On Tuesday, Kingston City Council voted against the proposed expansion of the Elginburg Quarry owned and operated by Coco Properties Limited, setting up a potential legal battle at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).
For Countryside Councillor Gary Oosterhof, who represents the district that includes the quarry site, Tuesday’s vote marked a win for his community. “This definitely feels like a victory for us,” Oosterhof said. “The war isn’t over, but we won a battle, and I think it means a lot when a community feels listened to, you know; that breathes some life into it.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Council was presented with a report from staff, who sought to end a lengthy legal battle with the quarry owners by advising that the City enter into minutes of settlement with the applicants, which would have paved the way for the site’s expansion. The report recommended the City proceed with amendments to the Official Plan and zoning by-law, with many area residents speaking out against the application. Attached to the report were over 1,000 pages of letters from area residents, many of whom wanted to stop the quarry’s significant and lengthy plans for expansion.
“The ask for this expansion… is not small. This is a 100-year graph. And I think that’s too much permission to be granted,” said Oosterhof of the projected timeline for the expanded quarry. “I think we could do better by protecting the future, by saying it should be segmented or partitioned or divided somehow, in order to give the surrounding community some assurance. One hundred years is a long time.”
The Countryside representative was not alone in speaking out against the expansion, with a number of councillors voicing their concerns over the potential impact on the environment and surrounding neighbourhoods. According to Oosterhof, the support from other areas of the City meant a lot to his constituents.
“[There was a] sense of relief and a sense that ‘big brother’ came to our side. We didn’t feel so alone as a community,” remarked Oosterhof. “The urban community came alongside the rural community on Tuesday night, and it felt like we were together.”
While the majority of Council was against the proposal, with seven members voting to reject the staff recommendation, two councillors, including Mayor Bryan Paterson, were in favour of granting the amendments. Paterson raised issues surrounding the likelihood of a loss by the City at the OLT, as well as the legal costs associated with such a battle.
“I feel that, by fighting this at the [OLT], we will spend $120,000 of taxpayer money from other residents, and it’s very likely not to be effective,” said the Mayor.
Oosterhof agreed that such a fight comes with its share of costs, but he said that some of the usual concerns do not apply in this case, because the City receives money back from the quarry project. “We always have to consider budgetary issues, and I understand that that is going to be somewhat of an investment. But on the other hand, as I told councillors, we collect a tariff on the aggregate, and that is money in the bank for us for years and years… to come.”
With Council taking a stand against the expansion, the proposal will now head to the provincial land tribunal, another battle the community is ready to fight.
“We don’t know what the end result will be at the Ontario Land Tribunal, but I feel certain we will now be heard and considered more,” said Oosterhof.