St. Stephen – About 20 people attended an open house Monday for the hearing of objections to a rezoning application which would see a 23 hectare piece of property on the Strang Road in Oak Bay changed from rural to quarry.
Quality of water and air, along with noise pollution seemed to be the main concerns expressed about the proposed rezoning and expansion of the existing quarry.
Louis Leger, a representative of Northern Group, which owns the property, and which operates the existing quarry and asphalt plant at the location, said people who attended may not have been altogether happy or satisfied, but they left with information and the answers to their questions.
“Our main objective is to be good neighbours,” said Leger. He said at public meetings like that held at the Oak Bay Community Hall, people arrive with information that contains “a lot of difference between perception and reality,” which is why, he said, there were plenty of Northern Group employees on hand to answer questions.
Leger said the company had engineers, safety people and quarry operators on hand for the session, which ran from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Leger assured property owners there would not be an increase in traffic, dust or noise if the quarry site is expanded.
“Our objective is not to grow the operation. It’s simply to continue the operation and to be able to plan better,” said Leger,
The existing quarry in the same area next to Route 1 has been in operation for 12 years.
Leger said depending on the volume of rock that it produces, the existing quarry is estimated by Leger to have “10-15, maybe 20 years left” in production.
Site maps show the quarry portion of rezoned land will only occupy 6.12 hectares adjacent to the existing quarry, well within the standard 600 metre buffer zone.
Leger said he does not believe quarrying would start on the rezoned property for another three years or more, but obtaining the rezoning would influence how the company develops the existing quarry.
He questioned the claim some people had made saying they had heard blasting at the existing quarry last summer, noting “we haven’t blasted in two years.
“If there was noise, it wasn’t us.”
As for disturbing the water table, Leger said the blasts are not directed deeply into the ground, but rather horizontally after the topsoil is removed.
“We are not blasting to the water table. We are not even close to the water table…not even close to well water.”
He stressed the blasting “will not disturb the water table, not at the level we are at.”
Leger said people have the impression the quarry sustains large blasts. He said the blasts are small, controlled and timed.
When the digging for the rocks to be crushed is complete, the company must remediate the site and replace the topsoil.
He said the quality of the stone, crushed and used for paving regional roads, is of the highest quality which makes the roads last longer.
“People have genuine concerns, which we respect,” said Leger. He said an example of the company trying to be good neighbours was to hold the five hour information session, instead of just putting an ad in the paper.
“We’re not trying to convince people to like it,” said Leger. “We’re just giving them the facts and saying we will be good neighbours. We must be; we want to be.”
Lujene Blair and her husband Tony have 12 acres beside the proposed land for rezoning. They moved to their house last August, aware of the quarry operation.
Blair said she felt it was important to attend the meeting to get information. She is concerned about her water, as are other nearby residents, all of whom have wells. Blair said she has only recently learned there is arsenic in the soil which is another concern if it is disturbed and works its way into the water supply. She’s also concerned about the vicinity of a brook to the proposed quarry site.
“We’re all for progress,” said Blair.”I like to see work for people. I’m not against that.
“There’s a lot of information we need to process, talk it over and see how we feel about it.”
Alex Henderson, the community planning officer for the SNBSC, said the service commission’s Planning Review Adjustment Committee, which meets to discuss the issue on April 9, will provide the Minister of Environment and local Government with its views as will the LSD of St. David.
Henderson said the minister will review the information and make a decision whether to allow the rezoning.