Mayor Marianne Meed Ward may be running out of options in her desire to satisfy Tyandaga residents opposed to the expansion of the Meridian Brick Aldershot quarry, unless something is going on behind closed doors.
Meed Ward actively courted residents opposed to the quarry during her 2018 election bid and in 2019 asked staff to report on a variety of ideas to manage the quarry’s planned expansion near Westhaven Drive, an area known as the East Quarry.
In a report to the Planning and Development Committee this week City staff shut down several of those ideas.
First, the report reinforced the fact that the quarry has a right to continue to expand despite Meed Ward’s repeated attempts to convince the Province to intervene. The staff report suggested that nothing has come from the Mayor’s efforts.
“On October 29th, 2020, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued a bulletin advising of no change in status to an earlier consultation………no additional comments are being received at this time”.
The report reminded committee members that although cities have lots of rights to monitor, investigate and comment on new quarry applications, this is not a new application. Meridian’s plan was approved long ago.
“…..an active Aggregate License has been in place on the property since the early 1970s……There is not currently an application to expand the Meridian Quarry beyond previous approvals”.
Secondly, the report shut down the suggestion that the City’s Tree By-law could be used to modify Meridian’s plan to cut down thousands of trees to accommodate the expansion.
“In accordance with the Municipal Act…..A by-law passed under this section does not apply to …..destruction of trees undertaken on land described in a licence for a pit or quarry”.
Finally, the Mayor had inquired about the possibility of enacting an Air Quality Bylaw to deal with emissions from the quarry, which members of the Tyandaga Environmental Coalition (TEC) believe may harm nearby residents.
The Committee went into closed session for nearly two hours for confidential legal advice. When it resumed in public the Mayor put forward a motion asking staff to “Undertake a detailed review of the feasibility of enacting a city-wide health protection by-law”.
“We are somewhat constrained for reasons Council is aware of, from speaking about that at this point, and I know folks that are unaware may feel a bit confused, but certainly Council is in the loop and understands what we are talking about here”, said Meed Ward.
The Mayor and Councillor Kelvin Galbraith had briefed members of TEC privately last week, but the citizens group was not satisfied. A letter to the Committee from TEC hinted that even the idea of an Air Quality By-law may have also be dismissed.
“It is disappointing that city staff have not followed through with Council’s recommendations to explore an Air Quality bylaw and to ensure that all of Meridian’s air quality studies are peer-reviewed by licensed engineers.”
Underlying the confidential legal advice may be the question of who, if anyone, is at fault and for what.
Back in December 2019 several neighbours alleged that they were unaware of the quarry when they purchased their homes on Westhaven Drive. They blamed the City. TEC’s environment expert then hinted that Burlington may have some liability.
“There should be a review of files that led to the allowance of the Tyandaga community being built there, to understand exactly who promised what at the time and who would be responsible.” said Dr. Franco DiGiovanni, who represented the Tyandaga Environmental Coalition in 2019.
Finally, the Mayor authored another report this week aimed at keeping her promise to create an Aldershot Quarry Community Liaison Committee. “To provide regular communication among stakeholders, renew monitoring studies and discuss quarry activities and any emerging/new issues”.
Notable in the Terms of Reference for the Committee is the statement that the meetings will be closed to the public. “But minutes and highlights will be shared publicly via the Mayor and Councillor’s digital media properties and/or newsletters”. This, despite a comment from Councillor Galbraith that “there’s nothing like open communication and transparency”.
The company website says the quarry had been operating for 10 years before the Tyandaga West subdivision has approved.
By Rick Craven