Holyrood treading carefully towards quarry agreement

By Craig Westcott/December 2, 2022

While property development is slowing across the country due to fears of a recession and the sting of higher interest rates, development is still chugging along in Holyrood, albeit at a more relaxed pace compared to recent years.

Since mid-September, council has approved building permits for two new homes, as well as eight permits for everything from new sheds, fences, and general repairs to house extensions. There was also a number of applications that couldn’t be dealt with because more information was required from the applicants. The permits for new homes pertained to properties at Lot 2 O’Rourke’s Road and 87 Kennedy’s Lane Extension.

But it is a quarry to be located in the watershed on the east side of the Island Pond Ridge Trail some 300 metres north of the TransCanada Highway that has generated the most discussion at council. Quarries have been a particular concern for the current and several past Holyrood councils as usually the Province has had more say in where they go than does the municipality, though it is the Town that often has to deal with the fallout when things go wrong.

Council approved the quarry application at its October 18 meeting, but with conditions, and with at least one councillor, Sadie King, voting against it.

Mayor Gary Goobie warned the Town will be closely monitoring the quarry’s development.

“There’s going to be a lot of checks and balances put in place,” he said.

“The developer has been very forthcoming with the Town… and has shown that he’s willing to work with the Town to some agreement with those conditions that we’re going to put forward,” said Deputy Mayor Michelle Woodford, who chairs the planning and development committee. 

Woodford made the motion to approve the quarry. She indicated that while new provincial legislation regarding quarries is not yet in effect, she feels assured from discussions with the provincial Department of Natural Resources that great care will be taken with this particular quarry.

“The Department of Natural Resources has a document right now that they have developed that they are putting towards legislation,” Woodford said. “But we know it’s going to take a little while for that to come through. We don’t know if that’s going to be next year, it could be the year after. But they have identified a lot of areas for improvement with quarries. They have reached out as well and are very keen on collaboration with the Town in order to make this work for the Town.”

Councillor Steve Winsor, who chairs council’s infrastructure and public works committee, said Woodford described very well what has taken place so far regarding the discussions with the Province.

“In the meetings we had with the Department (responsible) for minerals and exploration we really did hammer home our concerns and lessons learned from past mistakes,” Winsor said. “There’s new leadership there, new involvement, they’ve got a lot of experience and there are a lot of opportunities for improvement. We really hammered home the need for oversight and accountability and regular inspections and reporting and compliance monitoring. It was very satisfying to hear the feedback from them.”

Winsor said the location of this particular quarry is about the only spot in Holyrood where he would be willing to approve such a development, and only then with extensive conditions.

“I know that (anywhere) in the town centre is not going to fly at all,” said Winsor. “This location off the TCH is a much better location… It is in the watershed. So that raises other questions. The Department of Environment, they’re involved as well. So, there is another level of compliance monitoring that has to be adhered to very strongly. It’s not without risk, and it’s not without concern, but we’ve gone through an exhaustive process of due diligence, and we as a municipality, and the Province, see this as a test pilot for the way that quarries should be done and should be managed.”

That said, council was still working on the wording of the conditions for the quarry when it met again on November 15.

“Our CAO (Gary Corbett) updated us on how the legal team is working to develop a draft quarry agreement, which is going to list all those conditions that we wanted to make sure was in there,” said Woodford as part of her planning and development committee update. “We’re hoping to have that around December 1 in a draft form for everyone to review.”

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