Application for Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Amendments
Paul and Sandi Greer, Greenridge Asparagus Farm
1002 Ridge Road, Picton
In 2016, Paul and Sandi Greer purchased Greenridge Asparagus Farm at 1002 Ridge Road. It has been a well- known asparagus farm for many years. The farm is located in a rural area 7 km south west of Picton. Ridge Road runs between highway 10 in the east and highway 12 in the west. The road has fifty rural residential homes, dairy and cash -crop farming, and aggregate (sand/gravel) pits.
When the Greers purchased the asparagus farm in 2016, the objective was to obtain a licence to change the use of the property so they could begin excavating aggregate. This requires amendments to the County’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws.
Residents of Ridge Road and Shannon Road first became aware of the application in November 2017 when the process to acquire a provincial aggregate extraction licence began. A number of residents opposed the application in December 2017 and made deputations opposing it at a Planning Public Council meeting on May 16, 2018. At a recent Planning Public Council meeting held on August 21, 2019, residents opposed the Planning Department’s recommendation to approve the application. Prior to and at the August 21st Council meeting, residents asked that the decision be deferred. As people only had 48 hours notice that a decision was being considered, and as there were 350+ pages of documents, they could not reasonably be expected to review the materials in advance of the meeting. Council deferred the decision to September 10, 2019, as they themselves also had unanswered questions. On September 10th, Council is expected to approve or deny the application.
1. What Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws are the Applicants asking Council to approve?
- Amendment of the County’s Official Plan, changing the property’s land use from Prime Agricultural to Aggregate.
- Amending the zoning by-law, changing the property designation from Rural 2 to Extractive Mineral Industrial.
2. Why are residents on Ridge Road and Shannon Road concerned about the proposal?
There are generally three reasons that residents are concerned about the proposal and the primary concern is protecting water.
- Waring Creek is an environmentally protected creek that runs through the asparagus farm property. The excavation and operation of a new sand and gravel pit poses a threat to Waring’s Creek and watershed, an integral part of the well water that local residents depend on.
- As there are already well-documented water shortages in the County, it is critical to preserve natural watersheds that supply local wells in rural areas.
- Sand and gravel around Waring’s Creek acts as a natural filter slowly absorbing rain and snow and dispersing water back into the creek, wells, and watershed (like a sponge). Extracting aggregate disturbs this natural ecosystem, which is known as a perched water system.
- Chemical contaminants used in the extraction process and in the storage and crushing of concrete affect the quality of well water. Concrete can leach bitumen, lead, and coal tar into soil and groundwater.
- Studies conducted during the application process identify the importance of the separation (distance) between groundwater and extraction activities. There are risks to the water table if this separation does not occur. Seasonal water levels and the topography of the property present challenges in ensuring that excavation does not hit the water table.
- There is concern that measurements used to determine water levels (known as masl-metres above sea level) are out of date. To ensure that aggregate extraction does not breach the water table, the data must be reliable. The plan to test water levels “periodically,” is too risky when the quality and quantity of water may be harmed. Testing must be rigorous, clearly defined, regular and prescribed. “Periodic” is too broad, open to interpretation and difficult to enforce.
- There are concerns about the detrimental impacts created by noise, dust, contaminants, exhaust, an increased number of haulage trucks, and concrete crushing, all in an area where over 50 families live.
- There are quality of life impacts such as road safety- including limitations on walking and cycling when faced with large haulage trucks and equipment on a road that is quite narrow.
Cumulative Impact of Another Aggregate Pit on Ridge Road:
- There are currently four active aggregate pits along Ridge Road. The cumulative impact of adding another pit compounds the water and environmental issues described above.
- The continuous removal of sand and gravel from a number of other aggregate pits in a relatively small area, removes the natural materials that are critical to the functioning of the watershed.
- In 1999, the County in a decision of the Ontario Municipal Board, identified the need to undertake a cumulative analysis for future aggregate extraction along Ridge Road. Although never undertaken, this type of analysis should have been a key consideration in the review of this aggregate pit application and future pit applications along Ridge Road.
- A cumulative impact analysis has been requested since residents first learned of this application in 2017. And those who were involved in the OMB decision in 1999 have advocated for a cumulative analysis for over 20 years. The community wants to know the impact of this application, in conjunction with other aggregate extraction underway along Ridge Road. However, the County’s planning department is recommending that such an analysis is not needed.
3. Don’t we need aggregate for roads and building construction?
- Yes, sand and gravel are needed for roads and building construction. But in weighing and balancing water shortages vs aggregate shortages, consideration and priority must be given to protecting water. In a county where drought conditions are more frequent water cannot be compromised.
4. Aren’t the Applicants going to replant asparagus once the aggregate extraction is completed?
- Yes, this is a requirement of an aggregate licence when the land is zoned prime agricultural. The land must be rehabilitated to its original agricultural purpose following the completion of aggregate extraction.
- Aggregate extraction must also be implemented “in phases” across a property and rehabilitation must occur as each phase of extraction is completed.
5. How much aggregate will be extracted each year and how long will it take to complete?
- Based on the application up to 20,000 tons of aggregate will be excavated each year and the proposed three- phase extraction process has been said to take 75 years to complete.
- This means that for the next 75 years, there will be different phases of pit activity – getting ready to excavate, actual excavation, and rehabilitation. This raises important questions about compliance and monitoring, as well as what will occur if the property is sold during the 75-year life of this aggregate pit.
6. Weren’t studies completed to support the proposal?
- Yes, the application includes studies about groundwater, Waring Creek, dust and noise and the natural environment. A site plan was developed indicating where extraction would occur on the property. These reports of over 350 pages of technical content were received 48 hours before the Public Planning Council meeting on August 21st.
- We are concerned that the cumulative impact of another aggregate pit on Ridge Road has not been assessed. We are concerned that tests related to determining the level of the water table are out of date and not reliable. We are concerned that issues raised by the Waring Creek Improvement Association about damaging the perched water ecosystem have not been considered. Residents in the area put all of these issues forward in December 2017. From the community’s perspective, there has been an unsatisfactory response to our concerns, and as a result we fear that our water and wells continue to be at risk.
7. How Can You Help?
Contact or email Members of Council (firstname.lastname@example.org) and urge them not to proceed with a decision on the Greers’ application until all of the community’s concerns are addressed:
- a cumulative impact analysis
- reliable groundwater level testing, and
- Waring Creek Improvement Association’s concerns about protecting the perched water system and watershed.
For more information about our concerns, please check out Pits.