Skip to content

Opposition grows to proposed Guelph-Eramosa refrigeration plant

A group of neighbours opposed to the project have retained a lawyer and are being supported by the Wellington Water Watchers

Community organizing against a refrigeration plant proposed near the intersection of Hwy 7 and Jones Baseline has accelerated ahead of a vote by Guelph/Eramosa council.

The date for that vote has not been set. 

On Sunday, around 50 people gathered in the backyard of a home located beside the facility’s proposed site. The event, which included coffee, snacks and short speeches by organizers, was hosted by the Jones Baseline Community Group, a collective of neighbours which formed in opposition to the project after learning of it in early August.  

The afternoon was an opportunity for people to meet each other and “to see where this monstrosity is not going to be built,” host Kim Townsend told the crowd, gesturing to the farmland beside them. 

After speeches, organizers invited attendees and media onto the plant’s proposed site. 

“When you look at this area, that’s the location you put a school,” Jones Baseline resident Jon Pigozzo said, referencing the surrounding homes and nearby environmental protection zone. “Up until today, it’s been actively farmed, and now you’re going to put a massive factory back there?”

Minus 40, a Georgetown-based company that specializes in energy-efficient fridges and freezers submitted an application to rezone the 27.8 acres at 5063 Jones Baseline from agricultural to rural industrial land earlier this year. 

Although currently farmland, the property is designated as a "rural employment area" in the County of Wellington Official Plan, meaning it has been "set aside for industrial and limited commercial uses which would benefit from a rural location," according to county policy.

The zoning change would allow the Minus 40 to build a 163,979 square foot industrial facility with 90,000 square feet for future expansions. The first phase of development will encompass administration, manufacturing and warehousing areas with eleven loading bays and 242 parking spaces. 

Neighbours worry the facility would threaten the groundwater that feeds their wells and increase heavy traffic and the potential for accidents on local roads. 

In the time since a September public meeting on the proposed rezoning, opposition to the project has become more organized, with the Wellington Water Watchers, a local non-profit dedicated to protecting drinking water lending support. 

“Wellington Water Watchers are activists, they're a large group and they’re respected in the area," Jones Baseline resident Jillian Wood said. "Townships and councils know them, so they’re a bigger voice than the 40 people who live in this area who have been fighting this since the beginning.”

At the non-profit's advice, Jones Baseline Community Group has incorporated itself. The move offers individual members of the group additional legal protection against potential defamation charges, Pigozzo said.

If the project ends up at the Ontario Land Tribunal it will also allow the neighbours to hire a lawyer to represent them, he continued. 

"We know it's a worst case scenario, but we have to be prepared for that," Pigozzo said.

The rezoning application is currently under review by the township and county. Once that review is complete council will decide whether to grant the application. While usually that vote would occur shortly after a final report is completed and made public, a lawyer retained by Jones Baseline Community Group has sent the township a “stand down order,” Pigozzo said. If granted the order would mean a six week pause between the township receiving the report and a vote.  

“We should be allowed time to possibly have our own experts review all documents,” Pigozzo said. 

Pigozzo estimates Jones Baseline Community Group members have spent around $10,000 out of pocket opposing Minus 40, with money going to advertising, legal fees and the retention of a planner. Through their partnership with Wellington Water Watchers donations to the group will now be tax deductible.

Wellington Water Watchers Executive Director Arlene Slocombe also addressed the crowd at Sunday's gathering. 

"What I want to tell you is we have a lot of experience supporting grass roots campaigns," Slocombe said. "And we've had a lot of successes."

Recently the Wellington Water Watchers was involved in a successful campaign against a proposed glass plant led by another group of Guelph-Eramosa residents. 

"Often it feels like things might be a done deal and its going forward," she said. "But it never is. It's never a done deal." 


Alison Sandstrom

About the Author: Alison Sandstrom

Alison Sandstrom is a staff reporter for GuelphToday
Read more