Surprise aggregate zoning discovery stymies Island couple’s retirement home

GORE BAY—A Mindemoya couple has found that for local residents who want to build on their own property, the process may not always be easy when the property is adjacent to an aggregate resources area.

“The reason I’m here is to present the information we discovered in our attempt to get a building permit for our retirement house,” stated Holly Scott, who along with her husband Dale and the couple’s lawyer Brad Allison, met with the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) at a recent meeting. She explained that although sand had occasionally been taken from a small sand pit on the neighbouring property, “we never knew that the entire farm had been licenced as an aggregate zone. The municipal zoning maps show it as rural agricultural zone.”

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Ms. Scott explained that in, “2007 the Ministry of Natural Resources surveyed the Island pits and quarries across Manitoulin and offered licences, without informing surrounding land owners, and without environmental impact studies. The licenses given were for the largest industrial category, which could include large generators, buildings on site, shifts around the clock, and permission to dig a shocking 30 metres below the water table.”

“Our neighbour, Ralph Morrow, who owned the farm where sand had been extracted, didn’t know that the MNR had surveyed his property twice, nor the nature and impact of the license. The licence on his land was issued to a third party. Adjoining summer residents and the bordering M’Chigeeng First Nation were never informed either.”

“I don’t know if the planning board was involved, but I can’t imagine that it was since Jake Diebolt at the planning board was surprised when he discovered the impact of the licenses,” said Ms. Scott. “What he found was that the MOE had issued a 300m building setback from all the licenced aggregate zones on Manitoulin, regardless if the licenced zones contained aggregates or not, until the zones were officially decommissioned.”

“Some of the aggregate zones back against towns like those in Sheguiandah, Tehkummah, Mindemoya and Providence Bay. Some back onto First Nations reserves,” continued Ms. Scott. “They all have 300 metre setbacks.”

Ms. Scott pointed out an Ontario Court decision just last month reported that an aggregate licence was revoked on the Bruce Peninsula for failure to consult with First Nations. Court costs of $80,000 were divided between the MNRF and the landowner.

She noted, “Ontario ministries are retroactively passing the responsibility and liability for consultation with First Nations onto local boards. The Review of the Aggregate Resources Act, which only received royal assent on May 10, 2017, provided that where no consultation with First Nations had taken place, it was possible that aggregate licenses would be revoked. This has a strong impact on Manitoulin Island, especially since there is already a land treaty in place.”

Ken Noland, chair of the MPB, told the Scotts, “I was around when the Pits and Quarries Act was done. Licences were ‘grandfathered’ in.”

“Notifications were put in the local papers and the MNRF encouraged pit owners, that even if they had  just a little quarry, they should license their entire lot,” said Mr. Noland.

The Scotts sat down for an interview with the Recorder after the meeting to discuss the issue further.

“We hired an engineer who was able to prove there is  no aggregate to support a Class B licence on the land surrounding our property, and that we would have no adverse effect on the existing zone,” said Dr. Scott. “But not everyone across Manitoulin will be able to do this. These setbacks are up against tourist resorts, towns, and reserves,” he said. “The MNRF knew that they had a legal duty to consult with the First Nations, which they never acknowledged. In fact, the UCCM building is within the one kilometre influence zone.”

“Once there is no longer any aggregate left in the pits, the owners have to rehabilitate them under the regulations,” said Ms. Scott. “Not everyone can afford to do this, so inactive licences will sit on the books for years. There are a  lot of people on Manitoulin living beside aggregate zones.”

Dr. Scott said, “we’ve notified everyone in our area who intends to build that they can access our engineer’s report, and the Manitoulin Planning Board has it on file as well.”

“Anyone who lives within 300 metres of an aggregate zone, even for small, inactive farm pits, should know what’s going on,” said Dr. Scott. “If you plan to build on your property be prepared to get an independent engineer’s report done. That is going to give you an updated study that the MNRF will have to accept.”

“We couldn’t start building on our 20 acres until we had the engineers report done,” said Dr. Scott. “We were told by the MNRF that the 300 metre setback was for our well-being and safety, but it is my opinion that their agenda has always been about the money they would receive from the licencing fees and aggregate resource taxes.”

At an MPB meeting on August 24, the MPB board discussed the issue raised by the Scott’s during an in-camera meeting,  and passed  a motion. It was moved by Dan Osborne and seconded by Richard Stephens that the secretary-treasurer write a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Scott, thanking them for their presentation and review of the Aggregate Resources Act, and informing them that the information will be kept on file for future development applications regarding Lots 23, 24 and 25, Concession I, township of Carnarvon.