The Ministry of Environment (MoE) is still waiting for François Charlebois, a local developer and co-founder of FCB Products, and his former partner, Sayed Abdullah Ahmad of Toronto, to obey an order to clean up the site located along County Road 14 in East Hawkesbury Township. The order was issued in September 2019 and gave them until mid-October that year to remove the trash.
“That order is still in effect,” said Mike Séguin, MoE Cornwal district area supervisor. “The ministry is now considering its next step.”
Violation of an MoE cleanup order could mean either fines, or a jail sentence, or both.
History of trash
The illegal dump site, with its piles of construction debris, empty plastic barrels, and other items, is the legacy of proposed commercial/industrial recycling operation that Charlebois planned to create in 2018. His partner, Ahmad, owned the land at the time. The mounds of garbage grew as Charlebois worked on the details for the recycling operation until everything came to halt for lack of several key components.
The proposed recycling project did not have an MoE-approved operating permit. Charlebois and Ahmad also did not have township approval to use the site for an industrial project like a recycling operation. Neither of them had even approached the township and MoE with their proposal until there were complaints from other area residents about the trash piles.
Another problem was that Ahmad owed property taxes on the land. The township put the property tax sales list in 2019 for about $96,000 to cover the taxes in arrears. Ahmad made a partial payment and the property was taken off the list on condition that he pay the remaining outstanding taxes within a three-month period.
Ahmad later notified the township that he would not pay the remaining property taxes owed. The township seized the land and now waits for both Charlebois and Ahmad to obey the MoE cleanup order.
Future land use
Charlebois has indicated in past media interviews that he still wants to develop a recycling operation at the site. Whether that will happen or not will depend on whether the township is willing and whether or not Charlebois will have future access to all of the original property.
The wooded area at one end of the property used to be the site for the No. 13 Elementary Flying Training School, a military facility set up for training Canadian pilots during World War II. All that remains of the facility is a maintenance shed, the huge concrete gunnery practice backstop, and broken remains of old runways and hangar pads.
Mayor Robert Kirby has stated that he wants to see the former military training ground declared a local heritage site. Township Chief Administrative Officer Luc Lalonde affirmed during a phone interview July 15 that is the future goal for the property once the site cleanup issue is settled. Whether that happens as a result of the MoE order or if the township removes the garbage and then charges Charlebois and Ahmad for the work is the question.
“We’re just waiting to see if the ministry can have this place cleaned up,” said Lalonde. “It is our intent to preserve it (historic site). The priority right now is to have that place cleaned up.”