Caledon residents score victory in quarry battle
By KELLY GRANT Globe and Mail November 16 2010
A controversial quarry proposed for a bucolic corner of the Greater Toronto Area is now all but dead.
The decision is a major victory for the Caledon residents who have been fighting the quarry since 1997, but it leaves the region’s aggregate industry – and others who rely on stone, sand and gravel for building roads, bridges and homes – concerned about a dwindling supply of aggregate within the GTA.
“This speaks to the need to find and license additional resources within the Greater Toronto Area,” said Moreen Miller, president of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, an industry group representing more than 250 aggregate producers and suppliers. “Our biggest challenge is transportation of these resources. If we can’t extract them close to market and close to where they’ll be consumed, we’re just putting more and more trucks on the highway.”
The Ontario Municipal Board, the province’s planning tribunal, ruled Friday against James Dick Construction Ltd., which had been trying for more than 13 years to open a pit on its 89-hectare property at the corner of Winston Churchill Boulevard and Olde Baseline Road, just north of the Niagara Escarpment.
“Too much of enormous value to the province, the region and the town could be lost if the proposed quarry went forward,” the board wrote, “… and the conversion of a rural area into an urban area centred on a heavy industrial operation cannot be permitted in the interest of the production of more aggregate for infrastructure development.”
The 77-page decision was a triumph for Penny Richardson, president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens.
“I was just in awe,” said Ms. Richardson, 63, who has lived about three kilometres north of the proposed quarry site for 25 years. “I was tickled, just absolutely tickled. It has been a long haul.”
Ms. Richardson and other leaders of the group met every Sunday for 13 years to plot their anti-quarry campaign. They held garage sales and golf tournaments to raise between $1.5-million and $2-million, a whopping amount that still falls a few hundred thousand dollars short of the bill they ran up at the OMB, Ms. Richardson said.
The coalition argued that the quarry would ruin their rural oasis and put their water supply at risk. James Dick Construction Ltd. promised the 80-year extraction and rehabilitation project wouldn’t contaminate the Credit River watershed, according to the OMB decision.
The company could still appeal the decision. Greg Sweetnam, a senior official who speaks for the company, did not return calls seeking comment.
Ms. Miller of the industry association said aggregate producers are being forced to haul stone, sand and gravel to the GTA from farther and farther away as local pits reach the end of the lives. For example, the amount of aggregate Peel and York regions produced dropped by 33 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, between 2000 and 2009, Ms. Miller said. New quarry licences in the region aren’t keeping pace, she added.
Two quarry licences have been issued in the GTA in the past five years, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which couldn’t say on short notice how that compares to earlier periods.
OMB kills Rockfort quarry proposal
By Phinjo Gombu Toronto Star November 15 2010
The Ontario Municipal Board had crushed plans for a massive open pit stone quarry in Caledon, to the joy of citizen opponents who fought the project for 13 years.
The groundbreaking decision, says the province’s environmental commissioner, is reason for the aggregate industry to rethink its approach to quarries proposed close to major urban centres.
“You have to see these developments in the context of the surrounding landscape, and to a large extent, this is what does decision does,” said Gord Miller, reacting to Monday’s long-awaited decision. Miller said it’s important to asses not just the environmental impact, but also the cultural and fiscal aspects of such applications.
Over a 13-year fight, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens raised more than a million dollars to argue against the Rockfort quarry proposed by James Dick Construction, at Winston Churchill Blvd. and Old Baseline Rd. The site is on the Paris Moraine where it meets the protected Niagara Escarpment.
In the end, the OMB agreed with many of their concerns, in part over skepticism about the ability of the Ministry of Natural Resources to monitor the project’s potential negative effects.
“A failure in the mitigation measures proposed for the quarry … would have a catastrophic impact on the natural environment or the natural features and functions of the area,” the decision said. “Such an impact cannot be countenanced by the Board. In addition, the fundamental change to the character of the area attendant upon the proposed quarry would not be acceptable.”
The Coalition’s Lilie Ann Morris called the decision “awesome, a wonderful win for the environment.”
“We were extremely concerned about the water,” said Morris, whose group used garage sales, golf tournaments and individual donations to raise money for the fight. “We are all on wells in the area.”
Aggregate companies have argued that putting quarries close to where their products are used is environmentally smart because it cuts down on trucking. But the industry has been under siege in recent years.
The province recently stopped plans for another quarry in Flamborough through a rarely used Minister’s Zoning Order. And there is an ongoing battle over expanding the Nelson quarry in Burlington, opposed by a group named PERL (Protecting Escarpment Rural Land.)
Opponents argued that the Rockfort application, which sought permission to extract up to 2.5 million tonnes of rock a year, could have affected the water table and risked water sources that feed the Credit River.
The board cited several reasons for ruling against it:
• Concern that the Ministry of Natural Resources does not have the staff to monitor a complex 80-year mitigation plan, to ensure the environment wasn’t harmed by extracting stone below the water table.
• Concern about the lack of a feasible financial plan to ensure mitigation efforts — which could cost up to $90 million — didn’t end up becoming the taxpayers’ burden.
• A need to seek alternatives to aggregates, which observers say means more use of recycled construction material.
The board also took into consideration issues such as the “loss of view of rural lands”
“The loss of a cultural heritage landscape and cultural heritage resources and the conversion of a rural area into an urban area centred on a heavy industrial operation cannot be permitted in the interest of the production of more aggregate for infrastructure development,” the decision said.
In a statement, the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the decision, pointing out that Peel Region consumes 15 million tones of aggregates a year, but with dropping production now produces less than a quarter of that. It said the call for substitutes is unrealistic, though the industry is committed to reusing and recycling aggregates.
The board said it didn’t want to leave protection of the environment to be “dealt with by a third party with demonstrably inadequate resources, like MNR.”
During the hearings, held from September to May, the board was told that a single aggregate technical specialist was responsible for 146 licensed pits and quarries, creating a situation where she was able to field-check only one in five of the sites.
Greg McNeil, an MNR spokesperson, said the ministry has staff across the province and can focus resources on specific licences as needed. McNeil said the ministry was reviewing the decision.