Thursday, November 22, 2012

The battle of Melancthon

Victory!

The megaquarry is dead, and citizen action killed it.

Background for those who haven't been following this story:

In 2006, Highland Companies began buying up land in Melancthon Township, a rural area about an hour and a half northwest of Toronto. Their story was that they were going to create a "world class" potato growing operation. Many suspected that aggregates, not potatoes, were at the bottom of this, and in March, 2011, Highland finally 'fessed up, announcing that they would develop an 2300-acre aggregate quarry.

Then the fight was on.

The prospect of losing thousands of acres of farmland, an abundant water supply, and a way of life, mobilized the farm community. Of course, big money was on the table, and there was much speculation among neighbours about who would cave in, and who would stand their ground.

Some, particularly those without heirs who would farm the land, rightly saw this as their chance to cash out and enjoy a comfortable retirement.

There was a recent precedent for all this in nearby Caledon, where a citizens coalition had won a 14-year fight to keep a quarry out of their scenic hills and dales. I know some of the people who led that fight, and they celebrated deservedly when the Ontario Municipal Board finally agreed with them in November, 2010.

But this was a different situation. Whereas Caledon is full of hobby farmers, affluent professionals and retirees, Bay Street money men, and well-connected business people, Melancthon is populated by real farm folk, many living on land passed down through several generations.

The revelation that the Highland project was backed by a multi-billion dollar U.S.-based hedge fund served to stiffen local resistance. Major fundraising events were organized, and people from the city brought their money and support. Meetings and media interviews were held in farmhouse kitchens.

It was the little guy against the big guy, the farmer against the hedge fund, the stuff of Hollywood movies.

And it had a happy ending, for some.

Highland Companies withdrew their application yesterday, noting that they felt they did "not have sufficient support from the community and government to justify proceeding with the approval process." Their president resigned at the same time.

No doubt, there were cheers in Melancthon when the word got around.

But...

Ontario, and especially the Greater Toronto Area, need aggregate for the concrete and asphalt that go into construction and maintenance of highways, bridges, sewers, houses, shopping malls, condo towers, schools, office buildings, industrial plants, recreational facilities, and the rest of the urban and suburban landscape.

It has to come from somewhere.

3 comments:

  1. I've been following this story for some time. I was under the impression that there is an abundance of the stuff in unpopulated areas of Northern Ontario. I thought this was one of the arguments???

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  2. The problem with those northern sites is distance from the main market, the GTA.

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  3. I guess that was Quebec's problem with Alberta oil up until this week, eh? Ha ha

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