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Greater Napanee residents come together against proposed asphalt plant

Though planning for an asphalt development plant in Greater Napanee has been, arguably, slow moving over a three-year period, residents opposing the development have been gaining momentum at a rapid rate.

In just two days, over 100 people have signed a petition to prevent a permanent hot asphalt plant proposal for 8205 County Road 2. A public Facebook group entitled Greater Napanee Residents Against the Asphalt Plant was formed, and in just five days the group has reached 140+ members. The focus of the group is to raise awareness of the proposed development and object to an amendment to a bylaw that would allow the development to move forward.

“I have lived in this exact area since 1972 and this would be the worst development,” one resident expressed on the public group. A number of others chimed in sharing similar opinions regarding the plant.

Nancy Oake, a resident on Highway 2 across from the proposed site, shared her fears if the plant moves forward.

“My whole family has lived [here] for many years. We were all born in the same house as our mother. Her parents lived there before that. Our father had a small hobby farm there. It sickens me to think of what might happen to this beautiful area. Many of the other residents have also lived here for generations. We don’t need or want the noise or smell or dust or traffic that an asphalt plant will bring,” Oake said.

Casey Wells, founder of the Facebook group, posted some information regarding the issue and why he feels all Greater Napanee residents should be concerned.

“Tomlinson will be requesting that the plant run 160 days a year, 24 hours a day. This would take place in spring, summer and fall. On average, the plant would produce 80,000 tons of asphalt a year for 500 tons a day. Peak days will see 1,800 tons of hot-mix asphalt produced. Seventy per cent of this would travel down County Road 2 and County Road 5 (Palace Road). The plant would add a new truck [on the road] every five to six minutes. The Napanee Quarry will likely remain operational for several decades,” it reads. “The Zoning By-Law Amendment (ZBA) should not be approved.”

Wells told the Kingstonist that he has taken a particular interest in the issue as the health implications would affect himself, his family, and his farm.

“I think it is a major concern for all residents of Napanee. From anyone wanting to go downtown to eat, playing golf, go to school at Southview or take a walk at Spring Side Park, the smell will be there. It concerns the air we breathe and there is no way to get away from it,” Wells explained.

Another resident, Pat Hearns, lives on Palace Road, and shared fears of health concerns with a plant of this nature moving in next door.

“The fumes emitted from an asphalt plant are obnoxious and toxic. The dust produced by a cement plant is environmentally unfriendly, polluting and killing the surrounding vegetation. An inspection of the other plants in our area will prove this. Exposure to the toxic and foul fumes produced by an asphalt plant cause skin rash, headaches, eye and throat irritation, and fatigue. There are many such reasons why most other municipalities have forced these plants to locate far from city limits and would not consider allowing such pollution to be produced so close to its municipal residences,” Hearns explained.

“The blasting in the quarry above at one time would shake my house so badly that objects would be knocked from walls. This disregard for the welfare of the residents of Palace Road is evident and unfortunate, and has not gone unnoticed. The new threat from R. W. Tomlinson will have a further negative effect on my property value,” Hearns declared.

Down the road, Wells fears for his family and farm if the plant is developed.

“The back end of our property would be about 650 meters from the proposed site… I am a father with three children [under] five years old. We came to Napanee as we view it as a wonderful place for our family to grow,” Wells added. “It is going to be noisy. The hot asphalt plant may run evenings and nights.”

Locator map and image of an asphalt plant from Report to Greater Napanee Town Council dated December 2019.

Wells expressed that perhaps “a more suitable location that is more than a kilometer from downtown” for an asphalt plant “would make sense,” as well as to distance it more from residential homes and school properties.

“We encourage industry in our town, but are gravely concerned about the proximity to the town’s drinking water and residences.

“The proposed location is located 1.7 kilometres to South view Public School, 900 meters from the Napanee River, 1.8 kilometres from Rotary Park, 900 meters from Royal Coachman, 1.25 kilometres from the new Gibbard District, and 750 metres from the new Palace Road Condos set to be developed.

“It is obvious, this is not the location for an asphalt plant, and Tomlinson bought the land knowing it was not zoned for it,” Wells posted on the Facebook page.

Wells said he was caught “off guard” when he learned of the development just last week because he had not received a letter regarding the proposed plant. Being so close to his home, and to downtown, he was surprised not to have received one. Some other neighbours did, however. The letter is dated Monday, Apr. 12, 2021, but one resident shared her letter with the group and said it was not delivered until Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2021. It reads:

“The intent of this letter is to inform you of Tomlinson’s plan to amend the Zoning Bylaw 02-22 to rezone a portion of the subject property… in The Town of Greater Napanee (8205 County Road 2), to permit a permanent asphalt plant.

