Arbour Farms’ Gravel Pit Plan Resurfaces in Mulmur

It isn’t a mega quarry, but it is an application for an aggregate licence nonetheless.

“That’s like comparing the elephant to the fly on the elephant’s backside,” said Adam Krehm, principal for Arbour Farms Limited, which is seeking approval of an about 103-acre aggregate licence in Mulmur.

“First, we’re not a quarry, we’re a gravel pit,” Krehm explained. “Secondly, we’re not even a hundredth the size of what The Highland Companies was proposing.”

Arbour Farms, which has investigated operating a gravel pit in Mulmur for more than a decade, re-filed its application for an aggregate licence earlier this month. The company will host a public meeting at Mulmur’s municipal office on Feb. 7 from 4 to 7 p.m.

“The community doesn’t want this to happen, but those who are outspoken in opposition to this don’t live anywhere near where the site is going to be,” Krehm said, suggesting many of the project’s opponents are weekenders.

Nonetheless, local residents and municipal councils are concerned about Arbour Farms’ plan to extract aggregate 20 metres below the water table.

Members of Conserve Our Rural Environment (CORE) have led the charge. However, efforts by The Banner to reach Jane Pepino, chair of CORE, for comment have been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Mulmur and Dufferin County await completion of a traffic peer review, which each municipality anticipates having in its hands relatively soon.

Mulmur council is wary about the possible impact of adding gravel trucks to the already treacherous stretch of Airport Road. The proposed gravel pit is located near the intersection of County Road 21 and Airport Road.

According to Dufferin’s database of collision reports, that section of Airport Road, from County Road 21 to Banda Road, was tied as the most collision-prone stretch of county road between 2003 and 2010. Adding gravel trucks to the equation could be a recipe of disaster, argued Mulmur Mayor Paul Mills.

“Everybody calls it carnage alley, because it is so dangerous with all the hills,” he said. “We’re just scared to death of this haul route.”

Arbour Farms has proposed a solution. Referring to technical traffic studies, Krehm noted the “accident rate on the Airport Road far exceeds King’s Highway averages” on weekends, but during the week, it is “considerably” lower.

“Our proposal contemplates putting trucks on the road during the week when the accident rates are far below the King’s Highway averages,” he said.

Mulmur resident Cheryl Russel, who has spoken before council in opposition to Arbour Farms on numerous occasions, isn’t on board. She believes the gravel trucks present a more dangerous scenario.

“As someone who drives Airport Road and lives in this area, that concerns me a great deal,” Russel said. “I don’t care what their experts say.”

Since Arbour Farms’ proposed entrance would have trucks exiting and entering the site from Airport Road, the county has a say in the process.

County officials will likely request Arbour Farms to construct, and pay for acceleration and deceleration lanes near the proposed pit’s entrance.

“It is more of an issue of access,” said Trevor Lewis, Dufferin’s former director of public works, who provides consulting services. “If the trucks are licensed, they’re licensed to go on any road. The only thing we can control is how they get onto the road.”

Residents worry Lisle Creek and the wells of nearby landowners could be impacted by  the planned below the water table extraction, but Krahm argued they wouldn’t.

“There probably won’t be an impact on the creek. That said, our plan calls for an adaptive management program,” he said, referring to Arbour Farms’ hydrogeological studies. “Should there be any impact, the mitigated measures will either slow down the rate of below the water table extraction or stop it all together.”

At any rate, Russel would prefer the application be denied altogether. If she learned anything from the mega quarry fight in nearby Melancthon, it was that Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) is inadequate.

“We really have to push to make sure the ARA review is done, and that there are changes to it,” Russel said. “Right now, aggregate supersedes almost everything in this province.”

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) 45-day commenting period for Arbour Farm’s application on the environmental registry (EBR) closes on Feb. 22. To view the application, visit the EBR site here.

By Chris Halliday
Published in the Orangeville Banner, June 22, 2014