Report on the Meridian Quarry

Meridian Brick’s Aldershot Quarry. Orange boundaries indicate the three elements of the quarry: Aldershot West, Aldershot Centre and Aldershot East.

The Aldershot quarry (now operated by Meridian) is preparing to excavate shale from the third, East Quarry. The site is east of King Road and west of Westhaven Drive, in the Tyandaga subdivision. The quarry lands are Provincially approved and licenced for extraction.

Understandably, the Meridian plans have created concerns in the community, especially pertaining to public health and safety.

Meridian manufactures an estimated 55% of the clay brick produced in Canada, and 45% is made here in Burlington. The quarry produces Queenston shale, and this is the only type of shale used for brick making in Ontario today. While the economic benefits cannot be overlooked, this must not be at the expense of negatively impacting the community.

Looking back on how Burlington has evolved, clearly if we were beginning to plan our City, a quarry within the urban area would not be the appropriate location. However, the Aldershot Quarry has a long history in Burlington. It has been in operation since the 1920’s and was first licenced under the Pits and Quarries Control Act in 1972 and then subsequently under the Aggregates Resource Act in June 1990.

It is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that oversees the rules governing aggregate management in Ontario by issuing licences, permits and changes to existing approvals. The Ministry also inspects aggregate operations and responds to complaints, enforces compliance and ensures rehabilitation is carried out on the site.

The site plans for the approved licence show three operational cells (quarries). The expansion into the east cell is within the approved licence area. The east quarry is 16.4 hectares in size, and approximately 10.8 hectares will be disturbed.

I have consistently stated that, as Mayor, I expect the quarry to operate with no health impact to any resident in Burlington. I will remain actively involved to ensure regulatory compliance of the quarry and that information requested by residents is provided.

I continue to speak regularly with MPP Eleanor McMahon about the quarry, and we remain committed to working together to ensure information is made available to residents.

In late January, a meeting was arranged by MPP McMahon, Councillor Craven and myself for a group of residents to come together with Meridian representatives, Provincial staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and Conservation Halton.

As a result of the meeting, there is now streamlined access to information from the Province, and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change initiated a peer review of the Meridian dust studies. Additionally, a scoped review of the noise studies was also undertaken. I understand this work is now complete and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are in the process of analyzing the results. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will determine the next steps and conduct any necessary follow-up with Meridian.

In addition to concerns about adverse impacts from noise and dust, other issues have been raised such as tree removal and endangered species just to name a few.

Minimizing the human impact on the environment is very important to me. However, tree removal on the Meridian site is an unfortunate reality. Meridian confirmed last week that their ecologist marked 7 trees for removal in March. The plans to remove trees from the forested East Quarry will occur in 6 stages over 25 years.

While Meridian Brick is required to operate in compliance with its approved Aggregate Resources Act site plan, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry confirm that Meridian has no requirement to complete any additional studies under the Aggregate Resources Act to remove trees nor do they require any tree cutting permits for this licenced aggregate site. The Act requires rehabilitation of a quarry during its operational lifetime, and Meridian’s plan for the centre and East Quarry includes the re-planting of more than 29,000 trees.

Meridian has elected to undertake surveys to assess whether species at risk exist on site. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has informed the City that Meridian will continue surveys for Jefferson Salamanders during this Spring season because of dry conditions in 2017. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be conducting a scoped review pertaining to endangered species during the Spring with results expected in Fall of 2018. Should Meridian find species at risk are likely to be impacted by their operations, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will comment with regard to compliance requirements under the Endangered Species Act.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry staff have re-confirmed there is no verified presence of the Jefferson salamander on or directly adjacent to the Meridian quarry. They further advise that findings should be formally reported to the MNRF for appropriate action. I support the protection of all confirmed endangered species in our City.

There has also been a suggestion that a new use should be found for this site. That option is unlikely. It is the property owner who would have to make a decision to change the land use. Meridian’s East Quarry has approximately 25 years of supply available and it is expected that the shale will continue to be used for brick manufacturing for that time. Also, the planning framework affecting these lands is complex and protects for a quarry operation by allowing Mineral Resource Extraction. The quarry is permitted in all Provincial, Regional and City planning documents.

I have also been asked if the City would request that Meridian adopt Cornerstone Standards Certification (CSC). Cornerstone is a voluntary certification system for the responsible extraction of aggregates and it encourages a quarry to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. I believe this is an excellent suggestion and I wholeheartedly support this certification by Meridian.

Quarry regulatory and licencing questions should be directed to Mr. Mark Tyler, Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Mr. Tyler can be reached at (416) 314-2208 (mark.tyler@ontario.ca).

Burlington residents have my assurance that I will continue to insist that our Community receive the information needed to confirm the satisfactory operation of the Meridian Quarry.

Facebook Live Q&A – Part 2

For your convenience, I decided to separate the Facebook Live Q & A into two sections.  The previous post focused on snow clearing, mobility hubs, traffic, transit and cycling.

This post will host questions regarding affordable housing, property tax, Meridian quarry, hydro wires over Burlington beach, electric vehicles, outdoor hockey rinks and my family’s Christmas traditions.Some answers have been expanded to include additional information.

If you missed my Facebook Live on Tuesday evening, you can watch it by going to my Facebook Page.

How do we plan on assisting older adults to remain in their downtown neighbourhoods? Is there a potential plan for co-housing?

One of the things I started was the Mayor’s Seniors’ Housing Task Force. We continue to have discussions on how to improve and promote processes to encourage more secondary dwelling suites in the city. Also, there are discussions in the community that would look at involving the not-for-profit sector to help facilitate seniors’ housing in the community for those who can’t afford the current prices in Burlington.

