London·Video

Talk of proposed gravel pit divides quiet village outside London

A proposed sand and gravel quarry near Thorndale, Ont.'s main intersection pits a neighbourhood opposition group against one of the village's wealthiest families.

The fight pits one of Thorndale's wealthiest families against an entire neighbourhood

'You gotta be an idiot to think a gravel pit a few hundred feet away isn't going to make a big difference.'

1 year ago
Duration 1:46
A proposed sand and gravel pit in Thorndale, Ont., faces growing opposition from a neighbourhood group looking to stop the mine dead in its tracks.

A fight over a sand and gravel pit in the village of Thorndale, Ont., puts one of the village's wealthiest families against a neighbourhood group that says the mining operation would create noise, dust, traffic and would undermine the quiet community's bucolic way of life. 

The proposed site is only a few hundred metres away from the village's main intersection of King St. and Nissouri Rd. and directly upwind from a neighbourhood of single family homes with walking trails, playgrounds and a public school.

"It just seems very odd to be placing it that close to town, subdivisions, schools. The dust is going to go in that direction for sure," said Rae Tamowski, the spokesman for the neighbourhood group opposed to the gravel pit.

If approved, the gravel pit would yield 300,000 tonnes of lucrative construction-grade sand and gravel each year for the next three to five years for roads, foundations and concrete.

Critics say proposed pit would bring noise, traffic; dust

Rae Tamowski speaks for the neighbourhood group opposed to a proposed sand and gravel pit located not far from the main intersection in the village of Thorndale, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Opponents claim the mining operation would bring the rumble of more heavy trucks through the community and that prevailing winds would carry the dust generated from mining into the community, coating nearby homes, yards and even swimming pools in a thick layer of silica dust. 

Tamowski's own backyard would face directly onto the site. He worries the mining operation would have a deleterious effect on not just his own lifestyle, but the way of life of the entire close-knit community.

"It's breaking the spirit of the community, I think," he said. "We just don't want it there."

"Look at all the lovely homes they're building in the subdivision here and now they're going to put this right beside it."

However, the owners of the proposed sand and gravel pit counter the region's already hard-pressed construction industry would only be hurt if the mining operation didn't go ahead, arguing the material extracted from the site would be used to build several new residential developments set to go up in the rapidly growing community.

Gravel would be used to build new homes in flourishing community

Some residents say the rumble of gravel trucks from nearby mines is already too frequent in the otherwise quiet village of 800. Another gravel pit would only bring more. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"We hope to use some of this aggregate resource in Thorndale," said Janet Elliott, who, along with her husband Pat, own Fieldcrest, a agriculture company that has its hand in crop harvesting, processing as well as urban development.

Elliott said the site is ideal for the proposed mine because it would be a close source of construction-grade gravel for at least two new residential developments in the flourishing community. 

"Using aggregate close to its source is considered responsible because there's less trucking involved."

The Elliotts are one of the community's wealthiest and most influential families. They are the namesake of Elliott Trail, the main road that snakes its way through the nearby subdivision they developed that is located only a few hundred metres downwind from the proposed gravel pit.

It's the same neighbourhood that gravel pit opponents worry would be coated with wind-driven dust if the family is given the green light by provincial and municipal authorities to begin mining. 

Elliott said she's hired consultants to find ways to mitigate any potential dust that would be generated by the proposed gravel pit, adding that the province will also add a number of comments regarding potential wind-driven dust once ministry officials process their license application for the proposed site. 

"I'd like to point out too that just about 300 metres to the south of where we're proposing, there's the active Middlesex County gravel and sand pit and to the north of the same property there's one that closed about three years ago." 

"I've never heard any concerns in the very near area." 

Few villagers willing to speak publicly about the issue

The proposed site of the gravel pit would be this field, which is currently owned by the Elliott family. The village's main intersection is a few hundred metres down the road. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Getting someone to speak publicly, either for or against the proposal in the close-knit community of about 800 people is easier said than done.

A number of Thorndale residents who spoke with CBC News on Monday did not want to publicly comment on the proposed mining operation for fear of upsetting their neighbours, or losing customers who might feel strongly one way or another. 

Still, there will be plenty of opportunity for residents to have their thoughts on the proposal heard by government officials.

The proposed gravel pit still requires approvals for licensing under the Aggregate Resources Act and zoning approvals from the Municipality of Thames Centre. 

Members of the public with questions or concerns about the project can email their feedback to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) directly until April 26.

The MNRF requires any letter of objection sent by email must include the individual's mailing address.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler

Reporter

Colin Butler covers the environment, real estate, justice as well as urban and rural affairs for CBC News in London, Ont. He is a veteran journalist with 20 years' experience in print, radio and television in seven Canadian cities. You can email him at colin.butler@cbc.ca.

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