Council uses Avening gravel pit approval to leverage New Lowell site rehabilitation

 In Business, News

The focus of a public meeting about a proposed expansion to the gravel pit in Avening shifted to New Lowell Monday when council members tried to encourage speedy rehabilitation of the gravel pit there.

The meeting was held at town hall in Stayner to hear public comment on Lafarge’s request to have the 3/4 Sideroad Nottawasaga property, east of Airport Road, changed from agricultural to extractive industrial in the township’s Official Plan and zoning bylaw. There is about two years’ worth of extractable aggregate left in the existing Avening Pit so Lafarge is hoping to expand operations on a 199-acre property to the north. Lafarge is applying for an Aggregate Resources Act licence, which was the subject of a public meeting in November. There is four million tonnes of high quality aggregate to be extracted, over about 20 years, and most of it is distributed in the area.

MHBC planner Brian Zeman outlined the proposal, saying gravel trucks would use the existing Centre Line Road exit and haul route and there would be no additional truck traffic.

The extraction and rehabilitation of the proposed expansion would be done in five phases.

It is the issue of rehabilitation that is causing concern for council members and at least one member of the public.

Dunedin resident Donna Baylis was the only person to speak at the meeting. She said she is very concerned about aggregate pits, since become educated on the subject while fighting the megaquarry in Melancthon. She criticized the quality of agricultural lands after rehabilitation, saying it is a shortsighted use of farmland. In Avening, the Class 2 and 3 farmland (considered prime agricultural) will be mostly rehabilitated to Class 5 with some Class 2/3 soils and a stream rehabilitation area.

“Gravel companies are notorious for not paying enough tonnage fees,” said Baylis. “They don’t have a good social licence if they can’t rehabilitate the pits they already have.”

Lafarge’s land manager for central Ontario Chris Galway said rehabilitation has been done at two parts of the New Lowell site (pictured), which has not been quarried in many years. He said the process of closing the licence is underway.

Mayor Christopher Vanderkruys said he wants a commitment that the site will be cleaned up and derelict buildings will be removed.

“I think it takes too long for you to move on certain things and I don’t support another pit,” said Vanderkruys.

Councillor Thom Paterson said the Avening farmland should be returned to its initial productive state but Zeman explained that even though high-class soil is returned to the site it can not be considered high-class farmland.

“The soil quality is there but it’s too close to the water table to be classified as Class 2 or 3,” said Zeman.

Ninety per cent of the aggregate is located below the water table, the depth ranges from two to five metres.

Paterson also asked about input from the community.

Zeman said there has been an “open dialogue” with people in the community who have expressed concerns about noise, traffic and the health of their wells.

“Given their choice, no one would choose to have a gravel pit in their community,” he said.

Councillor Kevin Elwood said once the proposed expansion lands, which are owned by Lafarge, are rehabilitated, they should be encouraged to get it back into private hands.

“It’s a resource we all want,” said Councillor Shawn Davidson referring to the many uses of aggregate. “But we don’t want to know where it comes from.”

Galway said  the industry association agrees that the tonnage fees need to be adjusted. The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation collects 11.5 cents per tonne (6 cents goes to the lower municipality, 1.5 cents to the upper tier municipality, 3.5 cents to the provincial government and 0.5 cents toward the rehabilitation of abandoned pits).

“It’s a process and an evolution. It’s getting better every day,” said Zeman.

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