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'This is greed:' North Dumfries mayor slams aggregate industry

Township lends support to resolution calling for moratorium on new pits
St. Marys CBM has applied to expand the Dance Pit on Cedar Creek Road to within 200 feet of homes on the city's west side.

A group of Cambridge neighbours opposed to a gravel pit expansion on Cedar Creek Road may find hope in growing support for a moratorium on all new gravel pit applications in the province.

Councillors in North Dumfries township agreed last week to lend support to the Demand A Moratorium Now (DAMN) campaign and a formal declaration issued by the Town of Halton Hills that asks the province to put a temporary pause on new gravel pits and give "greater weight to input from local municipalities to lessen the social impacts from extraction."

News of the move had yet to reach one of the main proponents of an effort to stop expansion of the Dance Pit, which lies just beyond the southwest city limits in North Dumfries township. 

“If it means no more pits or no more expansion of existing pits then I am all for it,” Tracy Bartlett said when contacted by CambridgeToday.

Last fall, the Delavan Drive homeowner told Cambridge councillors that noise from a gravel crusher in pits next door to her home regularly wake the neighbourhood with vibrations. 

She said dust from the Dance Pit is so bad during the week, neighbours can’t open their windows to let fresh air in, and those who work night shifts can’t sleep during the day because of it.

Last fall, St. Marys CBM applied to the province to expand the Dance Pit, despite objections from Cambridge homeowners and the city

Now that North Dumfries has signalled its own opposition to new aggregate pits, Bartlett is hopeful.

Before presenting a motion to support the resolution Tuesday, Mayor Sue Foxton explained the township can’t issue its own moratorium since that’s something only the province can do.

The township can, however, issue a two-year interim bylaw, but it would require extensive justification. Zorra Township successfully implemented an interim bylaw stopping gravel extraction, she said.

Coun. Rod Rolleman said he supports a moratorium knowing how many pits are being proposed and some that have yet to be closed and rehabilitated as promised.

“Maybe it’s time we say to the gravel industry we want a pause, we want to reexamine all these things,” he said. “We should be exploring these opportunities and see what we can do.”

Coun. Derrick Ostner agreed, adding he believes pit owners are pushing applications through in advance of a moratorium, knowing they will have approvals in place if the province halts extraction.

“It’s always been a sore spot with us on council and being relatively powerless when it comes to making the decisions on where these gravel pits just keep going and going,” he said. “But if we are going to do something, I want to make sure we do it the right way. I want to know what we can do to put some teeth behind it.”

Foxton, who sits in on regular meetings with a group made up of the top aggregate producing municipalities in Ontario, says she’s seen the numbers. 

Aggregate producers hold 3,600 licenses and 2,500 permits for gravel extraction sites throughout the province, according to the resolution.

In 2020, local operators extracted 5.7 million  tonnes of aggregate from pits in North Dumfries alone.

“The aggregate industry just keeps saying they need more and yet every year they used actually less. So, this is greed,” Foxton said.

She recommended council ask that the recommendation be circulated to other municipalities in the region, as well as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and urged a delegation asking municipalities to support the moratorium to reach out to their MPP with the facts and figures.

“This government listens to the people more than it listens to anybody else.”

Organizers of the Reform Gravel Mining Coalition contend the industry has enough sites in operation to satisfy demand and that further expansion damages ecosystems and threatens endangered species.

NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner have also pledged their support to pausing all new gravel mining approvals in the province.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mentioned the Township of Woolwich had voted to support the moratorium as well, but that hasn't happened yet. Wellington Water Watchers is planning to approach Woolwich council seeking support on the issue at a later date. CambridgeToday regrets the error. 

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Doug Coxson

About the Author: Doug Coxson

Doug has been a reporter and editor for 25 years, working mainly in Waterloo region and Guelph
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