The Local Planning and Appeals Tribunal’s (LPAT) has given the go ahead for James Dick Construction Ltd. (JDCL) to proceed with the the extraction of stone and gravel at a 39-hectare property just south of Rockwood. Eight years after it first came up in the public consciousness, the so-called “Hidden Quarry” has the greenlight to open for business.
The decision released by the LPAT on February 11 says that the application has enough assurances that “the mandatory protection of natural heritage features and functions, including groundwater,” have been met by JDCL.
“The Township, while endorsing a resolution against the applications, had in hand their consulting Planner’s recommendation to support the applications, and their consulting Engineer’s sign-off on hydrogeology and various other technical requirements,” the decision read.
The decision stems from an application to both Guelph-Eramosa Township and Wellington County in 2016 in which neither municipality rendered a decision within the allotted period of time. Before that, JDCL took Guelph-Eramosa to the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2015 for failing to make a decision in a two-year window on an application filed in 2014. That process was put on hold indefinitely in 2016 when the Township repealed and replaced the bylaw that the JDCL application was asking for an amendment to.
“Bottom line is [the] township’s been opposed to this; we don’t think it’s good for the community, we’re disappointed in the ruling and we’ll be looking to our legal team to reveal … what the ruling requires the municipality to do,” Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White told the Wellington Advertiser after the ruling.
“This is a devastating decision for citizens in Halton Hills and Wellington County who have worked so hard to defend a precious resource – the water we drink,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schriener in a statement. Schreiner has enthusiastically supporting area residents in their fight to stop the Hidden Quarry.
“Nothing is more important than protecting the long-term supply of our drinking water, and yet Ontario’s weak aggregate and water-taking rules continue to put private profits first,” Schreiner added. “I want to thank the local governments and citizens who spent time and money opposing this quarry and protecting our water and communities.”
Rockwood’s Concerned Residents Coalition, which incorporated in 2013 as a group of area citizens opposed to the Hidden Quarry, expressed extreme disappointment about the decision.
“I know that the LPAT decision will be deeply troubling to many in our community, and I can speak for my colleagues on the Board in saying that this news is devastating,” said Doug Tripp in a statement. Tripp added that his group is going to be reviewing the decision and will look at what their options will be going forward.
Also looking to the future is Schreiner, who says that his private members bill, the Paris Galt Moraine Conservation Act, would be a bulwark to decisions like the one to approve the quarry.
“If my private member’s bill was passed, then projects like this would be assessed under a much more rigorous land-use planning framework that puts food and water first,” Schreiner said. “Without such a framework, we are allowing industrial pressures on our water supply to pile up, on top of drought and other threats brought on by climate change.”
The quarry is expected to extract 700,000 tonnes of rock annually over its 20-year lifespan.