Erin council agrees to pit settlement

ERIN – Town councillors have endorsed a settlement negotiated with Halton Crushed Stone (HCS) for expansion of its gravel pit just south of Erin village.

“We have listened to the concerns addressed by the public and feel that the proposed agreement offers the least amount of impacts to Erin village residents,” said Mayor Allan Alls.

“Halton Crushed Stone has been receptive to the needs of the town and we are prepared to move forward to the LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) hearing.”

A motion passed unanimously by council on April 16 states the “minutes of settlement” include “an increase in the extraction setback from the Erin Village urban area settlement boundary from 60 to 90 metres.”

Later, Alls said the agreement is actually to have the 90 metres measured from the corner of the HCS property on the south side of Wellington Road 52, not the urban boundary on the north side.

Alls said HCS “gave up a ton of money” with the setback, because of the value of gravel that will not be mined.

HCS initially proposed a standard 30-metre setback from its property line, to allow for a normal berm.

In April, 2018 they offered a 60-metre setback from the western corner, to accommodate a larger berm. That is now increased to 90 metres.

“Ninety metres is not huge,” said Alls. “People are not going to be happy.”

Residents had been pushing for a 300-metre setback, the standard for new pits. Alls said that regulation does not apply since the land was previously zoned for aggregate extraction, in about 1975.

The deal also includes a two-year time limit on extraction in a 185-metre zone, measured from the edge of the village urban area, on the north side of the road.

Alls said the two years will start from the initial removal of topsoil in that area, the timing of which is at the company’s discretion.

HCS offered the same concession in April last year.

The recent council resolution makes no mention of an additional significant provision contained in the settlement, which was revealed by Alls later in an interview.

HCS has agreed to mine out a five-hectare area in the northeast sector of the pit property within two years, he said. This is in the expansion zone near the road, east of the 10th Line.

It is land identified in the town’s Wastewater Environmental Assessment as one of the possible locations for a future wastewater treatment plant. The plant would not be feasible there until the gravel is extracted.

Recycling of used aggregate and asphalt, originally a possibility on the expansion lands, now will not be allowed there. 

The recycling will be acceptable on existing pit lands, which are more than 300 metres away from the residential area.

“The province wants them to do this, because they’ve got all this recyclable material and they have to do something with it,” said Alls. “They mix it with the gravel that they take out of the ground, and it makes a great base.”

Much of the gravel the town uses for its rural roads comes from this pit.

“This is not the town that wants a gravel pit,” said Alls. 

“This is the province that wants gravel located close to the area where it is needed. 

“All we’re trying to do is make it as saleable or acceptable to the residents as we could possibly do, but we have limited ability to do things.”

There will be “enhanced” tree planting and a high earthen berm at the corner of the pit area closest to homes, and unspecified adjustments to “increase protections and minimize impacts.”

There will also be a community liaison committee to review complaints. 

On June 17 there will be an LPAT case management conference in Erin. The town and HCS will ask the tribunal to approve the deal, allowing the expansion to proceed. It is not known if any residents will be allowed to make a presentation.

“This is the best deal we could get,” said councillor John Brennan, noting council had received legal advice on the proposal. “It was not really appealable in terms the LPAT would accept.”

HCS originally applied for the expansion in 2016. A number of studies and peer reviews were completed, but HCS still faced vehement opposition from nearby residents and indecision by council.

On April 13, 2018, HCS offered the town several concessions in hopes of getting approval, including increasing the setback to 60 metres, and  a two-year limit on extraction from the time of topsoil removal in the northwest corner, 185 metres from the urban boundary. 

It also included water quality monitoring near recycling areas, early planting of trees in the northwest corner, and improved maintenance of 10th Line.

The county recommended approval, but on May 15 council delayed a decision, citing outstanding concerns about the setback distance from existing homes, the adequacy of screening and risks related to possible asphalt recycling. 

After council made no decision, HCS appealed to the LPAT.