ACW Council has deferred a decision on a proposed gravel pit on Little Lakes Road
BY DENNY SCOTT
After numerous speakers asked for more time to review a requested zoning change to a proposed gravel pit on Little Lakes Road, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh (ACW) Township Council deferred the issue for more than a month.
During council’s May 17 meeting, it unanimously voted to defer the issue to its second meeting, scheduled for June 21, despite planner Celina Whaling-Rae saying the application hasn’t changed, from the perspective of the bylaw being discussed, since it was presented last summer.
She later explained to The Citizen that the zoning bylaw had not changed significantly since July, meaning no additional meetings or notifications needed to be sent out. The only changes that had been made were regarding the site plan, which isn’t handled by the municipality or the county, but the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry.
The meeting started with numerous individuals speaking out against the rezoning, which would see a parcel of land zoned AG-1 and NE-1 rezoned to allow for resource extraction. The opponents of the rezoning said the proposed document had changed and, with it only being accessible to them as of Friday, May 13, they and their legal representation hadn’t had time to fully evaluate it. Aside from requesting a deferral, critics of the plan also condemned third-party companies involved with the report and found fault with council as they hadn’t kept the ratepayers up to date on the issue. Critics also pleaded to protect the “treasure” of the “tourism corridor” that exists around the site and suggested that council wouldn’t be following its code of conduct by moving ahead with the plan. Finally, they panned the idea of a gravel pit because of how other pits are handled in the county and beyond.
After the numerous speakers addressed the issue, Mayor Glen McNeil thanked them for keeping their comments respectful and adhering to the five-minute time limit per speaker.
Rebecca Garrett and Jennifer Morris also spoke to the issue as a deputation during the meeting, reiterating some of the concerns and bringing up new ones. They said they were frustrated with the lack of response from ACW, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the company behind the gravel pit, Lobo Sand and Gravel. Garrett and Morris said that, with over 10 letters sent, they hadn’t received a single written response.
They also urged council to defer the zoning request to give more time to review the issue.
The duo then also said “the media” was making out the concerned citizens and ACW council to be “adversaries” or “enemies” and that isn’t the case. They said that council and the community should work together on this issue, adding that aggregate mining often doesn’t benefit the host community.
Garrett and Morris also spoke about the support their group, the Friends of Balls Bridge and the Little Lakes, has garnered including 3,000 signatures on a Change.org petition protesting the development, the aforementioned 150 letters of objection, a Facebook group boasting 700 members and 20,000 page interactions per week and a popular website.
The group has also had bake sales to raise funds and hosted other community events.
Finally, the two said the area and the visitors to it are a community, and “just because it’s not a village or a hamlet does not mean [that community] doesn’t exist.”
Whaling-Rae then proceeded with her presentation, saying that Lobo had done its best to meet many of the concerns of the group, including rerouting traffic off of Little Lakes Road on to Londesborough Road through the company’s existing gravel pit, taking on numerous assessments to confirm that no damage would be done to nearby properties or land uses by the presence of the gravel pit including vibration assessments for Ball’s Bridge and a cultural heritage association for surrounding land uses, and statements, like one from Maitland Valley Conservation Authority, saying that, with changes that had already been implemented, the project could proceed without outstanding concerns.
The proposed use of the 83-acre site follows plans to minimize impact of aggregate extraction which follows provincial, county and municipal rules, she said, and noise impact studies have shown that the proposed pit won’t adversely affect neighbouring uses.
The proposal also fits the area, she said, because the proposed pit site is primarily surrounded by land with agricultural and extraction uses.
Whaling-Rae said the conclusion she had to come to, following planning best practices and various rules, was to recommend the development.
Several council members, including Councillor Bill Vanstone, Jennifer Miltenburg and Deputy-Mayor Roger Watt said they felt more time was needed to review the issue, and, as a result, council unanimously passed a motion to defer it to the June 21 meeting.