County endorses Wilson quarry settlement

Wellington County council has authorized the warden and clerk to execute final minutes of settlement for the Wilson quarry proposal, but wants to ensure the concerns of the Friends of the Luther Marsh are addressed.

Wellington North council and the Grand River Conservation Authority have already endorsed the minutes of settlement for the controversial quarry, which was originally proposed in 1991 when a zoning amendment was requested. In 2007, the proponents took the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board, which adjourned the matter pending a formal “minutes of settlement” agreement resolving in part the dispute with neighbours and concerns about possible impacts on the Luther Marsh.

The application requires endorsement of the settlement by several parties, including the county, before returning to the OMB for a final decision.

At the June 25 county council meeting, Wendy Agnew of Friends of the Luther Marsh told council the marsh is “one of our last significant wetlands in southern Ontario.”

Agnew said her organization has “reams and reams” of research “to show this is not the best place to put a Class A limestone quarry.”

Agnew added the agreement between the parties doesn’t allay all the group’s concerns.

“No matter how many minutes of settlement we get … we know from the environment minster of Ontario that pits and quarries usually police themselves because of lack  of funds,” she said.

Richard Gorrie, another Friends of the Luther Marsh member, said, “This is a sensitive area. This is a risky operation.”

He asked council to defer its decision on the minutes until a number of concerns were addressed.

“We feel there should be more discussion before you sign off on these minutes of settlement,” said Gorrie.

In addition to being included in all negotiations as the process moves forward, the Friends are seeking:

– recognition and participation in any future monitoring plans;

– a reduction in quarry hours of operation and that there be no operation or shipping on Saturdays;

– recognition of the school area and that the speed limit at Damascus be lowered; and

– establishment of a contingency fund to cover any damages if and when required.

The group also requested in a letter, “some sort of payback into the community.”

The letter states, “It seems only fair if we are thinking about planning for the whole community that there be some way of mitigating the change this will bring to the community; something that gives back the community.”

Gorrie said the group would also like to see a process in place to have either the county or the province vet the pit operators’ compliance and safety record.

Councillor Andy Lennox, planning committee chair and mayor of Wellington North, encouraged council to approve the minutes of settlement in order to allow the OMB to get on with the process of making the decision.

“On files like these it seems like there are more things we can’t control than things we can,” said Lennox.

“Whatever decisions we make on planning matters regarding proposed quarries, they are subject to the constraints imposed by the Planning Act, the Provincial Policy Statement and the Aggregate Resources Act, among others.”

Lennox said Wellington North and the GRCA endorsed the settlement “because they believe this is the best way to protect the public interest should the OMB decide to approve the quarry.”

Lennox had asked the quarry matter be dealt with separately from the rest of the planning committee report.

Ward 3 councillor Gary Williamson agreed there has been “a lot of due diligence” for the project.

“There comes a point where  it  goes  out  of  your  hands  and it’s  going to move forward whether you agree with it or if you totally disagree with it … I think we’ve come to that  point,” said Williamson.

However, he added, as Wellington North has “shown support all  along” for the Friends of the Luther Marsh, he introduced an amendment to a motion to approve the minutes that would require the group’s concerns be taken into account.

“I would  like too see us  do whatever we can for the Friends of the Luther Marsh,” agreed Ward 4 councillor Lynda White.

“I fully support the  amendment being proposed here,” said Lennox. “I think we  need  to support those  wishes  where  we can, but  at  same time there are still a number of issues beyond our control.”

Planning director Gary Cousins said, “There are a couple (requests) on the list that will be much more difficult because we don’t have full authority.” He noted the county does not control who the eventual operator of the quarry will be.

“The province does have  a process … we can discuss that with the group. There are things on the list that we can probably work with and things  that would be more problematic,” Cousins explained.

White requested a recorded vote on the amended motion, which states council “approves and authorizes the warden and clerk to execute final minutes of settlement which amend the draft minutes of settlement to address all reasonable concerns of the Friends of Luther Marsh provided such amendments are satisfactory to the county  chief administrative officer and county solicitor and agreed to by the other parties to the hearing.”

The amended motion passed unanimously, with all council members present.