The noise estimates associated with the proposal are flawed due to the fact that they begin with the assumption that the “surrounding area is essentially flat or gently rolling terrain.” The fact is that aggregate removal will take place at relatively high elevations on steep terrain on the flank of a valley and the extraction operation, if allowed to continue to completion, will remove a 20 m (65 ft) high hill. The noise associated with equipment operation will propagate in a direct line to nearby residences; no berm is likely to abate this noise. In addition, it appears that the proposed setbacks may be inconsistent with the Official Plan. The proposed operating hours of 6 am to 7 pm (Monday to Saturday) would create a severe inconvenience for many local residents, many of whom have retired to this area, drawn by the quiet surroundings. Truck traffic associated with the operation will propagate and echo throughout the valley; there is no indication that the specific local terrain has been taken into account in the noise study.
At peak operating capacity the maximum number of truck pass-bys per day could be as high as 500. Since these trucks will weigh between 20 and 35 tonnes, extensive and expensive damage is likely to result to local roads. Aside from the costly damage, there are safety issues related to this tremendous increase to heavy truck traffic in the area. Vehicular traffic along this road includes children on bicycles, school busses, slow-moving farm vehicles, ATVs, snowmobiles and tourist traffic; is it reasonable to expect to add hundreds of trucks per day to Shelter Valley road and not see a significant increase in serious traffic accidents? It is also unclear what routes trucks may take to and from the pit. Although the proposal suggests that most trucks will travel east on Shelter Valley Road, they may travel west (if the delivery site makes this the shortest route) and thereby inconvenience residents along the entire length of Shelter Valley Road. Trucks that do travel east will meet Percy Street at the bottom of a steep hill, creating potential safety problems with heavily loaded trucks.
The proposed gravel pit will have a significant negative impact on the local environment, due to increased noise and vibration due to large trucks (possibly in excess of 30 tonnes) and stationary equipment operation, and dust produced during aggregate extraction. In addition, the proposed pit may result in disturbances to a previously closed hazardous waste disposal area (the exact location of which is unclear), and will require the development of an intrusive roadway through an Environmental Control area, associated with a Cold Creek tributary.
Even though the proposed extraction will not proceed below the water table, it is nonetheless very likely to interfere with local wells and ponds. Disturbance of the overlying gravel may allow contaminants (such as dust suppressant, fuel and oil) to enter the local groundwater. In addition, large amounts of water will likely be removed from the aquifer; aggregate facilities of this size may use hundreds of thousands of litres of water per day at peak capacity, to wash gravel and suppress dust. Although the current site plan claims that no water taking will be required at the site, water is porposed as the primary dust suppressant. Water may be drawn from ponds on adjacent property and a water taking permit may be applied for in the future, allowing water to be drawn from a well on the site.
The operation of an aggregate facility on this site will result in dramatic and irrevocable changes that will destroy the scenic beauty of this area. Shelter Valley Road has become the location of choice for several new residences, due mainly to the tranquil environment and magnificent views of rolling hills. The introduction of raised berms around the extraction site will create an eyesore that will nonetheless be ineffective in screening the pit from the view of surrounding residences at higher elevations (210 to 230 m); the proposal is seriously flawed in this regard by not taking the steep local terrain into account. In addition, the proposed extraction will essentially remove a 20 m high hill, which is the highest terrain in the immediate area (230 m); surely it will not be possible to hide this fact with a 4 m berm. photos
The proposed aggregate operation has a tremendous potential for negative economic impact on the township. The economic impact will be most severe on local agricultural operations, which will suffer from dust (which can be disastrous on produce crops) and changes to the water table (which could dry up local irrigation ponds and wells). Shelter Valley road also supports several small businesses (such as artists’ studios, a camp ground and a golf course), all of which will suffer from the increased heavy truck traffic and disturbance to the ambience of the valley. Common sense dictates that the property values of numerous nearby residences and building lots will be significantly reduced; it is also likely that the construction of new residences along Shelter Valley Road will be curtailed (as will the renovation and improvement of existing homes). The tranquil rural environment currently makes Shelter Valley Road an attractive location for home construction on large lots. In addition, the region in question benefits from close proximity to the Oak Ridges Moraine, making it almost certainly a prime area for future residential development.