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800-acre blasting quarry could hurt local Caledon businesses and tourism industry

By Rachel Morgan-Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Feb 25, 2024
– Brampton, Mississauga, Niagara

For someone who has never been, the pictures online of Caledon’s northwest depict an enchanting getaway just outside Toronto. 

In a little more than half-an-hour, concrete highrises give way to towering trees, networks of rivers, creeks and streams lined with natural trails. The lush, rolling landscape conjures images of destinations many associate with travel abroad. 

Now imagine your first visit to the “greenest town in Ontario”, weaving through the paths of the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. Suddenly, the symphony of wind blowing through the leaves and rushing water below is violently interrupted by a deep thundering boom as the nearby explosion buckles your knees. 

A cloud of dust moves toward you. This was not what a day-trip to Caledon was supposed to bring.

This is what might happen if the giant blasting quarry proposed just north of the Village of Cataract is approved.

In December 2022, Canadian Building Materials (CBM), a subsidiary of the Brazilian company Votorantim Cimentos, submitted an application to the Town of Caledon for an Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendment that would allow the 800-acres of land, encompassing the north and south sides of Charleston side road, from Main Street to Mississauga Road, to be rezoned from agricultural land to land designated for extractive industries. 

The quarry, which the company has publicly stated will provide materials needed for the construction of Highway 413 — another proposed project that would greatly disrupt the ecological and social integrity of Caledon — has caused an intense uproar from citizens who have widespread concerns over the threats to the natural environment, air and water quality issues that could have dire consequences for human health, and the alteration of the landscape that makes Caledon, Caledon.

 

Forks of the Credit Provincial Park is a popular destination for those visiting Caledon. The proposed quarry would operate adjacent to the west end of the park.

(Rachel Morgan/The Pointer)

 

Caledon is not immune to the negative impacts of the sand, stone and gravel industry. For decades, aggregate operations have left entire sections of the town scarred, with massive mounds of extracted earth and gaping craters left unfilled by the companies, because they so often stop just before the point when they are contractually obligated to fill in these gaping cavernous holes and mitigate the damage to restore the landscape to a semblance of its former natural state. 

As a result, parts of Caledon look more like a moonscape than a continuation of the GTA’s largest remaining greenscape untouched by human hands.

 

Image of a Caledon quarry shows how the surrounding greenspace and watershed is devastated by aggregate operations. 

(YouTube)

 

For over a year, the Forks of the Credit Preservation Group (FCPG) has been working diligently, hiring their own experts and legal counsel, to build a case against the massive quarry that would gouge a hole in the map of Caledon. The group has been working independently and in connection with Caledon Mayor Annette Groves and Town staff to update the Town’s aggregate policies, which, as was publicized just prior to the 2022 municipal election, are some of the worst across the province. With this realization, the Town implemented an interim control bylaw (ICBL) on new aggregate operations, to give it time to strengthen its policies. The ICBL was extended in October 2023 for an additional year — a move that has been challenged at the Ontario Land Tribunal by CBM.

But the presence of the quarry not only serves a threat to the natural environment and nearby residents, who have concerns about their well water and air quality. The eyesore hole in the grown, dusty brown amongst fields of green, will also detract from Caledon’s hard fought for tourism industry.

In July 2022, Golf Canada and Osprey Valley announced a major partnership that would see the headquarters of the national association move to TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley in Caledon. 

Current construction at the TPC (Tournament Players Club) Toronto Osprey Valley, a 54-hole golf facility located just north of Highway 24 in Alton, will include a new clubhouse and conference amenities, improvements to the practice facility and onsite accommodations.

“Caledon is the perfect home for Canadian golf and I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Golf Canada, Golf Ontario and the Club Management Association of Canada (CMAC) to our town,” former Caledon mayor Allan Thompson said in a press release at the time. “Our expansive rural beauty combined with vibrant urban centres and a thriving hospitality industry will help drive Golf Canada’s success, in turn, the new golf campus will create 475 jobs during construction and 185 relocating to Caledon, increase tourism, recreation and support local businesses.”

 

Many members of Caledon’s former council attended the announcement of Osprey Valley’s new home for Canadian golf in July 2022.

(Town of Caledon)

 

But what the former mayor and fellow councillors had overlooked was the fact that the Humeniuk Foundation, who owns Osprey Valley, also owned much of the land on the north end of Charleston sideroad, which was sold to CBM for the construction of the quarry.

“We’re very excited about this amazing PGA course, it’s being built in this resort. I know the employees are very excited about it. But we’re concerned that the other half of this development for them, which is this blasting quarry below the water table, is in the middle of a residential area for all of us,” Phil Winters, co-owner of Goodlot Farm and Farmstead Brewing Company, told The Pointer.

While the TPC golf complex and Golf Canada headquarters serves to attract business to the area, the other half of the equation could end up being more than just a sand, stone and gravel quarry. For the Town of Caledon, it could be a money pit.

