‘Unbridled capitalism’: Napanee residents raise concerns about proposed asphalt plant

Tomlinson’s proposed asphalt plant in Napanee has been debated in the Town’s Council meetings, with residents raising concerns about long-term effects on their health and the environment. Tomlinson reports that there have been been “no outstanding technical issues identified in reviews.” Photo by Yona Harvey.

Napanee residents voiced concerns ranging from increased traffic, long-term health impact, misrepresentation of data, even claims of “unbridled capitalism” regarding R.W. Tomlinson Ltd.’s proposed permanent asphalt plant in Napanee at a special Council session.

Streamed live on YouTube, the meeting took place at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. After a report was presented detailing Tomlinson’s experience in the construction infrastructure industry — the company builds roads, sewers and bridges and owns 25 pits and quarries in Ontario — Craig Bellinger, Project Manager for Tomlinson, discussed the proposed permanent asphalt plant, to be located at 8205 County Road 2 in Napanee. The topic of the asphalt plant has been a point of contention for many of those in Napanee since it was first proposed.

Town of Greater Napanee Council members meet on Zoom for a special Council session on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Screenshot by Yona Harvey.

“Tomlinson owns the Napanee quarry. Certain highway projects require paving for 24 hours. We would require 24-hour operation at the plant to provide asphalt to those projects,” Bellinger said.

Several studies have been undertaken after Tomlinson requested permission outside of the existing zoning to add the permanent asphalt plant. The studies include an air quality assessment, traffic study, noise study, planning report, land use planning, stormwater study, and an environmental and economic impact assessment, according to Neal DeRuyter, a planner with MHBC Planning.

Neal DeRuyter

“These reports have been subject to reviews: the County, Quinte Conservation Authority, (the) local Public Health unit — There’s no outstanding technical issues identified as a result of these extensive reviews,” DeRuyter asserted.

DeRuyter also added that the Town’s Official Plan permits an asphalt plant and aggregate-related uses, and that the closest house from the proposed plant is 400 metres away, with seven houses within 500 metres of the plant.

“There’s significant economic, social and environmental benefits of locating an asphalt plant near sources of high-quality stone,” said DeRuyter.

‘Vexatious little ants at Tomlinson’s picnic of excess

Napanee Council members and invited members of the public were able to speak and ask questions at 7 p.m., moderated by Dorene Weston, an independent facilitator.

Coun. Ellen Johnson raised the issue of the increase in traffic — roughly 12 trucks per hour — and the toll that might take on the roads. Michael Nobes, the Town of Napanee’s Director of Development Services, said, “these routes are County-level roads designed and constructed to handle heavy equipment. If it’s very apparent where the damage is coming from, the County would have the ability to ask the operator of the site to pay for damage.”

Coun. Terry Richardson wanted to know if there was any consideration for a service road that would run north from the plant to alleviate the increased traffic generated by the asphalt plant. In response, Arthur Gordon of Castleglenn Consultants said, “there was no consideration for a bypass route” in the traffic study he led.

“We feel that all residents of Napanee deserve clean air, protected waterways, quiet nights, safe roads and a quality of life that comes from living in a small idyllic town.”

– Casey Wells

The following are excerpts of comments made by community members and the special Council session:

Matthew King

Matthew King

King said that there are 25 residences near the plant, compared to the seven that were reported by Tomlinson.

“This is a terrible location for an asphalt plant. I’m concerned this is going to impact my long-term physical and mental health. The residents have already been impacted by [Tomlinson’s] temporary plant. If I had known this, I would not have purchased my house at this location.

“A theme from all the studies is that it ‘meets minimum standards.’ I did not move to Napanee to live in minimum standards. Nowhere does [the report] talk about the smell—I’ve already smelled asphalt from the temporary plant.”

Greg Ivens

Greg Ivens

“My concerns are on the health of my family and the property price of my home.”

Ivens cited studies about carcinogens — such as those emitted by asphalt plants — and their effect on people. “What is your dust mitigation plan? Are there monitoring stations on site?” he asked.

Emily Lau, an Air Quality Engineer, answered that, “there is a best management practices plan. These plans have detailed standard operating procedures that Tomlinson has signed up on, to carry regular inspections.”

