It’s the pits

As predicted in this space, several years ago when the Inverhaugh pit proposal reared its head, a gravel pit will soon be underway.

There has been considerable gnashing of teeth since that proposal was first discussed. Understandably, residents were very alarmed about many issues, including water quality, traffic volumes, deflating property values, and so on.

Through the course of debate between applicant, the public, and council, there were unfair accusations made and, as we reflected long ago, council’s hands are generally tied when it comes to these types of applications.

The Murray Group, with the help of its consultant, has passed all hurdles and despite council’s peculiar voting exercise on Monday night, the property will shortly enter its new use. While there is little consolation for residents, we consider The Murray Group to be above average in the aggregate industry and with open dialogue we hope neighbours can now get along.

It seems to us that there is a prescient message here for councils in the future that might save heartache for residents facing this same turmoil again. Changes in the Planning Act have made it pretty difficult for non-municipally serviced subdivisions to get their start anyway, but it remains important that subdivisions are not planted next to aggregate sources in the future.

Time and again, the mistakes of the past come back to haunt new owners and present day councils. There really are few secrets in the aggregate business, since many of the pit locations or pending gravel sources were surveyed and documented decades ago. Sure there is a need to confirm the quality and quantity of those deposits, but the Inverhaugh site was no shrinking violet hidden from view. It was documented over 20 years ago. One can only wonder why houses were permitted to be nestled so close to an area known to be rich in aggregate.

Regrettably it seems easier for cash strapped councils to say yes to homes, knowing full well the chances of responding favourably to future residents’ requests to protect their lifestyles fighting a pit application is really next to zero. Threats of taking a proposal to the Ontario Municipal Board to push through residential applications often saw councils make such choices in favour of developers, too.

If the province continues to view aggregate as a provincially significant resource, it might be very wise for it to sterilize all land in close proximity to pending pits. That would be fair to the gravel industry as well as unsuspecting homeowners in the future.