The looming clear cut at the LaFarge gravel pit property has been presented as the end of a “complex” case. It’s not really complicated at all; developers pretty much get to do exactly what they want. Such are the rules and laws that govern private property rights in the capitalist system. This land is your land, if you own the title. With the required piece of paper in hand, you get to shred 2000 trees. If your goal is to preserve it, you need to own it. Ask any haggard veteran of the local Wal Mart wars.
The city blessed this years ago, it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise. Here’s a bit of a refresher, as preserved by Guelph Politico: “January 30, 2009 – An Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) mediation process has resulted in a potential settlement on a proposed development on the former Lafarge lands at 35 and 40 Silvercreek Parkway South. The City of Guelph, together with the Howitt Park Neighbourhood Residents’ Association and Silvercreek Guelph Developments Limited, has agreed to request that the OMB approve a mixed use employment/commercial and residential development on the site at an upcoming OMB hearing.”
Four years later in 2013: “Council unanimously approved a new plan to develop an area known as the “Lafarge lands,” located at 35 and 40 Silvercreek Parkway at a meeting Monday night. Matthew West, a vice-president with Fieldgate Commercial, wrote a letter to council promising the development would “review options for retaining” a bur oak tree on the site. Coun. June Hofland, a longtime resident of the area near the proposed development, declared a conflict of interest on the matter and abstained from voting.”
Once the white sign gets hammered in the ground, everything that the public can see behind it is eventually toast or will be altered in some way. I’ve seen this before on an epic scale. I’m just old enough to remember the farms of Peel County and the drive through the country on Highway 10 from Square One to Brampton. I can still see the name on the signs on the fence line as it was going up – “The McLaughlin Group”. Here is an aerial shot from 1974, just to show I didn’t dream it:
Below is a more modern view of the same area. For the record, I had a crash pad in one of these condos for a time and would cycle to work in this madness. There is a trail by the Credit River that will take you quite a ways up or down through town but when you leave the safety of the path and head into the industrial zone, you’re taking a big chance when on two wheels. It was not a place built for the cyclist or pedestrian. There are no feel good bike boxes here, the GTA commute is total war.
Certain things can be saved or salvaged from the demolition if the will is there and they are movable objects. Around the time of Square One photo above (1974), the McLaughlin group made the effort to save the historic Cherry Hill House by moving it out of the way and turning it into a restaurant. It’s hard to believe but there are still a few surviving places like this left in Mississauga.
Often the mall would get built around a house and it would remain in situ. The Mad Hatter Pub (now known as the Maharaja) is another example. The strip mall developer made an effort and a piece of history was saved. You can find it on a google map at 4646 Heritage Hills Boulevard. It is the only “heritage” left there. They tried, at least.
It would take quite a bit of digging to determine whether these places were saved because the developer wanted to keep them, or had to. Regardless, the optics are pretty good and the developer still gets what they want. A win-win as they say in the corporate world.
It’s a bit more difficult to work around natural landscapes. Nature is more powerful than any bricks and mortar structure and when she finds an opening, she lets loose. She’s the dandelion in the sidewalk crack, the bats in your soffits, the mice under the cupboards, the oak tree square in the middle of the old foundation of a settler’s place long rubbed out.
She’s the significant species of birds like American Redstarts and Northern Flickers listed on the 2005 environmental assessment of the “brownfield” known as the LaFarge Lands. Do they compile these reports because they want to or because they have to? We’ve known for years that the chainsaws are primed and waiting by the gates. Why pretend otherwise? A clearcut creates a climatization period. It gives everyone some time to get used to the blank canvas before the new buildings and parking lots arrive. Tonight’s scheduled drum circle memorial should convey a blessing at the mighty bur oak and make sure a shit ton of evidence photos are taken, as there seems to be a lot of communication problems on local development sites these days.
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