Finnie appeals to ministry for enforcement of gravel pit deals

Mayor Rod Finnie has sent a letter to Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield asking her to enforce the terms of a local gravel pit licencing agreement.

Finnie has grown frustrated with the ministry’s refusal to enforce terms of the agreement that would see gravel companies reimburse the county at least a portion of the $3-million it spent in 2007 to reconstruct a section of Winston Churchill Boulevard.

The county paid for the reconstruction of a three-kilometre stretch of the road, expecting Peel Region to cover half the cost, as per a cost-sharing agreement for boundary roads. But in late 2007, Finnie found copies of old aggregate licences that indicated two local gravel pit operators are responsible for road upgrades as a condition of extraction.

The county considered legal action against the companies but decided instead to ask the MNR to enforce the agreements. However, to date that has not happened.

And to compound the problem, Peel Region has refused to cover the remainder of its portion, about $1.1-million. That decision was not well received by the county, but Finnie insists the province is responsible for the debacle.

“If the MNR is not willing to enforce off-site issues, than what protection do municipalities have?” Finnie asked at a recent council meeting.

Finnie’s letter chastises the gravel companies for attempting to “sidestep or avoid their responsibility,” and calls on the MNR to enforce the agreement.

“I believe the ministry has a responsibility to see that all parties are treated fairly,” he said in the letter. The mayor asked council to endorse the letter before he sent it to Cansfield.

 Councillor John Brennan said he is not sure the letter will help. “But, it has to be said. They have to enforce the terms of licences.”

If you don’t fight for what you want, you won’t get anything, added councillor Josie Wintersinger.

Councillor Barb Tocher, mean­while, wondered if the letter would disrupt county negotiations. Finnie said he did not think so, but he suggested the removal of his “county councillor” tag at the end of the letter.

He explained county council is close to a 50-50 split when it comes to aggregate matters, with a a number of councillors feeling it is useless to fight gravel pits because it does nothing but cost the county money [at OMB hearings].

Finnie noted the gravel pits in Erin have agreed to “minimal” concessions, but more than they had in the past. He added there may be a provincial review of the gravel pit approval process and letters like his, if nothing else, could help with that process.

Brennan said sending the letter couldn’t hurt.

“I think I am going to send to the letter,” Finnie said. “There are shortfalls in the way the system is working now, and particularly in this case … it hasn’t been handled correctly.”