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Guelph/Eramosa council hears from residents opposed to proposed manufacturing plant

The facility would manufacture freezers and fridges and could employ upwards of 400 people

Concerns about potential threats to groundwater, increased traffic, and loss of farmland were top of mind for the more than a dozen people who spoke against a proposed manufacturing facility in the Township of Guelph/Eramosa at a Monday public meeting. 

The proposed plant would be located on a 27.8 acre parcel at 5063 Jones Baseline, halfway between Guelph and Rockwood, just off Highway 7. The land is currently zoned as agricultural, but has been earmarked for future “industrial and limited commercial use” in the County of Wellington Official Plan where it is designated a “rural employment area.”

Minus 40, the company that made the application to rezone the property to rural industrial, manufacturers energy efficient freezers and fridges. It currently operates a plant in Georgetown, but plans to move operations to the new larger facility proposed in Guelph/Eramosa, where its CEO has said it could grow to over 400 employees in five years. 

The requested zoning change will allow for the construction of a 163,979 square foot industrial facility with 90,000 square feet for future expansions. The first phase of development would encompass administration, manufacturing and warehousing areas with eleven loading bays and 242 parking spaces. 

Hugh Handy, a planner working on behalf of Minus 40, laid out the company’s vision in a presentation at Monday’s meeting. Handy said the facility would be a “dry industrial use” meaning it would not consume “a significant amount of water or produce a significant amount of effluent.” 

No water or chemicals are used during Minus 40’s manufacturing process, Handy said. The company is also planning an advanced wastewater treatment system for the site “to protect all groundwater uses and the natural environment,” he continued. 

“We believe this will make a great contribution to the economic prosperity of not only the township, but the county and the broader region,” Handy said, speaking about the project generally. 

Delegates who spoke at the meeting were not convinced. 

Pointing to the residential and agricultural areas that surround the plant’s proposed site, Jon Pigozzo said the property “sounded more like a place you’d want to build a school, not a factory almost five times the size of the average Costco.”

Other residents worried about the facility’s potential impact on groundwater. Dan Mallette said it was in close proximity to two municipal well heads and numerous private wells in an area where the Ministry of Natural Resources has indicated groundwater is already under a high level of threat. 

“It’s not what it takes out of the groundwater we’re concerned with," Mallette said. "It’s what it has the potential to put into the ground and our drinking water.”

Another delegate, Grace Saunders-Hogberg said even if the facility was dry, there was still potential for spills that “could easily reach the groundwater.” She listed gasoline from trucks or fire fighting foam if there were a blaze at the facility as examples. 

Janet Harrop, speaking on behalf of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture, said an average of 5.3 acres of farmland is lost daily in Wellington County. 

“We should lead by example and treat this finite resource carefully and with foresight,” Harrop said. “Once farmland is lost, there’s no turning back.”

Others raised concerns about increased traffic, particularly heavy trucks, that could impact neighbourhood safety and potentially put children waiting for the bus in danger. 

Speaking on behalf of Minus 40, Handy promised “a comprehensive response” to the main themes that emerged from presenters’ comments.

Council will vote on the proposed zoning change at a future date, following the completion of a further report.