Shaune Lucas

Shaune Lucas

“I would strongly suggest Council follow up with a second meeting, hopefully in-person. The concern I have with the population density we have in Napanee… [is that the plant will] negatively impact current and potential investors. We have some projects on the go — questions are being asked… I’m worried about the stigmatism (sic).”

Lucas also asked about the possibility of fires at the plant, asking, “who’s responsible and who will pay for any damage?” Bellinger answered that Tomlinson operates four asphalt plants and have never had any fires. “We do have emergency plans, [and] people are trained,” he assured.

Vicki Stewart

“This is an impassioned plea on my behalf, and as a member of Keep Napanee Great (KNG).
You cannot pave over an ant nest colony that is Napanee. Like ants, we residents work hard to protect our homes and the health of our most vulnerable. When our way of life is threatened, we will not be steamrolled into submission.”

“On November 15, 2021, Tomlinson sued KNG for costs of its legal fees in order to mount a defence for our application for leave to appeal: $32,251.90 in legal costs. We, KNG, are the annoying vexatious little ants at Tomlinson’s picnic of excess,” Stewart continued.

“On February 4, 2022, the OLT (Ontario Land Tribunal) decided against awarding them costs citing that ‘there is an appearance of bad faith on the part of Tomlinson in that bringing a motion for cause against a community group has the effect of litigation chill. The merits of Tomlinson’s motion for cause is weak has been rejected by the tribunal… which leaves open the possibility that the motion itself was unreasonable. It is important to look at the context. Based on the material provided by KNG, there is no doubt that the mobile plants emit several toxins that poses substantial risk to harm humans and the environment,’” she shared.

“It is an intimidation tactic by a multi-million dollar company against a tiny community group,” Stewart said. “We need to stop this before it’s instituted for decades.”

Casey Wells

Casey Wells and family. Submitted photo.

“We feel that all residents of Napanee deserve clean air, protected waterways, quiet nights, safe roads and a quality of life that comes from living in a small idyllic town. [There’s a] misrepresentation of data. From what we can see, there’s three seasonal operations paying $17 an hour. This will not offset the tremendous cost to our community.”

Wells asked if anyone from the family-owned company attended the meeting, to which Bellinger replied, “I’m not sure if Ron (Tomlinson, president of R.W. Tomlinson Ltd.) is on or not.”

“If I had a family-run business looking at an $11-million investment in a town, I’d have the courtesy to show up,” Wells responded.

Dave Rogers

“When blasting happens, my house shakes. You can say it’s perceived, but when I have picture frames that fall off, that’s not perception, that’s reality.

“I had my first grandchild born, the property we purchased has a large yard. We foresee our grandchildren coming here to play. I can’t imagine that the smell from an asphalt plant is gonna make my family want to come here.”

Hannah Hofbauer

Hannah Hofbauer

“I am opposed to this proposal. [I’d like to] request an in-person meeting. This is my heartfelt plea to the Council. I worry that this is going to hurt our Town for decades to come,” Hofbauer said.

“What are future generations gonna be left with after you’ve used all the resources and sucked the quarry dry?” she asked.

Bellinger answered: “We own the land, we still want to use it. [When a] quarry has to be rehabilitated, generally there’s an application to reuse site to become commercial or residential.”

Mike Sewell

“My big concern is discretionary data. I’ve written a lot of studies and I’ve looked at the data that’s provided. In all the studies, and all the reports, it’s very discretionary. It serves the needs of Tomlinson’s. Reports are strategically understated, they’re almost templating. I’ve seen similar reports: it’s not what they report, but how they report it.”

Garth McNaughton

Garth McNaughton

“Few things demonstrate a contradiction between an incompatibility of democracy and unbridled capitalism more than proposals like that of Tomlinson’s. Despite overwhelming popular opposition to its agenda, the corporation believes pursuit of profit for the exclusive benefit of its owners trumps public opinion, public interest, the ecology, and the community.

“Let us hope municipal regulators have the courage and the will and show genuine democratic accountability by giving an unequivocal ‘no’ to the proposed asphalt plant.”

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