HILLSBURGH – A settlement that includes agreement between Wellington County, the Town of Erin and citizen objectors has cleared the way for extension of the CBM St. Marys gravel pit on Trafalgar Road north of Hillsburgh.
County council announced it had approved the settlement with the aggregate company, as recommended by the planning committee, after a closed session on Jan. 30.
Erin Mayor Allan Alls said town council previously endorsed the deal in a closed session, but neither government has released the text of the settlement.
Alls said the actual agreement would remain confidential until it is accepted by the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). There had been an LPAT meeting scheduled at town hall for Jan. 27, and there will be another on Feb. 10 at 10am.
Stewart Sebben, one of the leaders of Concerned Citizens of Erin (CCE), which opposed the pit extension at public meetings in 2015, said on Feb. 3 that while the group has “signed off” on provisions of the deal, he had yet to see the text of the agreement.
“We got crumbs,” said Sebben, who lives on 8th Line near the pit. “It was a predetermined thing – we got what we could.”
CBM plans to expand its pit area by 153 acres, allowing it to remain active for at least 25 years.
Alls said the town agreed to settle because it “realized that fighting it at LPAT might be not a winner for us, and I don’t want to waste tax dollars on something that we know we can’t win.”
Sebben said an important element is the company has agreed to meet annually with a committee of local landowners, plus one member of Erin council, to review pit operations and deal with questions and complaints.
Alls said the company has agreed to reduce its working hours, to start restoring the existing pit area as extraction is completed and to alter the entrance to the pit to satisfy county concerns.
Residents have consistently complained that provincial policies favour aggregate companies, and that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry lacks the staff to enforce its own regulations and the commitments made by companies.
CBM had been criticized for its intention to remove a 13.3-acre wooded area as part of its expansion, but it dropped that plan in 2015.
While the company expected gravel extraction to remain at an average of 400,000 tonnes per year, it originally applied to increase its legal maximum from 750,000 to 1 million tonnes. That plan was also dropped in 2015.
Alls said the town rejected the idea of redirecting the gravel trucks down 8th Line, instead of the Trafalgar Road route that goes through downtown Hillsburgh.
In addition to concerns about noise, dust, the loss of prime agricultural land and potential threats to well water, residents were particularly concerned that some gravel truck drivers greatly exceed the 40km/h speed limit in the village.
CBM has said traffic studies did not shown a serious problem, and the number of trucks will not increase since it is not increasing the volume of gravel being extracted.
CBM has promised it will maintain a groundwater monitoring program, and cover the costs if problems occurred. There are six dwellings within 200 metres of the extension.
The company currently has permission to mine below the water table in its existing pit, but not in the extension area.
Alls said the extension lands have had a “hold” provision that restricts mining below the water table, and that even though the province no longer allows municipalities to place such “hold” provisions, the company has agreed not to initially go below the water table.
If it wants to do so in the future, it will apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the town will be notified so it can provide input, Alls said.