Council listened with interest during its February 22 session to a proposal from Hadi Shamlah about a project that could see both the disappearance of an unsightly illegal dump site on County Road 14 and the addition of a new commercial enterprise to the township’s economic development profile.
“I think you have a very interesting project,” said Councillor Simon Rozon, adding that he would like Shamlah to make a more detailed on-site presentation to council at a later date.
Shamlah represents a Québec-based group that is interested in acquiring the 20-acre property on the outskirts of St-Eugène. The property used to belong to Sayed Abdullah Ahman, a Toronto developer, but was seized by the township for non-payment of property taxes. Ahman was partners with François Charlebois, a local developer, on a proposed recycling business for the site.
Charlebois began collecting mounds of trash, including construction debris, plastic barrels and other items, on the site but the recycling business never went ahead. Charlebois had failed to get the necessary provincial approval for his project and the Ministry of Environment (MoE) issued a stop-work order on his trash collection. The ministry has also ordered Charlebois to clean up the site but taken no action yet to force him to do so.
The township is waiting for the MoE to finish its investigation before deciding what to do with the property. Shamlah and his group learned about the situation from Ahmad, who may be interested in being a partner in a new project for the site. Shamlah’s group wants to develop a commercial greenhouse operation on the property along with a manufacturing plant that uses recycled plastic to make a variety of building materials.
The group wants to either buy the land from the township or co-own the property with the municipality. Either option is necessary, Shamlah said, to give the group authority for salvage and cleanup work on the existing trash piles. He estimated that the trash piles would be gone within three years once the group began development of its project.
“But we prefer the (MoE) investigation to be completed before we touch the land,” Shamlah said, adding that the group would also first confirm all necessary provincial and local permits for its project.
Shamlah’s group proposes a two-stage development for the site. First stage is creation of a commercial greenhouse operation to provide working capital. He estimated the development cost for that at about $800,000 and noted that the group already has secured half of the money needed and will be looking into government funding aid for the remainder.
The second stage for the project involves either building a small manufacturing facility on the property or the group might look at either leasing or buying other existing buildings in the municipality for use as a warehouse and manufacturing site for recycled-plastic building materials.
Shamlah noted some reforestation work is needed on the wooded part of the property to deal with the impact of emerald ash borer infestation. His group proposes to plant a mixture of dwarf fruit trees and berry-producing plants to provide both soil protection against erosion and a partial windbreak.
“I really like your project,” said Councillor Karina Sauvé. “It’s a “think outside of the box’ project.”
Both council and Shamlah agreed to schedule an on-site presentation at a later date when the property is clear of snow and also pandemic restrictions on travel are eased. Meanwhile township council will send a query to the MoE on the status of its investigation.