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Controversial gravel pit application moves to next stage

Trout Lake property-owners oppose re-zoning

THUNDER BAY -- A certified planner has determined that the proposed development of a gravel pit near Trout Lake constitutes proper planning.

That doesn't mean, however, that the project will be allowed to proceed anytime in the near future.

Residents and cottage-owners at Trout Lake oppose the bid by Lempiala Sand & Gravel—owned by Bruno's Contracting of Thunder Bay—to rezone a piece of property. 

They argue that a gravel pit in that location is incompatible with a residential and recreational area, and detrimental to the environment.

The planner's evaluation of the rezoning bid will be considered Thursday evening at a meeting of the Lakehead Rural Planning Board.

Board chair Lucy Kloosterhuis told in an interview that "his report indicates that it's got good planning background," but she expects the board will decide to take more time to consider it.

"There's no plan at this point, to my understanding, that anything will be passed to finalize the zoning," she said.

The planning board will also hear at its Thursday meeting from four deputations outlining why they feel rezoning is inappropriate. 

"We will take in all the new information that they have for us, and then the board will decide what the process is from that point on. There may be more meetings," Kloosterhuis said.

It's far from a new issue.

Kloosterhuis said a similar rezoning application was rejected by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) a few decades ago.

Once the planning board makes a decision on the current application, she said, either the objectors or the applicant could still refer the matter to a body that's just replaced the OMB, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

"Whatever happens, if it does finally get approved, then it goes to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for the licensing of the pit, and again, the neighbours would have an opportunity to let the MNRF know how they feel about it," Kloosterhuis said.

That's small comfort to members of the Trout Lake Campers Association.

Spokesperson Robin Latimer said the group feels it's best opportunity to stop the developer is to prevent the rezoning.

"Once you've rezoned (an) area industrial, because aggregate is valued by the province, a lot of these other processes are pushed through pretty quickly," she said.

Latimer added that the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal will only review process-related issues such as whether stakeholders were properly consulted before a decision was made.

She noted, as well, that in the later stages of trying to overturn a planning decision the costs can quickly grow to "thousands and thousands of dollars," a price that citizens must pay out of their own pockets.

Latimer and other opponents will pose some questions at Thursday's meeting about the planner's report. 

"There's been a few things that have been ignored within the report," she said, "one of which is around the lake effects. We've had pushback that this is a not-In- my-backyard argument, but the 'backyard' of the people who are concerned is actually the lake, and this compromises the lake, perhaps to the point where it is not viable."

Tbnewswatch contacted Bruno's Contracting for comment, but a company spokesperson did not respond.



Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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