We were all over the moon when we heard the Ontario Municipal Board had waved the green flag for the Canadian Motor Speedway project in Fort Erie to proceed.
Now, some of that excitement has had some cold water tossed on it.
The official wording to allow the speed plant, that would include Canada’s first one mile high banked oval designed by NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to go ahead was, "The OMB was disallowing all appeals to the development."
Underline the word ‘appeal’, because that word is another in a long line of delays.
Even after the OMB decision, there was still a 30 day window where those opposing the speedway could appeal that decision.
They are adding about a month to the wait time, asking for a review of the OMB decision.
It’s noted the OMB rarely approves reviews of their rulings.
Using that window in a desperate attempt to delay the Speedway any way they could, a persistent citizens group know as PALS, or Preservation Agricultural Land Society, the only group opposing CMS, will not be convinced the land where the track in Fort Erie is to be built, is NOT prime agricultural land, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Much like a trial, the OMB heard witnesses and evidence from both sides.
Some of the strongest pro-CMS evidence came from Municipal, Regional and Provincial branches of government, who from the start have been 100 per cent behind the Speedway.
It was clear to this reporter that over the course of the nine-day hearing, PALS had no case, or at least failed miserably to present one in front of the OMB.
Their claims CMS was a threat to the environment and was not good planning was not supported by solid evidence, and was more or less simply their opinion, some of it based on inaccurate assumptions and myth.
PALS presented two witnesses that did not help their cause at all!
OMB Madame Chair Susan Schiller disqualified both PALS witnesses, one because he was already a member of PALS, self admitted, PALS being an advocacy group.
But it’s in this area that PALS is basing their latest appeal.
Here is their stance: "One of the most serious errors in law, in our view, was the disqualification of PALS expert witness Dr. Hugh Gayler in land use planning on the grounds that he was a self-defined member of our society. In making her decision Madam Chair Schiller relied upon the notion put forward by the raceway proponents of PALS as an "advocacy group."
In our appeal PALS informed the OMB that we are not "an advocacy group," but rather "an educational group which on occasion must advocate for protection of prime farmlands at the Ontario Municipal Board."
Two telling episodes in the hearing underlined the ineffectiveness of PALS witnesses, and supported Madame Chair Schiller’s disqualification.
Dr. Gayler was immediately rebuked by CMS’s legal team and Madame Chair Schiller when he stated Speedway developers would be seeking provincial funding to build the complex.
A simple check of the registered CMS business plan would verify CMS is totally supported by private investment.
Dr. Michael Dickman was presented by PALS as an expert scientist to address the Speedway’s impact on the foliage and wildlife on the land along the QEW in Fort Erie.
During his statement, Dr. Dickman fell into the common belief, false as it is, that cars racing at CMS would be burning poisonous leaded fuel.
Lawyers for CMS challenged the fuel remark, asking Dr. Dickman if he was aware that all of the major racing sanctions that CMS might attract have all switched over to unleaded racing fuel, and they had been burning unleaded gasoline for a few seasons.
They also asked Dr. Dickman if he was aware that some racing series don’t use gasoline as fuel at all.
Dr. Dickman admitted he did not know that, but it would be easy to find out.
Council shot back that Dr. Dickman simply hadn’t bothered to find out once and for all that leaded fuel was not, and would not be an issue.
Now PALS is trying to delay the project by claiming serious legal errors regarding their witnesses warrants review.
To me, this is nothing more than a colossal waste of time!
So, is this latest bump in the road a show-stopper for CMS?
CMS has always been aware there was the potential of a further appeal of the OMB decision, and will vigorously challenge any attempts to delay the project further.
Speedway legal council and the investors are currently discussing what impact this latest minor setback might have on the CMS time line.
Put it this way…
Working as closely with CMS as I have as a motorsport journalist for The Raceline Radio Network, and knowing the millions of dollars and the close to six years they have spent getting this historic facility to this point, they are not about to abandon the plan now.
This latest appeal will be dealt with.
It’s a government process we have to go through, slow as it is.
Patience has been the watch word up to now, and will continue to be so until opening day.