Frustration and anger is setting in for residents of the British Settlement and Westcock area who are fighting to stop a proposed rock quarry from being developed in their community.
“There’s just no protection in a rural area. We really don’t have any say,” said Sharon Ward, whose home at 221 British Settlement Road is only about 25 to 30 feet from a right-of-way that is being considered as an access road for the quarry.
Ward said she is upset that she was not informed of a January 23 hearing when Bowsers Construction’s application for the proposed quarry was brought to the Southeast Planning Review and Adjustment Committee.
Ward’s home is within a couple hundred metres of the site on which the quarry would be established so she was surprised to only learn of the development when someone started putting survey tape around trees on her property in late February. She phoned the planning commission and was told she wasn’t notified because she was more than 100 metres from the quarry site.
Widespread opposition has been growing in the community over the proposed quarry for the past couple of weeks, with residents writing letters to the provincial government and gathering signatures for a petition. A recent public meeting drew more than 100 people who wanted to learn more about the development.
Roger Gouchie, chairman of the newly-formed Local Service District (LSD) advisory committee for the area, said residents are concerned about the impacts another quarry will bring to their community.
He said they are all-too-familiar with the effects from an already-existing rock quarry in the area that has been operating for decades. Concerns that have been voiced include periodic blasting, heavy truck and equipment traffic, noise, dust, cracked basement walls and foundations, damage to their well water supply, and property values being affected.
“You put another quarry in and that’s definitely going to have an impact,” he said.
For Ward, who babysits her grandchildren on a daily basis at the home she has shared with her husband Dale for the past 45 years, safety is her top concern.
“We’re so scared for the kids,” said Ward.
Most days, her grandchildren have free reign to run around and play in the yard. But that will likely have to change if gravel trucks start using the access road that runs along the side of her property. The road is only about 20 feet wide and she described it as more of a grown-over trail. Once used to access a woodlot, the trail hasn’t been used in decades, she said, and was “certainly never made for heavy equipment.”
“I have nothing against anyone wanting to do business. But this doesn’t seem to make any sense. There should be rules to help us out as well.”
Gouchie agreed, expressing frustration that the policies in place do not seem to protect rural communities but sway more in favour of industrial development.
“The wording is so vague in most of these rules and regulations . . . it kind of puts the residents on the defensive.”
Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton, who brought the issue to the provincial level this week through a member’s statement as well as submitting the residents’ petition to the Legislature, agreed that there doesn’t seem to be adequate land-use planning policies in place for rural areas.
“No priority is placed on protecting local communities,” she said.
Mitton, who met with a group of residents this week to discuss the issue, said they are understandably concerned about how their lives will be impacted, including air quality, water quality, sound pollution, and the degradation of their property values.
“Residents have already lost wells and had cracks in their foundations as a result of the existing quarries,” she said.
Mitton has met with the Minister of Environment and Local Government about the project and will continue to follow up.
Gouchie said one of their top demands they asked Mitton to bring to the provincial government was for an environmental assessment to be done on the quarry site and the surrounding area, as well as a review of the impacts of the existing quarry.
Several local property owners are even in the process of seeking legal advice when it comes to access rights to the right-of-way.
Ward questions why anyone would even be granted permission to use a 20-foot wide access and is angry that she should even have to hire a lawyer at her own expense for something that “shouldn’t be allowed in the first place."
Development in unincorporated areas such as British Settlement falls under the jurisdiction of the Southeast Planning Review and Adjustment Committee. The application was presented to the committee in January, with an explanation that pits and quarries are permitted on properties zoned as Rural Residential but are subject to terms and conditions set by the commission. These conditions are regulated by the Department of Environment and Local Government.
Bowsers received conditional approval for the application but no permit will actually be issued until the company meets all the terms imposed by the committee. These include: receiving approval for operation of the quarry from the Department of Environment: obtaining an access permit from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and a legal document for use of the right-of-way; ensuring the quarry site has a barrier to control access to the site; placing signs at each entrance bearing the words “danger” and “no trespassing,” and signifying the nature of the operation.