.Quarry hearing underway
By Michael Gennings Simcoe.com April 14 2010 STAYNER – A hearing regarding Walker Industries’ proposal to expand its quarry near Duntroon started at the Creemore Community Centre on Monday morning.
Overseen by the province’s Consolidated Hearings Board, the hearing is expected to last 10 weeks.
Sometime after the hearing – possibly two to three months – board officials will issue a written ruling on whether the quarry expansion can go ahead as proposed.
That ruling could include stipulations about how the expansion can occur.
As well, the board could rule the expansion is not suitable for the site.
For the project to happen, Walker requires an amendment to the Niagara Escarpment Plan, an amendment to the Clearview Township Official Plan and a provincial extraction licence.
At the hearing, Walker Industries will present a series of studies it’s done on the expansion site to prove the proposal is safe and meets provincial standards.
The Clearview Community Coalition (CCC), a group of concerned residents living near the quarry, has what’s called party status at the hearing and will present arguments contrary to Walker’s.
The CCC’s basic position is the quarry expansion is harmful to the environment. Officials with the grassroots organization have said that digging will potentially impact water levels in the area and will harm the natural habitat.
Amelia Franks – a resident near the quarry – also has party status and will present arguments against the expansion.
The existing Walker quarry is located on the south side County Road 91, just west of Duntroon.
Walker officials want to expand the quarry to a 170-acre property across the road because the existing quarry is running out of aggregate.
The company says that only about three years’ worth of aggregate remains in the quarry, which began operation in the mid-1960s.
If Walker Industries gets its way, the company plans to extract 2.5-million tonnes per year, compared to the current extraction levels of 1.3-million tonnes.
Officials with the quarry say they want to mine a total of 43-million tonnes over the years.
Depending on demand, the life of the new quarry would be 14 to 29 years. The site would then be rehabilitated, the dominant feature being a lake.
If the board approves the quarry expansion, that will pave the way for a controversial agreement reached in March between the County of Simcoe, the Township of Clearview and Walker Industries.
The three parties announced the county had agreed to download a section of County Road 91 – between Duntroon and Grey Road 31 – to the township.
A section of the road, between Nottawasaga Concession 10 and the east boundary of the proposed quarry, would be converted to a restricted access road and a portion of the road, adjacent to the proposed quarry, would be closed and sold to Walker.
In downloading the road, the county would pay Clearview $2-million to use towards improvements to County Road 91.
Clearview agreed to pony up $1-million for improvements to Nottawasaga Concession 10, from County Road 91 to 30/31 Sideroad. As well, Sideroad 26/27 would be improved to a year-round open gravel road for local traffic.
Walker Industries has agreed to pay up to $7.5-million for the closed portion of the county road, with the money going towards the road upgrades in the area.
The agreement also includes the stipulation that Walker will pay for the county’s legal and hearing expenses, and Clearview has struck the same agreement, with the addition that the company will also pay for peer review consultants the township hires.
After the deal was announced, officials with the CCC said the county and township had lined up with the Walker Industries, rather than simply letting the proposal be dealt with at the hearing.
But Mayor Ken Ferguson billed the agreement as a “win-win” because the township is getting nearly $10.5-million worth of road upgrades. The deal, in particular the road closure, allows officials to deal with concerns about traffic.
Residents and politicians in neighbouring Grey Highlands voiced anger over the loss of County Rd. 91 – a well-used east-west route.