THUNDER BAY — A Thunder Bay company and a group of homeowners opposing its Gorham Township gravel pit will present their arguments this spring to Ontario's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
Nadin Construction wants a licence for a quarry near the intersection of Copenhagen Road and Compressor Station Road, on the boundary between Gorham and the Municipality of Shuniah.
Residents say the operation would constitute an incompatible land use.
Shuniah also has concerns but is working with the company to resolve them.
The company says it has satisfied the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's licensing requirements.
However, because residents' concerns are unresolved, the MNRF referred the application to the province's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
The tribunal has scheduled a four-day oral hearing in May.
Dan Nicholas, who speaks for the homeowners, says Nadin's plans appear to have changed significantly since they were first outlined a number of years ago.
"It was presented as a much smaller, lower-scale operation. Today it's completely different. Unlimited extraction, more or less. Rock crushing whenever, whatever suits their needs within the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. five days a week," Nicholas told Tbnewswatch.
Norm Nadin, co-owner of Nadin Contracting, said the company has extracted gravel from the pit in the past. The current plan, Nadin said, is to remove up to 60 truckloads daily, six months out of the year.
The pit is permitted under zoning approved by the Lakehead Rural Planning Board.
Nadin said that since the MNRF's guidelines have all been met, the onus is on the objectors to explain why the licence shouldn't be granted.
"We have all the documentation from an engineering company, environmentalists and everything. We did all the studies. So basically, they don't want us running on the local roads with trucks," he said.
Nadin added that this is an example of the challenges businesses face in the Thunder Bay area in expanding their operations.
"It's always been an issue for growth in this city, trying to keep everybody happy."
Residents feel the regulatory process favours business over quality of life
Nicholas, however, feels the regulatory process is weighted in favour of pit operators over the interests of the general public.
"It's taken about two years, three years of our time, and now we're having to spend money when there should be, I think, a more fair process and one that's geared toward protecting residents' quality of life," he said.
Nicholas expressed frustration with the fact that new gravel pits can still be opened even though the Thunder Bay area, he believes, already has about 190 quarries.
He said opponents aren't allowed to use the argument that "hey, we don't need this pit."
Nicholas also maintains that the rural road network Nadin's trucks will use is not suitable for heavy hauling.
In addition to noise and dust pollution, he said, the operation would present an unacceptable safety risk to people living along the haul route.
Rather than using Kivilahti, North Branch and Copenhagen Roads, residents want Nadin's trucks to take a little-used bush road to Highway 527.
Norm Nadin said that's not practical at all, as it's on Crown land and disconnected from the gravel pit due to topography including wetlands.
Although Copenhagen is already a designated haul route, the company has offered to use Compressor Station Road to Highway 527.
The Municipality of Shuniah, which is a party to the tribunal hearing, is currently in discussions with Nadin about that.
Copenhagen does not have a load restriction but Compressor Station is restricted to maximum loads of 6,000 kilograms.
Shuniah CAO Paul Greenwood said the municipality is discussing various options with Nadin that could alleviate community concerns about traffic, pollution, noise and vibration along the haul route.
These include using an annual or seasonal municipal heavy load permit for Compressor Station Road, restrictions on hours of operation, the alternate use of Copenhagen and Compressor Station for hauling, and setting a limit on the amount of aggregate extracted annually through the MNRF licensing process.