What are your plans for bringing affordable housing?

In our Mobility Hub plans, we have an opportunity to put in special community improvement plans that would encourage rental housing once we get some definition around the mobility hubs, the official plan designations, the area-specific plans and what the zoning bylaw will say.

We have received development applications for Georgian Court, which is in the Surrey Lane and Warwick Court area. Currently, there are 280, 2-3 bedroom condo units on the property. The application is for 1,450 rental units on that site. To be an inclusive city, we need to have more rental housing.

I don’t have a definitive thought on this project yet.  There is a lot to consider, and our staff is taking a look at the proposal in great detail because there are some issues to address before we determine anything.

What can you or will do to reduce our property tax?

It is unrealistic to think that property taxes can be reduced as that would result in a reduction in services. The reality is that we have a city that needs to be funded properly.  We need to have inflationary type increases maintain our services and our infrastructure. The proposed operating budget for 2018 has a 4.19% increase which includes increases in funding for: the base operations of the city; Provincially legislated employment standards impact; Transit Sustainability; Arbitrated Fire Settlement; capital infrastructure renewal and a new business case of Sports field Maintenance Enhancements.

Overall, when we factor in the Education Tax and the Region of Halton increase, our overall increase in property taxes for 2018 will be in the range of 2.49%.

 As a Tyandaga resident, I am very concerned about the health and environmental impact of the proposed clear cutting of 35 acres in a residential area for a shale quarry.  Will you endorse a request for review for the permanent protection of this green space?

This has been an active file in my office since the beginning of 2016.  This is not a simple issue.

I’ve had many meetings and discussions about the quarry with the Minister of Natural Resources, MPP Eleanor McMahon, Meridian, residents and I’ve attended the two Meridian information public meetings.

I believe we need more information than what we have now. The information shared so far by Meridian is insufficient, and clearly does not address the area residents’ concerns. We will continue to put pressure on the province and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to confirm their regulation process and give us some definition and input on how they will accept a site plan East cell that Meridian will be expanding in to.

I also met with Gord Miller, former Environmental Commissioner, who gave a presentation to the Tyandaga Residents back on November 16th.  I couldn’t attend the community meeting due to a previous commitment but met with Gord to see and hear the presentation he prepared.  His suggestion is for the residents to file a review with the Environmental Commissioner under the Environmental Bill of Rights. This is a legitimate avenue that I am respectful and supportive of.

What kind of things do you and your family like to do over Christmas time?  Any fun family traditions?

I’m married to Cheryl.  She has 4 daughters, and I have 3 daughters. Christmas is a very important time for our family to get together. We typically get together on Christmas Eve.  My wife has a tradition of buying all the girls new pajamas; they all try them on and gather around for a nice group photo. We have five grandchildren including one granddaughter who now will be part of that tradition.

One of the special times for me is on Boxing Day. I’m a graduate of Nelson High School, and at noon on the 26th my childhood buddies and I get together to play touch football.  This is something I look forward to every year.

What are your thoughts on Burlington being chosen to have a Cannabis store?

The decision to place a retail outlet in Burlington is one made by the provincial government. The city will work as closely as possible with our provincial counterparts to ensure we have input into the location. It is the city’s expectation that the province will follow the city’s zoning bylaw. The City of Burlington has information at www.burlington.ca/cannabis to provide links to helpful information, including to the provincial and federal information.

Can we get some outdoor hockey rinks?

Yes! The city has a program that will guide you on ways to develop an outdoor hockey rink. The city will help facilitate and provide you with some equipment to put it together.  They won’t construct the rink for you, but they will guide you through it.  Here is the Neighbourhood Rink Application

 Will the hydro wires along the beach be removed within the next 10 years?

That is the plan!

Halton Region is investing about $50m over the next 20-25 years to:

  • Move the hydro towers to the other side of the skyway bridge.
  • Buy some homes along the beach way. We’ve already acquired 12 out of 27 homes, and we expect to acquire more in the New Year.  They were all willing sellers; no one is being forced out.
  • Improve the Burlington Beachway Park and make it an attractive natural area that attracts people from the broader region.

Can you elaborate on Burlington’s plan to introduce vehicles to the grid (V2G) and distributed energy resources (DER) with mobile electric self-driving vehicle infrastructure – EV Charge Infrastructure?

I have great belief that electric vehicles are a great way for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Burlington has approved the installation of 20 recharging stations over the next five years at our public parking lots in downtown. I think we should do more to encourage and accommodate electric vehicles and we will do more over time.

After the floods of 2014, what did the city do to make sure this is minimized in the future if we get that type of downpour again?

The City of Burlington and the Region of Halton have committed approximately $130M to address stormwater issues as well as wastewater issues.  The money is to optimize the wastewater sewer system throughout the region.

There is Enhanced Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy Program that offers financial support for residents who are making the improvements to their home.  Information on available subsidies can be found here.

The City of Burlington in partnering with Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo launched The Home Flood Protection Program.  It offers residents a complete 50 point visual assessment of potential sources of water entry into the home for $125.  Burlington was the pilot city for this program, and due to its success, it’s now being rolled out in communities all over Canada.

After the storm, Burlington City Council committed another $20M to the stormwater infrastructure within the city.  We need to build bigger bridges with wider openings, so the water doesn’t get trapped behind the bridges. We’re also looking at all the creeks to make sure that there is no debris build-up that blocks the flow of the water.