- Published on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 19:41
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Waterloo Region Record, Tuesday, July 10, 2012
MPPs get Earful in Review of gravel pit law, Committee holds public hearing in Kitchener
Lawmakers make local visit to reconsider gravel extraction rules
Chris Herhalt, Record Staff
KITCHENER — People have been digging for rock and stone for thousands of years but, according to some, we still haven’t got it right.
Farmers, homeowners, municipal leaders and local gravel producers had their say as provincial politicians held a hearing Monday afternoon on whether to change Ontario laws governing quarries and gravel pits.
An all-party committee of the Ontario legislature held the hearing at the Holiday Inn on Fairway Road in Kitchener as part of their provincewide touring review of the Aggregates Resource Act, a 22-year-old law last amended in 2009.
Doug Joy is a civil engineer who lives near Conestogo. There are five gravel pits proposed to be dug in his small village alone.
“Many of our homes will be within a half a kilometre of two or even three gravel pits,” Joy said.
Because of the noise, increased truck traffic and potential for dust associated with each pit, Joy estimates some homeowners in his area will lose up to 30 per cent of the value of their homes.
He asked for the law to be changed so that gravel pits cannot be dug within 1,600 metres of any residence.
Opponents to gravel pit development in the region seemed to dominate the group of 150 or so in attendance. Several of those presenting in favour of stricter regulation of industry received raucous applause.
Other presenters at the hearing dismissed any notion that the Aggregate Resource Review Act needed to be changed.
“There’s death, there’s taxes and there are well-meaning people who will be upset about pits and quarries [on] their countryside,” said James Parkin, a former Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources inspector-turned private consultant. He said that “Ontario is known for having good legislation” regarding regulation of quarries and gravel pits.
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris and Cambridge MPP Rob Leone, both Progressive Conservatives, temporarily sat on the committee to give it some local representation. Harris said he’s happy the committee decided to visit his community.
“I was adamant that if this government was serious about doing a review, they would take it outside the confines of Queen’s Park into the areas like this where extraction occurs.”
On Monday morning, committee members toured a gravel recycling depot and two rehabilitated gravel pits, one that serves as farmland and another that is administered by the Grand River Conservation Authority and frequented by dog owners.
Several at the hearing, including Woolwich Township chief administrative officer David Brenneman, criticized the “narrow scope” of the sites legislators visited that morning, claiming they represented rare ideal cases of gravel pit operators fulfilling all of their responsibilities and respecting the environment.
Liberal committee member Mike Colle responded by saying that visiting actual extraction sites was a relatively new approach for legislators in hearings like these, and that they simply “can’t visit every pit in the province.”
The committee will travel to hear the concerns of producers and residents in Ottawa and Sudbury next week. Harris said he plans to travel as a substitute on the committee for those hearings as well.
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