Council defers decision on re-zoning application for aggregate pit

(Gazette file photo)

Environmental concerns and needs of further development in Prince Edward County among the points made



A large crowd at Shire Hall on Wednesday for the regular planning committee meeting is a sure indicator of a contentious application to rezone a Ridge Rd. asparagus farm into a quarry operation.

The application, put forth by Paul and Sandi Greer, would allow for part of their well-known asparagus farm, located on Ridge Road, to be turned into an aggregate extraction site.

After considerable input from deputants both in favour of and opposed to such a rezoning, council chose to defer a decision on the application until more information has been gathered.

Taking to the podium on behalf of the applicants was Amarjit Sandhu of MHBC Planning, a firm hired to handle the rezoning application.

According to Sandhu, the intended provincial license, which the Greers would require in order to operate an excavating site, would be a Class B License for operating above a water table.

“This is the smallest type of license that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry offers. It needs not extract more than 20,000 tonnes per year,” said Sandhu.

Sandhu further iterated that the depth of proposed extraction is relatively shallow and the license itself requires that excavation occurs at a minimum of 1.5 metres above the water table.

As part of his plans for the excavating pit, Greer intends to do rehabilitation. In fact, this is mandated by the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA).

According to Greer, the pit offers a much needed resource in Prince Edward County, especially with the amount of new construction slated for the future.

“Excavation looks after new homes and residential construction. That’s what we need the material for-for our housing projects,” stated Greer. “It’s pretty obvious there’s a shortage of sand in the County. We’ve been struggling with this the last few years, having to drive further and further to get our material,” he adds.

Citing a project last fall, wherein Greer’s company required three loads of filter media sand for a project in Huyck’s Bay, Greer details the lengths his company went to in order complete that job. Though, as Greer explained, he could have sourced that from his site, he instead had to drive 45 km to Shannonville to source this product.

“The worst part is, the end consumer pays a lot more for what we’re doing. I kind of look at what we’re doing with our farm, I know a pound of asparagus is different than a pound of sand, but at the same time, if we’re shopping locally, the material should come locally if it’s available. It helps keep money here and is better for our economy and it saves money,” argued Greer.

Peter Sage, a builder in the county, also spoke to the need for a pit.

“I have a vested interest in having resources to build houses. Everyone is an invasive species-everyone has an impact on our environment and community,” stressed Sage.

“We need to have resources in order to build our community. No one is questioning the quality of life or beauty that surrounds us, but everyone who comes here impacts that and that has to be managed,” he added.

Sage believes that turning a quarry back into an asparagus farm, which is part of Greer’s sliver-by-sliver rehabilitation plan, is “a unique and worthwhile enterprise”.

“In order to build houses for all the people coming here, we need the sand that his quarry will produce. There’s a lot of job creation associated with the building industry in this county. I employ 20 people but I need 10 more,” stated Sage, adding, “We can’t afford to hire people here because they can’t live here because people moving from elsewhere are causing housing prices to increase.”

Comments from the audience varied in scope, though many opposed the application. One such opposition came from Joanne Tammel, who lives on Shannon Road, just off of Ridge Road and who is Vice-President of The Waring’s Creek Improvement Association.

“In my hand, I have a study that we (WCIA) commissioned almost 20 years ago, regarding an old aggregate application. This study is done by Paul Bowen, a highly respected hydrogeologist of Terraprobe. It was relevant 20 years ago, it’s relevant today and it will be relevant 20 years from now, because it pertains to eskers, water movement, the removal of aggregate and sand off of eskers and how that affect the movement of water,” stated Tammel.

Tammel points out the consultants hired by the County to conduct a peer review of the aggregate excavation re-zoning proposal did not receive the study done by Bowen.

“WSP did not receive documentation, which we know is in the hands of council and in the hands of your planner, because I personally gave it to him,” stated Tammel.

The report in question is said to provide key information as to the environmental ramifications of the proposed pit.

“This isn’t about going below the water table. This is about shallow, perched water systems within the esker. This is water that is in the sand and gravel. It is a sponge. It absorbs the rain and the snow. It sits in there then slowly, in drought and regular periods, trickles off into our creek, wells, watershed and water system. You allow the removal of this sponge and instead its hitting clay and evaporating. It is so important to keep the aggregate in the sand there,” implored Tammel.

According to Tammel, WSP, a firm retained by the municipality to conduct a peer review of the aggregate excavation re-zoning proposal  relied upon comments made by Melroz Engineering Inc., a firm hired by the Greers to investigate the hydrological scenario.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, Melroze is the Greers’ hired consultants that they hired to comment on the water issue. Your consultants used Melroz’ comments. This is your peer reivew and it is hardly independent,” said Tammel. “You can have all the sand and gravel for the rest of your life or you could have all the water you want the rest of your life. You can have one or the other-which do you choose?”

Further concerns from the audience included groundwater impacts, should the Greers decide to sell their property at some point in time, as well as repercussions for wildlife and how that might affect the broader ecosystem.

Questions regarding how the Greer’s plan to rehabilitate were posed by Christina MacKinnon, a resident of Ridge Road, who was concerned that Greer might be introducing non-native species as part of his rehabilitation efforts.

Councillor Janice Maynard expressed that, once the issue is brought forth again, she wants to make sure there are answers to the specific concerns and questions brought forth from the community.

“There were a lot of questions asked and I’d like the sponging of Waring’s Creek addressed,” added Councillor Jamie Forrester.

Forrester agreed with Mayor Steve Ferguson that any decision regarding this application should be deferred.

“Given the amount of public interest in this application, I’d like to put forward a motion to defer decision about this,” stated Mayor Ferguson.

The matter is expected to return to the Sept. 10th council meeting.