Tensions run high at gravel pit public meeting

Tempers flared at a public meeting on the proposed Halton Crushed Stone gravel pit expansion, as residents raised concerns about a pit moving closer to a subdivision.

The well-attended public meeting on Nov. 1 at Centre 2000 saw a number of people voice opinions on the official planning and zoning amendments that would bring the pit closer to Bel Erin Estates on Wellington Road 52.

The gravel pit was originally licensed in the 1970s under previous owner Dufferin Aggregates. Halton Crushed Stone (HCS) bought the property in 2014 and has been extracting aggregate since.

HCS is applying for an official plan amendment (OPA) for one portion of its northward expansion (southwest of the 10th Line) that is already zoned for aggregate extraction, and an OPA and zoning amendment for the other portion of the expansion (northeast of the 10th line).

The expansion would extend the pit on both sides of the 10th Line from Sideroad 10 to Wellington Road 52, adding 150 acres to the existing pit.

James Parkin, a land use planner for MHBC Planning speaking for HCS, explained the annual tonnage limit would be unchanged from 725,600 metric tonnes. The haul route (north on 10th Line, east on Wellington Road 52) would also remain the same.

“The reserve available in the extension area is about 5.5 million metric tonnes,” Parkin said.

“If extraction proceeded at 400,000 tonnes per year, that adds about 15 years to the life of the pit.”

Parkin also acknowledged  concerns about the pit moving closer to the subdivision.

“We asked that you keep in mind that this part of the application has been zoned for extraction long before the subdivision was approved,” he said.

However, he added HCS committed to “design our pit operations in a way that is going to minimize the impacts.”

Although not part of the zoning application, HCS has applied for a licence for the 10th Line road allowance, from Sideroad 10 to Wellington Road 52, which bisects the property.

“The purpose of this is to give (HCS) and the town the option of considering extraction of that later on if the licences are approved,” said Parkin.

This however, did not sit well with some residents.

Katrina Kulhay, who owns property north of the subject lands, asked for clarification of the cost of giving HCS the road allowance.

“I understand that (HCS) want a fair and equitable agreement with the town, but I also understand that the gravel is worth … $1.25 million and that it is being offered to the town at no cost,” she said.

Mayor Allan Alls said there was nothing offered and no deal made “at this stage.”

HCS sought Erin council’s approval in May to include the 1km stretch in its licence application to the ministry.

At the time, no details on the terms of the closure, extraction and rehabilitation were available.

Council unanimously approved a resolution in May to allow HCS to go forward with the process, clarifying the town had not made a decision on the application.

Councillor Matt Sammut declared a conflict at that meeting and again at the Nov. 1 public meeting.

Many residents said Sammut’s absence from the meeting seemed like a silencing of their voices.

Ramona Gorsky, who lives on McCullogh Drive, said she voted for Sammut.

“We elected him, we wanted him to speak for us, and by not putting him up there with everyone else, you negated my vote and I resent that,” Gorsky said.

This evoked loud applause and a “hear, hear” from the crowd. Alls clarified Sammut made the decision to recuse himself due to a conflict of interest.

Many residents who spoke out at the meeting said they felt the town was turning away from its small-town charm.

“We pay the taxes here, we live here, we came here because we were promised a certain quality of life and you take that extremely lightly, and I’ve got a real problem with that,” said Gorsky.

Resident Dave Ingham said, “We pay an awful lot of taxes in this community and it seems every time you turn around we’re fighting to try and maintain a lifestyle we have bought into here.”

As a direct neighbour to the northward expansion of the pit, Caitlin Wilson raised her objections.

“I was not aware that I was going to have a pit literally in my backyard,” she said, adding she moved in at the end of 2015. “How are you going to guarantee that this isn’t going to ruin my quality of life?”

The last resident to speak, Wendy Kulhay, said she objects to the pollution that could be caused by HCS pit.

“We, the citizens of Erin, have the legal right to enjoy our land without invasion or interference, not just from HCS, but from anyone,” she said, encouraging landowners to fight for their rights.

Nearly 30 residents spoke out against the pit’s extension, raising concerns about:

– the number of gravel pits in the area;

– not being notified about the pit’s public meeting and licence application;

– the money/product the town would receive from the 10th Line closure;

– dust and pollution to the air and water;

– drainage to adjacent properties and the Credit River;

– environmental spills;

– truck traffic over a single-lane 10th Line bridge;

– toxins released due to the recycling of asphalt and aggregate;

– children’s safety due to truck traffic;

– trucks not obeying the speed limit;

– effectiveness of berms to control noise and dust; and

– what could grow on the land following rehabilitation.

Resident Roy Val suggested forming an ad hoc committee between residents and HCS to recommend acceptable terms of agreement prior to council voting.

“At the end of the day, (HCS) will be the largest pit in our municipality … and that isn’t cool,” said Sharon Cranstone.

Alls said council has not made any decisions on the matter, and will not until proper procedures have been followed.

“Do we want a gravel pit? Nobody’s saying that we do or don’t want one,” he said.

Comments from the public meeting will be collected and officials are urging residents to send in written comments to the town office.

The planning recommendation from the county will be provided to council at a later date.