Thursday, April 17, 2014


Today's Waterloo Region Record carrys this headline "Gravel pit project appeal dismissed". I received the news and a copy of the nineteen page Decision yesterday. My initial response prior to reading it was that hell has frozen over in that the Ontario OMB has sided with citizens who would have been subject to "unacceptable impacts"; albeit a very subjective condition. This isn't the first time the OMB have sided against a gravel pit development but it's damn close. After reading the Decision carefully my opinion now is are we somehow living in a parallel universe and or has someone at the OMB just sufferred a stroke?

The Decision mentions four major areas of contention namely visual impact, rehabillatation of agricultural land, transportation impacts and noise impacts. Holy crap but the hearing Chair and Vice Chair of the OMB (Susan Schiller) found in favour of Hunder Developments on visual impacts and against them on the other three. The newspaper article written by Greg Mercer correctly indicates that the Chair in her Decision accepted that the "...voluntary compliance approach embedded in the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) to protect the nearby community from negative effects." wasn't good enough. Holy Crap that is a slap in the face not only to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources but also to our dearly beloved, here in Woolwich, and hopelessly pathetic Ministry of the Environment. Does anyone seriously think that this Decision will go unappealed? Even with a provincial election looming the last thing either Liberals or Conservatives want is honest, unbiased legislation combined with a nuetral Ontario Municpal Board. Chaos could reign if citizens actually could present arguments to a government appointed panel while sitting on a level playing field. The Environmental Review Tribunal would be next and if allowed could annihilate what little credibility the M.O.E. have left.

This proposed gravel pit wasn't appropriate from the very beginning. Unacceptable impacts were a given yet other gravel pits in Ontario with unacceptable impacts proceeded without a hitch past and through the OMB. Looking at this Decision from the proponent's view, they must be appalled. Whether advice from the OSSGA (provincial gravel assoc'n), their lawyers, consultants and indeed from the MNR; they were assurred that the overwhelming majority of proposed pits are approved most especially if they've dotted their i's and crossed their t's throughout the process. That process includes public consultation, repsonding to it and producing voluminous reports and rewrites pointing out mitigation methods and how the impacts would be made acceptable. The process set up by the province is lengthy, expensive and inherently unfair to all parties. It has been essentially a show to pretend that the legislation itself isn't biased. Firstly honest, unbiased legislation is required followed by an incredibly streamlined and honest process. In the short term taking a direct shot at the overarching provincial legislation (ARA) is either incredibly brave or intentionally foolhardy, opening the door to an obvious appeal.

What is the game here? In the short term the Liberals look good while crapping on the OSSGA, the MNR and the local proponent. In the long run after they figure they might win the election will they then reverse the Board's Decision on appeal? Stay tuned.

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