LPAT approves Eek Pit expansion, with conditions
Property site plan, with Sunnidale Road running across the top
By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
The province’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal has given the go-ahead to continued gravel extraction amidst the rapidly expanding population of Centre Vespra in Springwater, near Barrie.
In a decision released today, hearing officer Gerald Swinkin dismissed concerns expressed by residents at a July 3 hearing in the Springwater council chambers and approved an expansion of the Eek Pit, located at 3568 Barrie Hill Road.
Those concerns focused on traffic hazards presented by gravel trucks, air and groundwater impact and the incompatability of the aggregate operation with the increasing numbers of homes, either existing or in the works.
In approving a zoning change on the 20 hectare property from agricultural and environmental protection to extractive industrial, Swinkin took comfort in the fact that “this pit extension will come into operation upon completion of extraction of the existing pit so that as the rate of extraction will generally be the same as the existing pit, there is no expectation of any increase in truck traffic associated with the pit expansion.”
However, residents attending the hearing pointed out that with intensification of development, all traffic has increased, and will continue to do so – so the hazard presented by gravel trucks will ramp up accordingly.
Resident Roy Hunter told Swinkin that the area already has the largest concentration of aggregate pits in Simcoe County. With 13 pits within a nine-kilometre radius of Centre Vespra, it’s the only area of its size in the county that has more than 10 pits.
When the original pit was approved in 1997, Centre Vespra was one of the smaller communities in Springwater. Now it’s almost the same size as Elmvale, he said – with all traffic in the area, both residential and aggregate-related, forced to use Sunnidale Road. The walk score index for the area is zero, the transit score is 1, he added. “Everyone has to use their vehicles.”
The road – with no sidewalks, no pedestrian rights of way and one steep hill on a curve that’s a hazard in winter – is not equipped to handle the challenge, said resident Eric Atthill, questioning how Springwater can on one hand be developing a major residential area and on the other be accepting an expanded gravel pit operation.
“It’s terrible planning on the part of Springwater Township,” Atthill said, contrasting the gravel truck traffic with the area’s $5,000 a year property tax bills. He expressed scepticism that the gravel truck traffic won’t increase. “Who’s policing that?”
In 2016, despite a recommendation for approval by planning staff, Springwater’s previous council rejected the original expansion application which was brought forward by new owners John Eek and Sons (1194233 Ontario Ltd.) shortly after they purchased the property.
The present council reached a settlement agreement in May 2019 which adds conditions to the operation, including:
-No crushing of aggregate material is permitted anywhere on site.
-No extraction operations are permitted on site within 30 metres of any road or within 15 m of adjoins property line.
-A 15 metre landscaped open space buffer.
-No extraction within 120 metres of any residential commercial or industrial zone or any property used for residential purposes.
-No concrete batching or asphalt plants.
-No blasting or quarrying.
Swinkin included the provision in his decision. In addition, six matters are to be satisfied before a holding provision is lifted, including agreement on haul routes, hours of operation, a road improvement plan, a covenant to comply with the rehabilitation plan, groundwater monitoring and rare species transplantation.
Township lawyer Barnet Kussner told Swinkin that Centre Vespra is clearly a community of residential uses, but the southwest area is just as clearly designated as an area of high aggregate potential, so the application for a zoning by-law amendment conforms with both the township’s and Simcoe County’s Official Plans.
“The applications have been thoroughly reviewed and commented upon by all of the usual public agencies, which includes the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and the provincial ministries.
“Strict controls have been introduced in the proposed zoning by-law amendment and also by way of the terms and conditions appearing on the ARA Site Plan. On the basis of these controls, the Tribunal is satisfied that potential impacts have been adequately addressed.”