At a community meeting held by the Forks of the Credit Preservation Group Wednesday, Mayor Groves told citizens that towns do not make much money by having aggregate operations within their borders. Under current legislation, quarry operators are taxed at the same rate as farmers, except for areas where the land is being used to directly extract resources, which is taxed at an industrial rate. The Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario (TAPMO) have been delegating to the provincial government to create a special tax class for aggregate operations that could bring in more funds. At the current rate, Groves said the taxes made from the CBM quarry would not even be enough to fix the roads that would inevitably be damaged by the trucks coming out of the operation.

 

Goodlot Farm and Farmstead Brewing Company is a meeting spot for many Caledonians and visitors. The brewery also teamed up with the Forks of the Credit Preservation group to hold a community meeting about the quarry last summer.

(Rachel Morgan/The Pointer)

 

Instead the Town is more concerned with the dollars it could lose if the quarry is built in the way that it could detract both near and far tourists from visiting some of Caledon’s gems in the area.

“We’re concerned, especially, that this is going to be a huge turn from what the Town of Caledon has been trying to promote,” Winters said.

In 2019, the most recent numbers publicly available, the Town of Caledon drew in almost 600,000 tourists which added an additional $15 million in revenue to the Region of Peel. The northwest reaches of Caledon hold some unique attractions including:

  • Millcroft Inn and Spa (Vintage Hotels)

  • Alton Mill Arts Centre

  • Forks of the Credit Provincial Park

  • Goodlot Farm and Farmstead Brewing Company

  • Osprey Valley

  • Caledon Mountain Ski Club

  • Caledon Mountain Trout Club

 

Winters, whose Goodlot products from his brewery can be found in many local restaurants and at the LCBO, is concerned with how the quarry will impact the tourist draw. But he is also worried about how the quarry will impact the viability of his business.

“There’s fear on a personal farming level for my water supply, and on a business level for my brewery, which depends on the groundwater. That produces beer; turns our farm product into a finished product that people enjoy here on our farm,” he said.

If built, the CBM quarry will blast below the water table from which the Credit River is fed, posing a grave risk for alteration of the course of nearby groundwater which could divert flow.

Winters’ farm and brewery is northwest of the proposed site so it is unclear whether the groundwater he draws from could be affected from the blasting — while it is almost certain that anything downstream from the site will be — but many others surrounding the site are concerned with the fact that the quarry will pull from local groundwater sources to accommodate its operations which could lead to water shortages.

But Winters isn’t the only one with concerns. Martin Kouprie, general Manager at the Alton Mill, shares some of the concerns about tourist draw, stating the area has a “stellar reputation” for being a place in harmony with nature. But he believes these concerns can be mitigated if CBM initiates proper consultation with the community.

“They need to rethink these ‘quarries of old’ and come up with a new proposal that fits within the community while balancing the needs of sustainability and growth. So they need to be proactive but their decision making has to be community centric,” he said. “If you want to build a quarry, there’s probably a good reason for that; we need housing, we need roads, we need infrastructure. But how do you balance the need to grow with maintaining the continuity and quality of life?”

Working at the Alton Mill, Kouprie said his philosophy is that the community always comes first and he spends a lot of time talking to the Mill’s neighbours and seeing how the business can bring value to the community. 

 

In 1999, the first studio workshop opened within the mill and since its renovations in the early 2000s, has become a symbol of the cultural scene of rural Caledon.

(Rachel Morgan/The Pointer)

 

“There are things we could do, for instance, that would benefit us financially, like filling in the pond to expand our parking,” he told The Pointer. “But we have to temper those ambitions with the needs of the community, because the community wouldn’t benefit from that. So the quarry owners need to do the same thing.”

“You’ve got to be accountable to your neighbours and the community at large.”

Winters is hard pressed to see the value the quarry could have.

“From a tourism standpoint, this isn’t quite the nature of what the future economic driver of this region is to be,” he said, also expressing concern with things like flyrock which could cause accidents for people and property. “And that is going to dissuade people from wanting to come up with a forecast to come and hang out in the green region.”

The Pointer asked Winters, whose farm and brewery has served as a community gathering spot for opposition to the quarry, supplying the venue for some of the FCPG meetings, if there are any accommodations that could be made that would make him okay with the quarry in the area, to which he said there is not much of a compromise. 

“The only compromise would be for the quarry to be half the size and to have very restricted hours of operation and tracking of the aggregate in terms of the safety,” Winters said. “I don’t think if we struck that compromise, they would accept. So it is an all or nothing sort of approach.”

With the sobering impact that the quarry stands to have on local business, Groves stressed at the meeting Wednesday that she encourages any residents and local business owners who have concerns about aggregate operations in the town to participate in the pre-merit hearing for CBM’s challenge against the Town’s ICBL at the OLT. 

Individuals and businesses can register for participant status to have their concerns heard before a decision is made on how to proceed with the case.

The pre-merit hearing is scheduled for March 11. 

 

 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_


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