OLT approves minutes of settlement for controversial Elginburg quarry expansion

Signage at the site of the proposed quarry expansion. Kingstonist file photo by Cris Vilela.

A longstanding controversial application to extend the Elginburg Quarry came before the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) in a one-day hearing on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Eric Crowe, who chaired the OLT hearing, concluded that the proposed extension of the quarry represents good planning and is in the public interest, that the City Official Planning amendments should be approved, that the City zoning by-law amendment should be approved, and that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry should be directed to issue the Aggregate Resource Act license in accordance with the site plan.

Kingston City Council had previously rejected a proposed expansion of the Coco Properties Corporation quarry in Elginburg, on May 17, 2022, citing environmental impacts and concerns from area residents. 

At that time, City staff had hoped to reach a settlement with the quarry owners to end a lengthy battle between the two parties. Beginning in 2014, the owners have sought to expand the existing quarry from 57 hectares and 292 meters of frontage along Unity Road to 144 hectares and 500 meters of frontage.

Today, Crowe indicated that, since that time, “there have been three case management conferences on this,” and that the two parties have reached Minutes of Settlement (a document that is written after a settlement is made between parties outlining how parties have agreed to resolve their matter).

Spencer Putnam appeared as counsel for the City of Kingston and called no witnesses.

Kim Mullins, counsel for Green Infastructure Partners Inc. (GIP) (an infrastructure company which has acquired the corporation formerly known as Coco Properties), first made an opening statement indicating that GIP and the City had indeed entered into Minutes of Settlement, saying, “[We] are here today before you jointly requesting that the Tribunal approve the Official Plan amendment and zoning by-law amendment for the extension [of the Quarry], and direct the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to issue the ARA [Aggregate Resources Act] license for the extension.”

Next, Mullins called Brian Zeman of MHBC Planning to provide expert testimony. Zeman is the President of MHBC and, due to his professional experience, has been qualified as an expert in planning and aggregate-related matters before a number of different Tribunals in Ontario. The Tribunal and the City’s counsel accepted him as an expert in the area of planning and aggregate-related matters.

Before Mullins took Zeman through the list of objections from participants at each of the case management conferences, she noted there was an obvious misconception among the objectors about the extent of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. Many of the comments and concerns were directly related to the ongoing operations of the licensed Elginburg Quarry, which was not before the Tribunal and over which the Tribunal does not have jurisdiction.    

After two hours of detailed reading and discussion, the expert concluded, “Overall, it is my opinion that the extension [of the quarry as proposed] represents good planning and is in the public interest… it is my professional opinion that the City Official Planning amendment…  should be approved. That the City zoning by-law amendment… should be approved and that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry should be directed to issue the Aggregate Resource Act license in accordance with the site plan.”

Mullins concluded her questioning and Putnam did not take the opportunity to question Zeman.

The Chair of the Tribunal thanked Zeman personally, saying, “Your testimony is very forthright, thorough, and very understandable. I just want to commend you on your testimony today; even though I’m not too familiar with the Aggregate Resources Act, you made it very very clear to me in a very concise manner, so I appreciate that.”

Crowe then asked for closing submissions.

Mullins stated that “the uncontradicted expert evidence before you of Mr. Zeman is that the Official Plan amendment, the zoning by-law amendment and the Aggregate Resources Act application have regard for matters of provincial interests, are consistent with the provincial policy statement, conform with the City of Kingston Official Plan, and represent good planning.” 

She pointed out, “The proposal has been extensively studied and subject to review by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks, as well as other ministries, a Conservation Authority, and the City, including peer reviews on behalf of the City of the noise and blasting reports.”

“The participants have raised a number of concerns, but those concerns are unsupported by any expert evidence and have been addressed by Mr. Zeman,” she stressed. “So accordingly, on behalf of GIP, I would ask the Tribunal to allow the appeal for the Official Plan amendment and approve the proposed Official Plan amendment… Allow the zoning by-law appeal and… direct the Minister to issue the Aggregate Resources Act License.”

Putnam submitted, “I agree with Ms. Mullins’ concluding remarks, the City respectfully requests the Tribunal allow the appeal.”

With that, Crowe ordered it be made so, saying that based on “the uncontroverted planning evidence and expert opinion provided by Mr. Zeman, the Tribunal is persuaded by the evidence that the proposal promotes good land use planning and it is in the public interest.”

“The Tribunal also wishes to commend both parties for coming to a resolution,” he concluded. “The Tribunal recognizes the cooperation to come to a Minutes of Settlement for the City and the applicant. I understand it’s been since 2014 since the initial application was processed. The participants’ concerns have been addressed adequately through the testimony of Mr. Zeman.”

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