Concerned residents in the gallery applauded last week when Erin council objected to the expansion of the Strada Aggregates gravel pit.
The ultimate decision on the proposed 30 acre expansion rests with the Ministry of Natural Resources, but the residents obviously appreciated the town’s support.
The town’s objection to the expansion at the 8th Line pit near Hillsburgh was made just four days prior to the Jan. 31 deadline for the 45-day public commenting period.
Strada has proposed to extract about 2.2 million tonnes of gravel over four or five years from about 60% of the proposed expansion area.
Councillors offered several reasons for their objection, including concerns about rehabilitation, as well as the 10 acre property that will be surrounded on three sides by the pit if the expansion goes forward.
“Living beside a gravel pit is bad enough. Living in the midst of one while [extraction] is going on is absolutely intolerable,” councillor John Brennan said of the property belonging to John and Pamela Payette.
Councillor Ken Chapman agreed and said it seems as long as aggregate companies “cross their Ts and dot their Is” their proposals are approved by the MNR, regardless of the impacts on nearby landowners.
Chapman also wondered if Strada will walk away prematurely from the pit, without adequately addressing rehabilitation, as so many other gravel companies have done in the past.
Mayor Rod Finnie questioned plans to eventually return the gravel pit area back to farmland. “Nothing can grow in two inches of topsoil,” Finnie said, referring to Strada’s post-extraction plans.
The mayor had previously identified other “legitimate concerns” the expansion poses for nearby residents, including possible noise, dust, and traffic increases, as well as surface and drinking water quality.
Other concerns mentioned by residents include endangered butternut trees, excessive speeds of gravel trucks and archaeological finds on the property.
Strada representatives have maintained the pit meets all provincial standards, including those for noise and dust. They also agreed to cease extraction around the butternut trees and to have the town’s hydrogeological consultant review Strada’s water tests.
Strada officials have also stressed the pit is a permitted use in the province’s Green Belt plan, as well as the county’s official plan.
But regardless, councillors clearly shared some of the same concerns as residents. They voted unanimously in favour of a resolution:
– objecting to the pit expansion;
– asking that Strada implement a pit operating policy prohibiting the loading of gravel trucks during inclement weather warnings from Environment Canada;
– asking Strada to demonstrate why the extraction of the Payettes’ property is not possible and how completely surrounding the property with the pit “is desirable or acceptable”;
– suggesting if Strada proves the Payette property can not be extracted, “the rehabilitation plan be modified to blend the extraction area in with surrounding land forms (not 3:1 slopes, thinly topsoiled)”; and
– supporting a proactive rehabilitation plan with gentler grades and sufficient soils for long-term uses such as farming or reforestation.
Late last week, the MNR extended the commenting deadline until March 23 because a sign at the pit highlighting the original deadline was prematurely removed.
The MNR will consider all feedback received during the commenting period before making its decision.