Simcoe-area gravel pit game-changer for residents

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Surprises frequently await those who make their home in the agricultural zone.

And for a number of residents in the north end of Simcoe, that surprise involves a local excavator who wants to activate zoning on a substantial gravel pit operation.

“We’ve been here 38 years, and suddenly, it’s going to change everything,” Stan Jaworski told Norfolk’s public hearing committee by audio link on Dec. 1. “Who’s going to compensate me for that? I’m very upset about it.”

Neighbour Jeremy Krupa shared similar sentiments.

“I’m not familiar with the process,” Krupa said. “This is the first time I’ve had a mining company want to build in my backyard.”

At issue is a planning application from Livingston Excavating and Trucking, of Simcoe, to re-designate a 90-acre agricultural parcel at the intersection of Windham East Quarter Line Road and Fourteenth Street as extractive industrial. The Ministry of Natural Resources has designated the property for aggregate under the title of the Emerson Pit.

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At the Dec. 1 proceeding, Norfolk council heard that five million tonnes is available for extraction at a rate of 150,000 tonnes a year. Brian Zemen, the planning consultant acting on behalf of Gerry Livingston, said the pit could have a lifespan of more than 30 years.

Zemen said there are no plans to dynamite or run noisy crushing equipment. He said the aggregate mix is primarily sand, which will be screened to separate out the gravel.

That said – depending on the project Livingston is working on – Zemen said as many as five dump trucks could come and go per hour during peak periods.

The purpose of the Dec. 1 hearing was to gather additional public input. Staff will take the feedback into consideration when it returns in the new year with recommendations.

This is the second time in nearly 20 years that Livingston Excavating and Trucking has sought to open a gravel pit in the agricultural zone on the outskirts of Simcoe.

Gerry Livingston did as much with his pit operation on the south side of Simcoe on Highway 24. That property was also zoned agricultural but had been identified in official mapping as a potential site for aggregate extraction.

Recognizing it is not practical or cost-effective to transport aggregate over long distances, the province has identified gravel pits as a priority for development. One of the few major zoning changes allowed on prime agricultural land in Ontario involves aggregate extraction.

Residents in the north end of Simcoe are also concerned because Livingston intends to extract 8.5 metres below the water table. They fear an impact on wells, which are comparatively shallow compared to what Livingston Excavating has in mind.

In a review of Livingston’s application, the Ministry of Environment has asked for a study of all private wells within 500 metres of the Emerson Pit. Data will be used as a baseline to monitor what impacts – if any – extractive activity has on ground water.

Aggregate extraction is not new to the neighbourhood. Cayuga Materials once operated a gravel pit in the area. Dufferin Aggregates has maintained an extraction operation on Fourteenth Street for many years, one where gravel is extracted below the water table.