Pit opponent hurls profanity at council

The "F" word was sent bouncing around Centre Wellington’s council chambers on Monday night as disgruntled Inverhaugh residents hurled deprecations at council for re­fusing to hear a last minute dele­gation.
The issue started just as the meet­ing was ending. Coun­cil­lor Kirk McElwain asked council if it would hear a dele­gation.
Council rules state dele­gations must be registered on the agenda by the previous Wednesday. The only other way they can be heard is if five of the seven councillors are willing to hear them.
In this case, only council­lors McElwain, Fred Morris, and Shawn Watters voted in fav­our, so Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj ruled the delegation was not permitted.
That started the fireworks as Ross-Zuj heard a motion to declare the meeting adjourned.
“You can’t sell us out,” shouted one. “Absolutely dis­gusting. We’ve had no opportu­nity to speak.”
Someone shouted “It’s not your mandate to get gravel. Stand up to big gravel.”
Someone also yelled, “You rep­resent us, not the policy of the provincial government.”
They were complaining about the proposed Inverhaugh gravel pit, which has been pro­posed for several years, and which residents bitterly oppose as the Pilkington East Rate­payers Association (PERA).
Ross-Zuj tried to explain the issue is a legal one, before the Ontario Municipal Board, and council cannot speak to it.
That caused one woman to yell, “Learn your f—ing law.”
In interviews after the meet­ing with the group and the mayor, it was clear there are serious misunderstandings between council and the resi­dents.
McElwain, from Inver­haugh, has declared a conflict of interest in the matter, and can­not vote or speak to any of the pit issues at council, or even attend any meetings.
One resident charged coun­cil has forced him to step aside so he cannot represent them.
McElwain said in an inter­view that council has made a deal with gravel proponent The Murray Group, and that the town­­ship would “not parti­ci­pate in the OMB hearing” slated to start  the next day.
Residents have been lobbying council to oppose the pit application ever since the proposal came to light several years ago.
Council has stayed neutral on the issue, which the OMB will decide.
McElwain said cutting a deal with the company “is so much in favour of The Murray Group that our chances are next to none. We need our local rep­re­sentatives to show support.”
He added that council is fear­ful of being sued by the com­pany.
McElwain charged council has agreed to withdraw its pres­ence at the hearing, and that will hurt the residents, because a number of experts the council had hired to do peer review’s of The Murray Group’s studies had made statements that sup­ported PERA’s case.
But, McElwain said, “Cav­an Acheson [Centre Welling­ton’s lawyer] will withdraw the township.”
McElwain had a letter addressed to the mayor and council to be presented at the meeting, and it stated, “The re­ports concerning dust raise many questions about the ac­curacy of the study provided by The Murray Group. Are we willing to gamble with the health of all residents in the Inverhaugh Valley who will be exposed to the invisible crystal silica dust, a known carcino­gen, for the next 20-plus years simply because The Murray Group’s expert claims they meeting minimum require­ments?”
The letter also cited county council’s recent decision to defer a bylaw on the Aikens­ville pit because of flaws in an expert’s report.
The letter stated, “Too of­ten, the proponents use their ex­perts as if their opinion can­not be questioned.”
McElwain said he hopes that the group can obtain a deferral of the hearing because, with the withdrawal of the town­ship, there are no experts opinions they can use to bolster their case.”
“We expected the township to basically go with us fol­lowing the recommendations of the [experts] witnesses,” McEl­wain said.
The township, through two different councils, has always maintained its neutrality in the issue.
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Used to abuse

Ross-Zuj said in a later in­terview she was not shocked by the language used in the coun­cil chamber.
“That’s the way they’ve been speaking to me since before the election,” she said.
She was surprised, though, when she heard the accusations that the township will not pre­sent evidence. She said that is not true.
She added, too, that the township has never taken a posi­tion on the issue, knowing the OMB is going to decide between two groups of town­ship residents, PERA members and the landowners.
“The taxpayers of this com­munity have hired a team of experts,” she said, adding that Acheson will “make his case starting tomorrow.” She added that all the experts who did re­ports for the township “will testify, starting tomorrow. The township wants to hear what the [OMB member] says.”
Councillor Walt Visser add­ed, “We have explored every legal possibility to stop this. It will be presented tomorrow. This is to represent the citizens of Centre Wellington.”
Ross-Zuj added, “We have a panel of experts that went out and that will be presented to the [member] tomorrow.”