“The zoning application is specifically for lands located at the south end of the existing Tomlinson Napanee Quarry… The proposed plant will use crushed stone from our existing quarry to produce high quality asphalt. The asphalt plant will supply high quality asphalt to local construction markets in the Town of Greater Napanee and immediate surrounding area.  Having a close-to-market asphalt supply lowers infrastructure construction and maintenance costs, and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions produced from trucking these materials from asphalt plants located farther away.”

Tomlinson Ltd. named five reports in the letter that had been completed; however, they were not attached to the letter when distributed. The reports are also not published on the Tomlinson Ltd. website or the Town of Greater Napanee website. The five reports named in the letter are: Transportation Impact Assessment (July, 2020), Stormwater Management Study (June, 2020), Planning Report (August, 2020), Environmental Impact Assessment (June, 2020), and Acoustic Assessment (August, 2020).

A resident neighbouring the proposed site reached out to Tomlinson asking for the studies, which were supplied in PDF form. They have not been otherwise published, as far as Wells or the Kingstonist has been able to discover by publication time. Wells has posted four of these five studies on the Facebook page, in full.

When posting the Acoustic Assessment Report to the Facebook page, Wells alluded to the fact that the reports may not be unbiased.

“You will notice in the report [paid for by Tomlinson], that it was written by individuals who have been previously employed by Tomlinson, and the office is located in Ottawa,” Wells noted.

“In the report’s summary, the authors note that noise impacts can be brought to ‘acceptable levels’ with appropriate mitigation. Neither individual has a stake in our community and ‘acceptable levels’ may differ from ear to ear,” Wells added.

For example, an acceptable noise level in a large urban city, such as Ottawa or Toronto, would likely be much different compared to an acceptable noise level to someone in a more rural area, such as Greater Napanee.

According to the Municipal Act, 2001, c.25 authorizes “a local municipality to prohibit and regulate with respect to public nuisances, including matters that, in the opinion of council, are or could become or cause public nuisances.” Alternatively, “the residents of a municipality should be ensured an environment free from unusual, unnecessary, or excessive noise, which may degrade the quality and tranquillity of their lives or cause a nuisance.”

According to Greater Napanee’s noise bylaw, “this exemption does not apply to… any normal noise that emanates from a commercial/business park zone, as defined in the Zoning By-law No. 02-22, that results from an essential part of the business process; that is established on the property from which the noise originated,” which is the bylaw Tomlinson is proposing council rezone in order for the asphalt plant to move forward. The bylaw can be read in its entirety here.

“We came together through Facebook and wanted to raise awareness in our community, as the letter from Tomlinson was shared with a limited amount of residences,” Wells said.

R. W. Tomlinson Ltd. acquired the proposed site — the Don Hard Quarry and the lands immediately south of it — in 2018. In December, 2019, Rob Pierce first brought the project to Greater Napanee council. Current zoning permitted a portable asphalt plant and Pierce was then proposing a zoning amendment for a permanent plant. Following rezoning, Tomlinson would be required for review and approval by MECP. Tomlinson proposed to meet with Greater Napanee planning staff in early 2020 to begin planning. The full report to council can be viewed here.

Studies were conducted in summer 2020. Letters to some nearby residents were distributed in April 2021.

An update was brought to council on Tuesday, Apr. 27, during a Greater Napanee Regular Council Meeting. It was presented in CAO Ray Callery’s Service Area Updates, and read:

“Tomlinson is undertaking an update to their noise study to include cumulative impacts of the quarry operations in conjunction with the proposed asphalt plant operations. At the time of writing, Tomlinson has not requested to advance to a public meeting,” which can be read in Callery’s Service Area Updates, 10.1, on page 237, here.

The report was presented for information and was not discussed among council. The item can be viewed on the Town’s YouTube channel for the April 27, 2021 meeting, at the 55 minute mark, found here.   

A petition is being circulated in hopes of convincing Greater Napanee council not to amend its bylaw to allow the asphalt plant to operate at the proposed location.

“We believe that if people are informed, they will understand that an amendment to this by-law would end in a net negative for our community,” Wells said. “Greater Napanee is a wonderful place to grow a family,” he added, hoping it will remain a safe, family-centred place in the future.

The petition, which had nearly 100 signatures in 48 hours and has since gained over 60 more, can be found here.

Founders and active members of the Greater Napanee Residents Against the Asphalt Plant Facebook page are hosting their first zoom meeting on Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Wells has asked that anyone interested in sitting on the board to contact him through the Facebook page.
(Note: Casey Wells’s Facebook name is: Casey Hofbauer).

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