By Chris Halliday
The Melville pit plans are bound for the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
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Staff with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) chose to refer Olympia Sand and Gravel’s proposal to operate a 291-acre gravel pit about one km outside of Orangeville to the adjudicative land planning tribunal late Friday afternoon (June 20).
“All objections to the Olympia Sand and Gravel application could not be resolved within the two-year time frame,” MNR spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski told The Banner in an email. “The Ministry of Natural Resources has now referred the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board for a hearing.”
Larry Pevato, president of Olympia Sand and Gravel, isn’t worried about the recent turn of events. Describing his company’s plan as sound, Pevato noted Olympia’s impact studies have been peer reviewed several times by multiple agencies.
“We have done our diligence. We’ve done our homework and our merits are pretty clean cut and transparent,” he said. “We don’t see anything that sticks out that we’re concerned about.”
Olympia Sand and Gravel plans to extract a maximum of 950,000 tonnes —Pevato said the application was adjusted down from 1.2 million — of gravel from the site on Willoughby Road in Caledon, about one km outside Orangeville.
“It is just less per year,” Pevato said of the extraction decrease. “That will just make the operation that much less of an impact on everything. Almost like a 25 per cent reduction.”
Caledon has already green-lighted the project, which would have likely blazed the project’s path to the OMB anyway.
A group of residents forming CAMP (Citizens Against the Melville Pit) have planned to fight the zoning amendment approved by Caledon council for some time now.
CAMP has raised a number of concerns about the pit’s potential impact on the area, including truck traffic. Some concerns bandied about by residents include the potential impacts on drinking water and air pollution, namely silica dust.
Other residents also claim the site is also home to the Jefferson Salamander, a species considered to be at risk in Ontario.
From Pevato’s perspective, however, those issues have been already addressed by several commenting agencies, as well as those who have peer reviewed the application.
“I believe that we’ve dealt with our issues and (residents) should not be concerned,” he said. “They’re going to be concerned that there is going to be a pit near them, but we’ve been dealing with this for close to 10 years.”
During the consultation period, the MNR received comments from the public relating to dust, noise, proximity to residential dwellings and potential impacts on environmental features.
While Kowalski declined to detail what specific concerns ministry officials feel Olympia hasn’t been able to resolve, Pevato referred to them as being minor.
“We know exactly what the issues are and they are very, very minor,” he said. “Prior to an OMB hearing, we can work with the ministry to finalize all details so they will have no objections to this.”