March 7 Uxbridge awaits spring to identify invasive species, The Standard.
February 28 Grainboys response leaves Uxbridge councillors puzzled, Uxbridge Times Journal.
February 27 ‘Comprehendable’ report coming, non-resident fees going, Uxbridge Cosmos.
February 22 The menace of Elgin Pond: Witch's hair entangles small town in fight over proposed mill, The National Post.
February 14 Still no answers on Grain Boys Holdings, The Standard.
February 13 Councillor opts out of Grainboys decision, Uxbridge Cosmos.
February 12 Coun. Beach steps back from Grainboys decision, Uxbridge Times Journal.
February 7 Grain Boys Holdings fails to answer residents' questions The Standard.
February 7 'No answers from Grainboys, no Grainboys report' says planner, Uxbridge Cosmos.
February 6 Report delayed on proposed Goodwood grain processing facility, Uxbridge Times Journal.
January 31 Letters to the editor, Uxbridge Cosmos.
January 24 Decision on Grainboys delayed, Uxbridge Cosmos.
January 23 Uxbridge council delays final decision on Grainboys application, Uxbridge Times Journal.
January 17 Council wants questions, residents want answers, Uxbridge Cosmos.
January 17 Letters to the editor, Uxbridge Cosmos.
January 16 Council delays Grainboys decision 1 week, Uxbridge Times Journal.
January 10 Grainboys move plants seeds of discontent in Goodwood, Uxbridge Cosmos.
January 9 Resident calls for caution on planned Goodwood grain processing facility, Uxbridge Times Journal. (click on the comments section for a rebuttal of the company's statements made in the article)
Listen to the noise levels emanating from the company's existing plant in Aurora.
Watch a video of the slide presentation An Unacceptable Risk on Rural Land? presented before Uxbridge Town Council on January 7, 2019.
Questions to think about.
Information handout to give to friends and neighbours.
Read the letter from Bev Northeast, Chair of the Goodwood Ratepayers Association, submitted to Uxbridge Town Council on January 9, 2019 in the wake of the information session held at the Goodwood Community Centre on January 7th.
Access all the Grainboys Holdings Inc. application documents on the Township of Uxbridge Planning Applications page (scroll down).
Read Durham Region's review of the application prepared by David Perkins, Regional Planner, June 25 2018.
Read the Comments on an Application for a Zoning By-law Amendment for a Proposed Grain Milling and Blending Facility submitted to Uxbridge Town Council July 2018.
Read the Response to Public Comments from Zelinka Priamo Ltd on Behalf of Grain Boys Holdings Inc. submitted to Uxbridge Town Council January 2019.
Read the Grainboys Holdings Inc. Proposed Grain Milling and Blending Facility: Failures Under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan submitted to Uxbridge Town Council January 18 2019.
Read the letter to Ingrid Svelnis, Chief Administrative Officer, submitted to Uxbridge Town Council on January 31, 2019 regarding a possible conflict of interest of a council member.