A controversial quarry proposed for a bucolic corner of the Greater Toronto Area is now all but dead.
The decision is a major victory for the Caledon residents who have been fighting the quarry since 1997, but it leaves the region's aggregate industry - and others who rely on stone, sand and gravel for building roads, bridges and homes - concerned about a dwindling supply of aggregate within the GTA.
"This speaks to the need to find and license additional resources within the Greater Toronto Area," said Moreen Miller, president of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, an industry group representing more than 250 aggregate producers and suppliers. "Our biggest challenge is transportation of these resources. If we can't extract them close to market and close to where they'll be consumed, we're just putting more and more trucks on the highway."
The Ontario Municipal Board, the province's planning tribunal, ruled Friday against James Dick Construction Ltd., which had been trying for more than 13 years to open a pit on its 89-hectare property at the corner of Winston Churchill Boulevard and Olde Baseline Road, just north of the Niagara Escarpment.
"Too much of enormous value to the province, the region and the town could be lost if the proposed quarry went forward," the board wrote, "... and the conversion of a rural area into an urban area centred on a heavy industrial operation cannot be permitted in the interest of the production of more aggregate for infrastructure development."
The 77-page decision was a triumph for Penny Richardson, president of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens.
"I was just in awe," said Ms. Richardson, 63, who has lived about three kilometres north of the proposed quarry site for 25 years. "I was tickled, just absolutely tickled. It has been a long haul."
Ms. Richardson and other leaders of the group met every Sunday for 13 years to plot their anti-quarry campaign. They held garage sales and golf tournaments to raise between $1.5-million and $2-million, a whopping amount that still falls a few hundred thousand dollars short of the bill they ran up at the OMB, Ms. Richardson said.
The coalition argued that the quarry would ruin their rural oasis and put their water supply at risk. James Dick Construction Ltd. promised the 80-year extraction and rehabilitation project wouldn't contaminate the Credit River watershed, according to the OMB decision.
The company could still appeal the decision. Greg Sweetnam, a senior official who speaks for the company, did not return calls seeking comment.
Ms. Miller of the industry association said aggregate producers are being forced to haul stone, sand and gravel to the GTA from farther and farther away as local pits reach the end of the lives. For example, the amount of aggregate Peel and York regions produced dropped by 33 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, between 2000 and 2009, Ms. Miller said. New quarry licences in the region aren't keeping pace, she added.
Two quarry licences have been issued in the GTA in the past five years, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which couldn't say on short notice how that compares to earlier periods.