BURK'S FALLS – It was standing room only upstairs at the Burk’s Falls Arena as Ryerson Township council was presented with two sides of a debate that could forever change the site of a local landmark.
Ryerson Township held a public meeting on Wednesday, July 25 to consider a proposed bylaw amendment to rezone property on Pegg’s Mountain Road to allow 50 of the 80 hectares of property owned by Glenn Thompson to become a pit and quarry.
Members of the public stepped forward expressing their concerns and dismay over the potential quarry.
Noise, air quality, impacts on roads, wildlife, and tourism were just a few of the arguments made against the proposal.
Ryerson resident Paul Van Dam stated a group has been formed to protect the integrity, heritage and historical value of the mountain. He commented on, not only road safety, which was a recurring theme throughout the meeting, but $12,000 to offered by the applicant to pay for tonnage.
“In the report Thompson suggests that we turn around and use that $12,000 to maintain our roads that he is going to ruin,” he said. “There is absolutely no value here at all. Property values are going to go down, everything is going to go down, there is nothing in it for any of us.”
“The consultant continues to dangle this thing of economic benefit here,” said resident Len Allen. “There won’t be any economic benefit in Ryerson Township from this. The applicant will benefit….there are no large employment opportunities here, there is only expense.”
However, applicant Glenn Thompson commented that much of the opposition to the pit and quarry was unwarranted.
“It’s a joke. There are people here who wear shirts that say ‘Save Pegg’s Mountain,” said applicant Glenn Thompson. “I’ve stayed back 120 meters from Pegg’s Mountain. I’ve saved Pegg’s Mountain.”
“There was never any claim that there would be large employment,” said Trudy Patterson, senior consultant with Skelton Brumwell and Associates, planner for the applicant.
“It’s a pretty sad economy you have here. Your young people don’t have jobs,” said Thompson. “I’m creating jobs.”
Traffic concerns surrounding safety and the wear and tear caused by an increase in truck traffic trying to negotiate the narrow and winding road were heard repeatedly.
Bonnie Reid says she has spoken with the OPP to address road safety in the area, suggesting that the Ministry of Transportation should be involved in the process.
“Going around the s-bends at certain times of the day you are blinded, you can’t see where you are going and you often have to come to a stop,” she said. “What if there is a big truck that comes around that bend and he is in the middle of the road. It’s dangerous.”
Cheryl Barlow, an area resident who drives for Canada Post, has concerns about the safety of her route.
“There is no shoulder for me to pull over. When I stop at a box I take my seatbelt off, reach across, I’m taking my life in my hands - it’s scary,” she said. “I’m already worried about the pits in the area but this is like a mega-pit. There will just be more trucks. My biggest concern is safety on the road.”
Patterson stated that they have not yet entered into negotiations with the Township but will take the comments into consideration.
Reid expressed concerned of about the ill effects that the dust, particularly mica or silica, stemming from the quarry could have on health of area residents, noting that there were children at the meeting earlier in the evening who had left before the public debate.
“Every one of those children have asthma. Imagine if these particles, which you say you are going to control but I don’t believe, get in the air and affect these children and they have an asthma attack,” she said. “We don’t have a health system close by anymore to take care of that. A child can die very quickly from an asthma attack.”
Resident Alan Barlow raised concern that a drainage area shown on the map of the property would have water draining from the site either toward his home or drawing the water away from his well.
“I want an answer on what will happen if I lose my water. How I am going to get compensated,” he said.
Another resident expressed similar concerns over the impact of blasting on the spring that feeds his, as well as a number of other property owners’, wells.
“If (the applicant) is so confident we’re not going to be affected, our wells, our water systems, he can guarantee every one of us in the area that he can supply us with water that is safe until he can drill us a new well at his expense,” said Reid.
Barlow also expressed concerns of silt running from the Pegg’s Mountain area into the Magnetawan River system.
“You can put up all the fences as much as you can but stuff still gets through and I believe it is going to harm our pickerel and pike spawning area in the area,” he said. “I have been in touch with the Magnetawan First Nation and they are going to come and assist us.”
Many also had concerns about the mountain itself, including the safety of hikers, tourists and residents alike who enjoy the trails.
“There is a reason we moved here. It’s not to be forced off the road, it’s not to be sucking whatever pollution they could put into the air. We came here to retire,” said resident Richard Hughes. “This is a piece of paradise that you want to destroy and it makes me sick that you could even think about letting this happen.”