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Gravel pit gets council's approval in Norfolk County

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Another gravel pit has been approved in the north end of Simcoe.

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Norfolk council has approved a zoning change on agricultural land for an aggregate-extraction operation on 90 acres at 259 Windham East Quarter Line Road.

The applicant is Livingston Excavation and Trucking of Simcoe, the operator of a similar pit on Highway 24 south of town.

“Official plan policies generally permit extraction of aggregate, mineral or petroleum resources in agricultural lands,” Norfolk senior planner Mohammed Alam said in his final report on the issue.

At a preliminary hearing in December, council heard that the parcel in question has sand and gravel reserves in the range of five million tonnes. Plans are to extract about 150,000 tonnes a year over the next three decades.

The application requires extracting materials 8.5 metres below the water line. This has prompted concerns that the pit could impact well water.

In response, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has required Livingston to establish a baseline data set for all private wells within 500 metres of the extraction zone. Monitoring will be ongoing to ensure the pit doesn’t adversely impact groundwater.

Aggregate extraction is one of the few alternative uses allowed in Ontario on agricultural land. The activity can be intrusive and disruptive, starting with stripping away the topsoil to get at the glacial till beneath. Port Ryerse Coun. Chris VanPaassen says the province encourages the exploitation of these deposits because the construction industry and the economy in general can’t function without them.

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“The material is required and has to come from somewhere,” Van Paassen said Feb. 18. “No one wants it in their backyard but we need it.

“That stuff (sand) they’re putting on the road right now to keep you safe – that’s where it comes from.”

VanPaassen added that Livingston Extraction and Trucking has one of the county contracts to supply sand which is mixed with salt as part of Norfolk’s winter-control program.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests knows the deposit in question as the Emerson Pit. It is located on Windham East Quarter Line Road between Thirteenth Street and Fourteenth Street.

Norfolk planning staff fielded several written submissions during the public consultation phase last year. Aside from water table concerns, issues raised include an increase in heavy-truck traffic and noise and dust.

Plans are to construct berms six metres high to buffer the surrounding neighbourhood. Some worry the berms will be unsightly and a propagation zone for noxious weeds. Planning staff members say complaints in this area can be addressed through the county’s property standards and clean yard bylaw.

Others worry the pit will damage their net worth.

“One of our concerns is it will bring the value of our property down substantially,” nearby resident Jen Krupa says in her submission.

“We believe the short-term gains of this gravel pit are not sustainable. We believe the land should stay agricultural because it is more beneficial to the county and community.”

The north end of Simcoe is a rich area for aggregate extraction and has a long history of this activity. Located near the Livingston pit are pits formerly operated by Cayuga Materials and currently operated by Dufferin Aggregates. Dufferin has extracted below the water table for years at its operation on Fourteenth Street.

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