The message is clear – residents don’t want asphalt plant in Plantagenet
The vacant plot of land along County Road 17 may be the preferred location for PB Paving and Landscaping to build its proposed asphalt plant, but it is not the preferred location for more than 450 Plantagenet residents.
More than 300 angry residents crowded into the Knights of Columbus hall in Alfred on Monday, July 16 for a public meeting to voice their concerns about the proposed plant to members of Alfred-Plantagenet council, the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) and consultants representing the company.
Township bylaw officers and police were on hand to control traffic in the village and ensure no members of the public became unruly during the meeting, which became heated at times.
Councillor Raymond Fredette had to declare a conflict of interest and was unable to participate in the public meeting. In addition to the fact that his son, Sylvain, is involved in the project, it will also be located in ward two, which is Fredette's ward.
Mayor Jean-Yves Lalonde noted council, along with representatives from the UCPR and LRL Associates (also known as Levac, Robichaud, Leclerc Associates), would answer any questions the public had about the proposed asphalt plant, which is slated for construction on a property situated on the north side of County Road 17.
The property being considered is part of Lot 18, Concession 2 in the former Township of North Plantagenet.
Unfortunately, when frustrated and angry residents asked members of council and consultants a series of direct questions, both refused to answer.
"Would you want your grandchildren living near an asphalt plant?" one resident asked Lalonde, who simply shrugged in reply.
The township is considering a zoning amendment to change the current zoning from rural - exception 25 to mineral aggregate resource, which would pave the way for the asphalt plant.
Sylvain Boudreau, a planner with the UCPR, presented the counties' position on the issue, noting the united counties' would have to make an amendment to its official plan to change the current zoning from rural - exception 25 to trade and industrial.
He explained that use permitted under the rural - exception 25 designation includes low density residential, general agriculture use and industrial/commercial use such as a golf course of specialty workshop.
The mineral aggregate resource designation permits agricultural use, pits and quarries, as well as the construction of permanent asphalt and/or concrete plants subject to site plan control and special zoning.
The trade and industrial designation policy area would permit heavy industrial use provided all environmental concerns are addressed.
Boudreau said there is a watercourse that runs along the property, as well as two areas of scientific natural interest (ANSI).
"These are areas that are identified as having life science or earth science value," Boudreau explained. "The plant will be located in the Jessup's Falls area which is an ANSI identified by the united counties in 1999. It remains an ANSI to this day."
The two areas of interest located on the proposed site, Boudreau noted, include an area of deciduous forest and a section of caves located in the area.
"The forest is of regional interest and importance, while the system of caves is of provincial importance," he said. "Part of the proposal requests that part of the ANSI (the wooded area) be removed. It is important to note that the plant would be located approximately 450 metres away from the ANSI. Development is permitted in these areas provided there is no negative impact on the environment or ecological function they were designated for."
He said the South Nation Conservation (SNC) is currently carrying out a study of the fish habitat in the water to determine if any species would be adversely affected by an asphalt plant.
"If there is an impact, obviously there would be setbacks the company would have to follow," Boudreau commented.
Another concern, Boudreau said, is the impact the plant could have on traffic along County Road 17. According to a report compiled by the UCPR, the plant would have a maximum capacity of 250 tonnes of asphalt per hour. It is estimated there could be 40 trucks per hour entering and leaving the plant.
"County Road 17 is a primary artery and is a major transportation link between Ottawa and Montreal," Boudreau said. "There is a lot of traffic on that highway now."
He went on to note that the company and its consultants have submitted a number of studies including a natural environmental impact assessment, noise study, traffic study, planning rationale, preliminary emission (air quality) report and fish habitat study.
"Those studies are now undergoing a peer review and we are awaiting comments before we bring any recommendation forward to council," Boudreau stated. "All of these studies are available for public review. All you need to do is contact me in writing and I will have copies of the studies put on CD."
Chris Robichaud of LRL Associates spoke on behalf of PB Paving and Landscaping and noted the property is approximately 33 hectares in size and the plant structure would take up about two hectares. He said the plant would be located approximately 680 feet north of County Road 17.
