It was an impressive scene Tuesday evening as Mississippi Mills residents walked and biked from Almonte along the Old Perth Road to the Town Hall. The colourful parade and enthusiastic chants received waves, thumbs up, and toots from passing cars. A nine foot ball, with a ‘Stop Enerdu’ message in large letters, was pushed along by helping hands at the lead.
When the gavel in the Mayor Levi’s hand sounded at 6:04 p.m., the council chamber at the municipal building was filled almost to legal capacity. Every seat was occupied in the public gallery, and additional chairs were brought out. The lobby was elbow to elbow with onlookers. Red shirts were everywhere in and out of the building, and ‘Save Our River’ signs were plentiful and in full view.
For most of the first hour, the Council then Committee of the Whole proceedings dealt with reports, by-laws, zoning amendments, and a presentation about space needs at the Almonte Old Town Hall. It was 7:01 p.m. when the Chair, Councillor Dalgity, brought forward item F3, page 87 – ‘Establish a Heritage Conservation District Downtown Almonte’. This is what everyone had turned out for. If approved, a by-law would then be prepared to prevent development for up to a year in the study area that’s under consideration for a possible heritage conservation district.
As previously reported in the Millstone, there has been passionate opposition by much of the community to Enerdu’s plans for the construction of a new hydro project in the heart of Almonte. The controversy contributed to the launch by the municipality of a Heritage Conservation District study which includes the downtown and the waterfront. Just recently it was determined that, under the provisions of the Heritage Act, Mississippi Mills could pass a by-law to prohibit development in the study area for up to a year. The sea of red with signs was there as a strong show of support.
Before the motion was presented last evening for the consideration of Councilors and the Mayor, the issue had undergone a thorough assessment by the Heritage Committee. The text reflected the Committee’s endorsement that Council should pursue this important course of action. Despite the simple wording, it was necessary for CAO Smithson to explain on three occasions during last evening’s deliberations that the motion on the table was not a by-law. It seemed that some elected representatives had not completely read the text or fully digested its meaning. The discussions were surprising long and drawn out. It was 7:34 p.m. when the motion was passed 9-2 in a recorded vote. In opposition were Councilor Edwards and the Mayor.
When interviewed after, they each had a different reason for their no vote. Councilor Edwards advised that the motion was unfair to Enerdu’s developer as there had been no communication whatsoever with him by Council. It was the Mayor’s point of view that this was going ahead for the wrong reason because Enerdu was just one issue in the broader heritage picture.
See the video of jubilant residents in the hall of the Municipal building taken by Rona Fraser