Eviction deadline looms on protesters
Thursday, July 30, 20091 Comment
Two protesters gather at a shelter erected at the entrance to the Hanlon Creek Business Park. A group occupying the site has bee
Protesters occupying the Hanlon Creek Business Park have been given notice to leave the construction zone or face charges of trespassing.
City staff gave the occupants until 4 pm today to vacate premises, according to a website set up by the protesters.
Mayor Karen Farbridge told thecannon that while the city respects the right of protest, the 24-hour eviction notice was necessary in order protect people’s safety and the environment.
“As construction proceeds, it will be an active site and it’s not safe for members of the public to be there,” Farbridge explained.
She added that city staff had identified damage to silt barriers that were erected to protect the stream bed during construction.
If the deadline passed, police could be called in to arrest the occupants for trespassing on city land, though Farbridge declined to say if the city would do so.
“We hope that they will cooperate,” she said. “If not, we will have to look at other options to make the site is safe, that the stream is protected and that the construction is allowed to begin.”
Protesters occupied the property, located about a kilometre off Downey Street, on Monday to halt construction of a road by Drexler Construction. The project is part of a multi-year plan to convert the 675-acre property into a business park.
In a letter, the group claimed development in the area would harm sensitive ecosystems and vowed to stay put until the project is cancelled.
A spokesperson for the group was unavailable for comment.
The project, which has been in the works since 1993, has long been a source of contention for local residents.
The Guelph Mercury reported that many residents near the construction area supported protesters’ stance.
“I am 100 per cent behind them,” said Keith Miller, who owns a home on Downey Street.
“I think it’s great that they are standing up for what they believe in.”
Karl Wettstein, whose ward includes the proposed business development and surrounding neighbourhoods, refused to comment on the opposition but said council stood behind Farbridge.
“I think that we’re not going to deal with this issue in the press,” Wettstein said. “I think Karen has made comments on behalf of the city and council supports her.”
If the protesters moved, Mayor Farbridge said the city would allow protesters to gather on part of the business park located away from the construction, at the corner of Downey and Laird Roads.
However, the city would not allow the protesters to hold up development of the project.
“We respect their right to express their opinion, but not to disrupt the construction,” she said, adding that the city continued to be “open to dialogue” on the issue.
Thecannon will be at the protest site this afternoon, and will provide updates as they become available.