CORE Burlington Progress Report: November 2022

The CORE Burlington team continues to log hundreds of volunteer hours opposing Nelson Aggregates’ application to significantly increase the size of its 500-acre open-pit mine on Mt. Nemo, on Burlington’s Escarpment.

 

Nelson Aggregates needs the following six approvals:

    • City of Burlington Official Plan amendment.

    • Region of Halton Official Plan amendment.

    • Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) Plan amendment.

    • NEC Development Permit.

    • Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF) operating license for the proposed expansion.

    • MNRF approval for the existing site plan amendment to integrate with the proposed expansion.

 

We’ve been monitoring Nelson’s operation of its current pit. How Nelson conducts itself NOW is a strong indicator of how they will conduct themselves in the future.

 

Nelson is breaking some rules:

Our most significant finding is a serious contravention of the ‘Environmental Protection Act’ for toxic dust emissions, during blasting, that travel off-site over the surrounding community.  We have reported this to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, who have delegated their responsibility to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, who have, in turn, taken no material action to investigate these weekly non-compliance events and stop them.  We intend to keep working on this, with the goal of having regulators enforce the EPA rules that oversee toxic dust emissions from blasting.

A cloud of gritty grey dust engulfs homes from a blast at Nelson Quarry, June 2, 2022

Nelson’s response to public objection letters was less-than-stellar:

In December 2020 two-hundred CORE Burlington supporters sent formal objections to the Ministry of Natural Resources, opposing Nelson’s application.  Nelson’s response was generic and included an overwhelming amount of technical information.  This past July an impressive 170 of the original 200 objectors officially reaffirmed their objections, stating that Nelson’s generic and confusing response had NOT satisfied their original concerns.

800 Issues of Concern with Nelson’s Application.

The Joint Agency Review Team (JART) is comprised of staff and technical experts representing the City of Burlington, Region of Halton, NEC, and Conservation Halton.  The JART has gone over all of Nelson’s application studies and flagged over 800 issues of concern, many significant, and many still unresolved.  The team’s review is expected to result in a report made to Burlington City Council, Regional Council and the Niagara Escarpment Commission.  This report is critical, as it will inform the decisions (yes or no) made by the two councils and by the NEC regarding Nelson’s application.

Based on the findings to date of the Joint Agency Review Team, we expect that the City and Region will not support Nelson’s quarry-expansion application.

 

BUT…

Nelson has abandoned the Joint Agency Review Team process before its work is done.  Nelson wants the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) to decide on their application without waiting for the City of Burlington and the Region of Halton to render their decisions.

 

Nelson has filed an appeal with the OLT against the City of Burlington and the Region of Halton for a failure to make their respective decisions within 120 days.  The ‘normal’ 120-day development review process IS sufficient for small applications, such as a home renovation, but no one, including Nelson, entered this particular review process (which is extremely complex and requires input by many stakeholders and experts) thinking it would be completed in 120 days.  In fact, there were ‘milestone schedules’ published early on in the process that clearly indicated that this would take much longer than 120 days.  Nelson’s decision to prematurely abandon the application review process with the City and Region is an unfortunate and disappointing decision.  The over 800 issues raised by staff and technical experts are still unresolved.  It is Nelson’s responsibility to resolve these 800 issues.

There’s a reason for the process.

The review process enables our elected representatives at the City and the Region to render informed decisions about major applications that will have significant impacts on the community, such as Nelsons’ plans to significantly increase its mine on Burlington’s escarpment.  Given that the NEC review of the application continues, we ask, why abandon a process prematurely for two of the decision-makers, while the process continues for a third?

The NEC is likely to say ‘no’:

We expect that the NEC will deny Nelson its requested amendment and Development Permit because of the unresolved issues noted above. At a public meeting Nelson stated that they, too, anticipate this denial.  In response to a denial by the NEC, we believe that Nelson will make a second application to the Ontario Land Tribunal to appeal the NEC decision.

What will the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry do?

We expect the MNRF will also refer its approval of an operating license to the OLT.  We expect this because of those 170 CORE supporters who, in July of this year, confirmed to the MNRF that the original objections to Nelson’s plans, that they submitted in December 2020, remained unsatisfied.

What happens next?

Thanks to ongoing and generous donations from our supporters, CORE Burlington has been able to hire technical experts who have identified significant material issues associated with the expansion application.  Preliminary results indicate that many of the conclusions reached by the various studies done by Nelson Aggregates’ experts, DO NOT adequately identify the negative impacts on the community of Nelson’s proposed quarry expansion.  Our experts are still flushing things out, but we do expect to share our findings with the JART, City and Regional Councils, and the Niagara Escarpment Commission in order to strengthen their respective cases. We will continue to depend on our supporters to fund our experts so that they can finish their essential work.

 

CORE Burlington needs to participate in the OLT hearing.

We need to do this in order to bring forward the technical issues identified by our experts.  At the OLT hearing we will require representation by our lawyer, which will have significant cost to us.  We will need to rely on our supporters to fund our legal costs for the OLT.

 

We need the City and the Region to vigorously oppose the application at the OLT.

The citizens of Burlington and Halton Region must insist that City and Regional councils commit the necessary technical, legal and financial resources to strongly oppose Nelson Aggregates’ application at the all-important Ontario Land Tribunal.  CORE Burlington will be asking for your help in the future to make sure this message is clearly communicated to the City and Region.

What is the impact of this premature appeal to the OLT by Nelson?

The bottom line: there are material deficiencies in Nelson’s application that have not been resolved to the satisfaction of the Joint Agency Review Team, who represent the City, the Region and the Niagara Escarpment Commission.  Nelson’s premature initiation of the OLT process does NOT change the fact that this expansion application is technically flawed.  Given the number and significance of these technical deficiencies, we expect that any unbiased decision maker (Council, NEC or OLT Adjudicator) will conclude that this application is highly problematic, and therefore, must be denied.

 

We know.  We’re always asking you for money.

Believe us when we say, we’re tired of endlessly fundraising.  Raising money takes up a massive amount of our time and we are reluctant to repeatedly come to the community with another request for money.  Sometimes, we feel exhausted and not sure how we’re going to come up with the next chunk of money to pay for our David-and-Goliath fight.  But we are fighting, on your behalf for something we all love: our beautiful, life-filled, water-filled, wooded, farmed, UNESCO world biosphere escarpment, and this keeps us going.  As do you…

 

So, if you can, please donate (again) by e-transfer to coreburlington@gmail.com or through credit card, or PayPal, here.