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Opposition growing to aggregate pits near Holstein

By Don Crosby
For the Confederate

Opposition to the development of gravel pits in the Holstein area is growing, with a call for a moratorium on further approval of gravel pits until studies can be done to determine the cumulative long term social and financial effects.

“In light of the fact that the province of Ontario seems to be in a state of review of the aggregate resources industry my thought was that the municipal government put a temporary halt on any current and forthcoming aggregate permits and give them time to do a full feasibility study, weighing the benefits and risks, the social and environmental risks,” said Doug Karrow during a public meeting to hear an official plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment to allow the expansion of an existing gravel pit north of Holstein.

It was the second time the public meeting was held. A notice issued for the first public meeting on July 6 incorrectly identified the subject property on the key map provided.

The current application by H. Bye Construction is to expand an existing pit that has run out of gravel. The property under consideration is known as the Bye/Flanagan pit at Conc. 16, Lot 1, Part Lot 2 of the former Egremont Township east of Holstein.

“I’m not against gravel pits,” Mr. Karrow stressed. “It’s not the complete banning of future applications but to buy some time to understand the process.”

Mr. Karrow has lived for the past 17 years across from the current Flanagan pit site on a farm that has belonged to his family for the past five generations .

He was among a handful of people who raised concerns at the public meeting on Sept. 5 about the growing number of gravel pits so close together in the Holstein area.

Mr. Karrow noted the proposed expansion being requested would raise the number of pits to five in the Holstein area and that there’s a proposal for a sixth pit just a little to the east of the Bye/ Flanagan pit.

Marilyn Ellis told the meeting that she and her husband built their retirement home in Southgate on Grey Road 9 east of Holstein. Shortly after the death of her husband,  Hydro One wanted to put part of the Milton to Bruce Power high voltage line right next to her home. Then the original Bye /Flanagan gravel pit was approved three years ago. It was to last five years. But most of the gravel from that pit was used in the construction of the hydro towers, and the pit was exhausted ahead of time. Now she’s upset to learn that the pit owner wants to expand the operation. She said she watches with horror as the value of her property is gradually eroded.

“My farm is hemmed in on two sides by two gravel pits. I’ve done nothing wrong. If I had known what was going to happen I would never agreed to retire in Egremont. The issue of devaluation of my property was ignored,” she said.

Don Scott, the planner for H. Bye Construction, noted that the aggregate industry pays a small amount of royalties for each tonne of gravel extracted. It includes six cents to the municipality, 1.5 cents to the County of Grey, and three cents to the province along with half a cent to a fund for the rehabilitation of abandoned pits. He said it should be much more like “ a dollar a tonne.”

But he agreed there is no compensation for the economic effects on property values.

Mr. Karrow and others at the meeting raised concerns on the long term effects to the environment and their property values. He questioned whether anyone in government is calculating the cumulative effect of more pits on neighbouring residents.

“Since 2008 there have been four gravel pits to the north of Holstein. This one will make it five and there’s another one planned to the east. This makes this phenomenon unique to our community. What is the cumulative effect?” Mr. Karrow said.“It breaks my heart to look out over the landscape and see this lunar landscape. This area is developing a distinctive lunar feeling,” he said.

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