Two Guelph residents, Hugh Whiteley and Vince Hanson, have made application for a judicial review of the City of Guelph’s statutory power to replace the one-lane load-restricted heritage bridge on Niska Road with a two-lane highway-standard bridge in contravention of Section 24 of the Planning Act.
The hearing on the request for a judicial review will be held on October 23, 2018 in the Superior Court 74 Woolwich Street starting at 10 a.m.
Section 24 of the Planning Act states that no public work shall be undertaken by the City that does not conform with the Official Plan of the City.
The two applicants take issue with three aspects of the Niska Road Improvement Project which do not appear to conform with the City’s Official Plan.
The Project’s first non-conformity is the absence of the Niska Road Improvement Project from Schedule 5 of the Official Plan. Schedule 5 identifies infrastructure improvements to the City’s road and railway network.
In February 2007, during the Hanlon Expressway (Hwy 6) Environmental Assessment process, the City informed the Ministry of Transportation (the “MTO”) that widening or replacing the single-lane bridge at the Speed River on Niska Road was being considered as an alternative to the extension of Stone Road as a municipal road linkage between County Road 124 and Highway 6.
In April 2007, the City informed the MTO that the Niska Road Improvements project should be removed from the list of Municipal Road Alternatives because this project was not included in the City’s Official Plan.
In March 2017, the City informed the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change that the City had abandoned the Stone Road extension in favour of the Niska Road option of upgrading the Niska bridge over the Speed River as a two-lane crossing.
The Niska Road Improvement Project has still not been added to the Official Plan.
The Project’s second non-conformity is the City’s failure to conduct a joint Environmental Assessment (“EA”) of the Project with Wellington County. The requirement for a joint Guelph/Wellington County EA for projects involving both jurisdictions is stated in section 5.12.1 of the City’s Official Plan.
Furthermore, the City has previously recognized, through the Guelph-Wellington Transportation Study, that road improvement projects with sections within Wellington County have to be evaluated through a joint EA.
The Project’s third non-conformity is the absence of traffic-volume-control measures required for Niska Road to conform with section 5.6.5 of the Official Plan.
Niska Road is a minor collector road and, more specifically, a two-lane collector road in a primarily residential neighbourhood. The City’s Neighbourhood Traffic Management Policy (the “NTMP”) restricts total traffic on Niska to 2000 vehicles per day. The NTMP further limits through traffic to 30% of total traffic, or less than 600 vehicles per day.
In 2011, the City informed a local resident that traffic on Niska Road exceeded the NTMP’s limits, but control measures were needed to restore the road to its intended function. Subsequent traffic studies in 2013 showed total traffic averaged 4746 vehicles per day and through traffic made up more than 80% of total traffic.
The widening of the Speed River bridge is forecast by the City to further increase traffic, which will cause even larger violations of the permitted-traffic limits. There are no volume-controlling traffic measures in the Niska Road Improvement Project.
The applicants are asking the Court to rule that the Niska Road project does not conform to the Official Plan and that the City’s decision to proceed with the project in its present form should be set aside.
According to the applicant, Hugh Whiteley, if the Court does find the project to be nonconforming, the City has two options to bring the project in conformity with the Official Plan.
“The first option is to conduct the required joint EA with Wellington County on road- connection alternatives between County Road 124 and Hwy 6 to determine whether any Municipal Road connecting link is needed and, if so, whether the Niska Road alternative is the preferred option. If Niska Road is chosen, then an Official Plan Amendment reclassifying Niska Road as an arterial road and adding the project to Schedule 5 would be needed.”
“The second option would be to introduce traffic-volume-control measures to the project which would ensure that Niska was returned to its intended function of servicing local traffic, with through traffic limited to less than 600 vehicles per day.”