"The people who want to bring this plant to the area are local businesspeople," Robichaud said. "They saw a need for a plant like this and feel there is a need for one here. Right now, the asphalt used for various projects comes from as far away as Cornwall and Ottawa."
Robichaud stressed that "all necessary standards and regulations are being followed."
Residents speak out
Numerous residents lined up at the podium for a chance to speak, including Ronald Walker, who lives on Concession 1 adjacent to where the proposed asphalt plant could be built.
He said he reviewed numerous studies and did research and wrote his own 33-page report on "everything that is missing.
"The consultants have said that this proposal represents good planning and is in the public interest," Walker stated. "There is absolutely no evidence in any study or proposal that this is in the public interest. As you can see from the number of people here tonight, there are many who disagree that this is in the public interest."
Walker's comments were met with a loud chorus of cheers and foot stomping. He pointed out more than 450 residents had signed a petition calling on the township to vote against the proposed asphalt plant.
He went on to state that an asphalt plant would have a negative impact on the quality of life residents currently enjoy, would present serious health and safety risks, would harm the environment and significantly decrease property values.
"I believe the people here tonight are experts," he said. "But they are presenting us with a plant that runs perfectly, without incident, and this is managed perfectly. Their expert opinions don't take into account everything that can go wrong."
One resident shouted that even if the plant were to run perfectly, residents still wouldn't want it.
Walker highlighted an asphalt plant in Wilton, which is located near Kingston, Ontario. The plant was opened in 2004 and residents spent four years complaining to the ministry of environment about the incessant noise and toxic odour emitting from the plant.
"There are newspaper articles that quote people as saying they didn't even want to go outside anymore," Walker remarked. "After four years, the ministry of environment finally looked into the plant and found several violations, including contamination. The plant was fined $25,000. This proves that if we had an asphalt plant here and there was a problem, we'd have to fight like hell to get anyone to pay attention."
Walker said criticized the lack of public consultation - many residents in attendance only found out about the proposed plant and public meeting last week - and noted 10 other sites were considered by the company but the County Road 17 site was the "preferred" location.
"There are numerous other sites where a plant like this would be fine," he said. "There are no environmental issues and the land is already zoned for it. This location may be preferred by PB Paving and Landscaping, but it's not preferred by us."
Sylvain Charbonneau, a resident on Concession 1, said a quiet country setting filled with quaint country homes and clean, fresh air is "not the place" for an asphalt plant.
"This nearly pristine rural setting is not the place for dirty, smelly industrial development," he commented. "You see a community that is in collective agreement on a single matter. If you go ahead with this, you will effectively destroy everything we enjoy, work for and strive to protect."
Charbonneau then reminded Lalonde of the words used in his Mayor's Message on the township website and in other publications.
"You said the environment is a key in every decision the township makes," he stated. "You encouraged everyone to keep our municipality clean, encouraged us to recycle and said that was going to be our legacy. Were those your words, Mr. Mayor. Because if you approve this, you are going against everything you claim to stand for."
Charbonneau noted residents had come up with a list of more than 100 questions regarding the proposed asphalt plant and suggested another public meeting should be held so "every single one of those 100 questions is answered."
One young woman presented council with a 450-signature petition she started and recalled that she was a student at St. Paul in Plantagenet when Lalonde was principal there.
"I recalled the speeches you used to give us about working hard and pursuing our passion," she stated. "I can tell you, I followed that advice when I put together my petition."
Dr. Brian Hickey said residents should be leary of the "peers" reviewing the studies complied by consultants because those peers likely won't be objective in their conclusions.
"The scientists that work for the ministry of natural resources and the ministry of environment can say what they really want to say about any of this," he offered. "They are constrained by government bureaucracy and their opinion will be skewed."
Suzanne Lavoie, who lives on County Road 17 only a few lots over from where the proposed plant could be built, brought up Fredette's conflict of interest.
"It's interesting that he has a conflict and the plant could be built in ward two, which is his ward," she remarked. "I live in ward two and so do a lot of people here tonight. Those of us who live there currently have no council representation because our councillor has a conflict of interest. Essentially, we are now orphans of democracy. We have no voice to stand up for us."
Lavoie proceeded to ask the mayor numerous questions, which he did not respond to.