News

Fort Erie speedway gets green light

By Matt Day, Ottawa Sun

An artist's rendition of the Canadian Motor Speedway.

An artist's rendition of the Canadian Motor Speedway.

FORT ERIE - 

The decision was worth the wait, said proponents of the Canadian Motor Speedway.

The $400 million speedway project can now move forward following a decision made by the Ontario Municipal Board to deny an appeal opposing the adjudicative tribunal's original November ruling.

"It's been a long time and a long journey and we're finally glad the decision has come forward," said Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin. "Our next step is meeting with Azhar (Mohammad, executive director of the speedway) to get his team together and the documents together to move forward with the project and put shovels in the ground."

In the 17-page document released shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, the OMB decision states the environmental group Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society "has not made out a convincing and compelling case — or, indeed, any case — that (OMB vice-chair Susan de Avellar) Schiller violated the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness."

The OMB hears applications and appeals in relation to a range of municipal planning, financial and land matters.

The document states PALS' appeal, heard three months ago, was made because Schiller denied to qualify planning witness Dr. Hugh Gayler as an independent expert in land-use planning matters, but qualified experts called by the town, region and speedway officials.

PALS representative John Bacher said the OMB is ignoring a court precedent that says a witness shouldn't be disqualified for being affiliated with the defendant.

"They're setting a disturbing precedent because a lot of people have connections with professionals they might want to rely on if they have a legal matter to deal with," he said. "Institutional bias is not ground to disqualify a witness."

Bacher said he was disappointed with the decision.

"There is no way to maintain that land as an agricultural zone under the planning act," he said, adding this was one of the last serious obstacles left for the speedway to hurdle.

The environmental group originally wanted to keep the proposed speedway lands zoned for agricultural use.

Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said he was pleased to hear of the decision, but still had some ill feelings regarding the length of the process.

The Canadian Motor Speedway released a statement saying they will enter the final detailed site plan approval phase after waiting more than six years since the complex was first proposed.

“While CMS works with Fort Erie on final site plan approval, investors are evaluating an appropriate time to stage a ground breaking, with a target to complete the facility by the third quarter of 2015,” the statement said.

matt.day@sunmedia.ca

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