Better deal sought for Erin gravel pit setback

ERIN – Residents of the BelErin subdivision hoping for an increased setback distance for a gravel pit that will expand towards their backyards, but they are still not sure if they are allowed to speak at an upcoming meeting on the issue.

The Town of Erin has reached a deal with Halton Crushed Stone (HCS) for a 90-metre setback and an extra-high berm, across the road from the homes.

The town, Wellington County and the company hope to have the settlement approved at a June 17 case management conference with the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), avoiding a full hearing.

Mayor Allan Alls met with HCS officials and says it is the best deal the town could get, with the company making concessions not required by law. The pit expansion is based on older regulations that required only a 30-metre setback when the land was originally zoned for gravel.

Most of the residents on McCullogh Drive and Aspen Court have signed a petition demanding a 300-metre setback, the modern standard.

“I am adamant that we have been betrayed by council and the mayor,” said resident Ed Delaporte.

“They have conspired behind closed doors. Elected officials are supposed to take care of the people they represent. They are sacrificing our peace of community for a debt to be paid in the future.”

He is referring to the possibility of a future temporary closure of the 10th Line, which runs through the pit area, so gravel could be extracted from the road allowance. The town could get a large volume of road maintenance gravel for free.

While such a deal has been discussed, and the province notified, the town says there has been no negotiation or agreement. HCS has said the road allowance would not be mined until the main lands are completed, which could take 20 years.

The town made public a summary of its April settlement with HCS, but refused to release a full copy. The company did release it.

Maps with the settlement show the setback for extraction is 90 metres from the corner of the HCS lands on the south side of Wellington Road 52, not from the urban boundary on the north, as understood by councillors when they approved the deal.

Incorrect information on this detail remains posted on the town website.

The company appealed to LPAT after the town delayed making a decision about the proposal. Local residents had many concerns, including noise, traffic, the setback, recycling of used asphalt on the site and the adverse health effects of dust.

HCS has refused appeals from residents and town officials in recent years to extend the setback to 300 metres. Residents now hope LPAT will force that provision on the company.

Residents sent a letter to LPAT asking to speak at the June 17 conference, but have not heard back.

LPAT says submissions must explain how a decision or non-decision under consideration is inconsistent with a provincial policy statement, or fails to conform to a provincial plan or a local official plan.

In 1976, the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of the original aggregate company, to allow extraction zoning. Operations did not start until 1994 under a new owner, Dufferin Pits.

That company offered no objections to the construction of the BelErin subdivision at the time. Current residents are convinced there was an agreement between the company and the municipality for a separation zone, but no documented evidence of it has been found.

Dufferin Pits observed a 300-metre setback from the homes, which was not legally required. Current owner HCS, however, is using its right to extract gravel closer to the homes. A 300-metre setback zone is in effect only on neighbouring lands.

The current deal includes crucial timing restrictions. A strip of land 132m wide along the 10th Line, known as Area B, would have to be extracted by Dec. 31, 2022, or two years from the issuance of the provincial license.

This would make it available for a sewage treatment plant. That site has been identified in an environmental assessment as a good possibility for a plant, but no decision has been made.

Also, in the corner closest to the homes (Area A) in a radius 185m from the village urban boundary, gravel must be extracted within two years of the date when the company starts stripping off soil. That start date is at the company’s discretion, and may not be for several years.