Province enhances aggregate resource protection
Pits, quarries earn greater security under new Provincial Policy Statement
HUNTSVILLE – New provincial policies, once in effect, could further protect mineral aggregate operations such as pits and quarries from anything that would hinder their expansion or use.
Chris Marshall, director of planning and sustainability for the Town of Huntsville, has stated at various committee meetings that the draft Provincial Policy Statement includes stricter requirements on the part of municipalities to identify and protect aggregate resources.
Those resources include granite, which Huntsville and Muskoka have in abundance.
Marshall said the province is making these changes to the Provincial Policy Statement because aggregate extraction, though important economically, is such a contentious and political issue.
“It is a NIMBY (not in my backyard) topic,” he said. “If the province has established that these are important resources to protect long-term for the future construction industry in Ontario and policies aren’t put in place to enable that material to be extracted, it’s not going to do much good.”
The Provincial Policy Statement is legislation that governs land use planning in the province. The document is coming to the end of a five-year review, at which point additions to the policy will come into effect.
The draft policy statement requires municipalities to identify the location of their mineral aggregate resources and then protect those resources, among other things.
Marshall explained that the previous policy statement included protection of aggregate resources, but did not require municipalities to identify them.
“It’s now a requirement for municipalities to map where those resources are,” he said.
He said the District of Muskoka has already mapped the region’s aggregate resources. But the requirement in the draft policy statement closes the loophole for pleading ignorance about the location of its resources.
Marshall said a municipality can protect aggregate resources in two ways.
One is to not allow residential development near them.
“You give them a wide birth in terms of future development so you don’t get into these conflicts between industrial use and non-industrial use,” said Marshall.
He referred to an ongoing dispute in Huntsville’s Golf Course Road area where residents continue to rally against the proposed industrial development of an 88-acre lot.
The second protective measure is to identify aggregate resources for development through Official Plans and zoning bylaws.
“That way, you’re identifying areas that the town plans to have resource extraction in the future,” said Marshall.
In the case of Golf Course Road, the area was identified for industrial development in the Official Plan, but not the zoning bylaw.
But even when the resources are identified, it does not mean the extraction of those resources will trump every other consideration.
Marshall noted that the draft policy statement states that consideration has to be given to the social and environmental impact of the proposed pit or quarry.
“What it’s saying is that, if it’s going to happen, it has to be done in such a way that it reduces the impact on the neighbours. If that can’t be done, it’s not a given that the material can be extracted,” he said.
Approval for aggregate extraction happens in two phases. The first is the municipal phase in which a developer has to get zoning approval from the municipality. This phase often includes public input.
The second phase requires approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“We identify whether it’s a good spot for it in terms of land use in our community,” said Marshall of the municipal level. “And then the MNR establishes how the pit will actually function – how much material will be extracted, how deep it can go into the ground and how the site will be rehabilitated once excavation is finished.”
Marshall noted that areas designated as primary and secondary aggregate deposits are most likely to have successful rezoning applications, so long as they do not already have a development such as a subdivision on top of them. Whether a deposit is primary or secondary depends on the amount of aggregate in the deposit.
Huntsville has largely secondary deposits, according to the district’s aggregate map. Most of the deposits are in the northwest corner of the municipality, though there are clusters along the Highway 11 corridor.
The draft Provincial Policy Statement is expected to come into full effect in 2013.