fbpx
13.4 C
Elmira
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Connecting Our Communities

Maryhill gravel pit a test of whose interests new rules protect

TRENDING

Kitchener-Conestoga too close to call

With less than five percentage points separating the Conservatives and Liberals in the riding, Kitchener-Conestoga has become too close...

Meet the candidates

By Veronica Reiner & Aneta RebiszewskiFive candidates are vying for your vote in...

Community rallies to support teen diagnosed with leukemia

The community is rallying in support of an Elmira family coping with their son’s leukemia diagnosis, raising more...

Candidates make pitch to voters in Woolwich

Largely sticking to their respective party lines, the five candidates running in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding made their one all-candidates...
Steve Kannon
Steve Kannonhttps://www.observerxtra.com
A community newspaper journalist for more than two decades, Steve Kannon is the editor of the Observer.

There’s a long way to go before Woolwich renders a decision on an application for a gravel pit near Maryhill. And it will be even longer before the almost-inevitable tribunal and legal action plays out.

But the township’s decision is already clear if democratic and environmental principles are factors: the project isn’t a good fit.

Residents were out in force last week as the process got underway in earnest with a public meeting. Capital Paving is seeking an official plan amendment and zoning changes to designate some 230 acres south of the village as suitable for an aggregate-extraction operation. The only people speaking out in favour of the idea are the applicants and their representatives, with every other delegate to last week’s meeting opposed to the proposal.

It’s easy to see why that’s the case given the very real concerns about traffic, noise, dust and safety. In that regard, this project is the same as other recent bids that have sought to build gravel pits in close proximity to residential areas, as we’ve seen in Conestogo, West Montrose and the ongoing saga in Winterbourne.

Some of the decisions of late have gone in residents’ favour, a trend that was supposed to be strengthened by the replacement of the developer-friendly Ontario Municipal Board with the Local Planning  Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), but the Ford government’s “open for business” strategy has sought to undermine controls on development.  (The not-public-friendly Ministry of Natural Resources’ involvement tends to further complicate aggregate issues.)

In the case of gravel pits and other unpopular developments, the argument is made that taking away local control is necessary to prevent NIMBYism: if every decision sided with the public, nothing would ever get done, including some things that are necessary. This attitude says the need for gravel overrides the health, safety and quality of life considerations of those who live near pits.

Of course, we do need gravel, and it does have to come from somewhere. Because of its geography, this stretch of the province is rife with aggregate, as witnessed by the numerous pits already in operation. If every application for an extraction licence was turned down, we’d have to find alternative sources for an essential material.

Clearly, then, we need to find a balance point.

Opponents say too much power rests with provincial agencies. They also lament the actions of the MNR in enforcing what feeble rules do exist. Fixing those inadequacies would go a long way in reducing the disputes over gravel pit applications.

High on the priority list is the enacting of sunset clauses on gravel licences: hard and intractable timelines for the decommissioning of pits.

Even where municipalities have tried to impose sunset clauses, the MNR has simply stepped in and voided them.

Equally pressing are rules to assure quick and full rehabilitation of pits, returning them to the identical state seen before excavation began. Here, too, the record has been abysmal. Changes haven’t been forthcoming.

In that environment, residents are right to be skeptical about assurances that any violations at a newly-approved pit – excessive noise or dust, pollution of the groundwater, unacceptable visual impacts – will be dealt with in a timely manner. That’s usually not the case.

There’s also a very practical reason for the township to turn down gravel pit applications: the costs are higher than the revenues Woolwich receives. Municipal share of aggregate profits are miniscule, not enough to cover the direct costs associated with road repairs and safety measures, let alone the health and well-being of residents.

We’ll have to moves that protect citizens, before anyone believes that the parties, the township included, are working in the public interest.

1 COMMENT

  1. Another key issue is how many operations are already active in Ontario. The Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) excludes a “need” analysis — “need” is assumed. According to the provincial interactive pits and quarries map (https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-pits-and-quarries) there are 5,984 active sites in Ontario. You can see them all on the map. The tool does not show grandfathered, retired or proposed sites.

Comments are closed.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted.By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

LIVING HERE

Scaring up some Halloween fun in Elmira

Those in search of the Halloween spirit need look no further than the vibrant, spooky display at an Elmira heritage home, an experience that adds a charitable aspect into the mix.

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

You obviously love community journalism. Thanks for visiting today. If you have a great local story, let us know.

Woolwich prepares input to province on gravel pit policy

Woolwich is preparing its two cents as the province looks to overhaul the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA). The township plans to submit comments during...

The songs are standards, the show is anything but

Performing together for what they thought was a one-off show, Micah Barnes and Jackie Richardson found there was more than a little chemistry. That...

A seamless transition for Paul Kalbfleisch

Twenty-two years after retiring, Paul Kalbfleisch is actually going through with it.After 32 years of teaching, Kalbfleisch putting away...

Sugar Kings double up on Stratford Warriors to continue hot streak

Home and away, it was a good weekend for the Elmira Sugar Kings as they twice bested the Stratford Warriors, extending their winning streak...
- Advertisement -