Nelson Aggregate has been denied permits for a new quarry and aggregate processing operation on the Mount Nemo plateau of the Niagara Escarpment.
In a unanimous decision released earlier today, the consolidated hearings board (Joint Board) dismissed Nelson’s application for permits, citing the protection of the Jefferson Salamander and its habitat as a primary reason for the decision. For a PDF copy of the quarry expansion application decision click here.
“For protection of the unique and sensitive ecologic areas of the Jefferson Salamander habitat, particularly the two known breeding ponds within the prescribed habitat area, the Joint Board finds that Nelson had not made sufficient provision for the protection of these unique ecologic and environmentally-sensitive areas in the event that Nelson’s projections are wrong,” the Joint Board decision states.
News of the Joint Board decision was welcomed by Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring.
“This is excellent news for the people of Burlington and for the Niagara Escarpment, a world biosphere reserve,” Goldring said in a news release issued late this afternoon.
Nelson’s quarry proposal had previously been rejected by Burlington city council, Halton’s regional council, Conservation Halton and the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC).
The Joint Board’s decision was released after a four-year hearing process, including several preliminary hearings and a main hearing that lasted several months and included nearly 300 exhibits.
The board heard from 60 witnesses, including 47 experts and 13 members of the public.  The city retained nine expert witnesses who appeared before the board and provided evidence covering hydrology; hydrogeology; biology; wetlands; salamanders; agriculture; air quality; human health; and planning.
“My thanks go out to the city’s legal team, including environmental lawyer Rod Northey of Fogler Rubinoff in Toronto,” said Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor, who represents the Mount Nemo area of north Burlington.
“City staff demonstrated the values that we as a community cherish. They showed a passion for the environment and a commitment to preserving the Niagara Escarpment.”
Today’s decision was also applauded by environmental advocacy groups, including Protecting Escarpment Rural Land’s (PERL) Sarah Harmer.
“The board’s decision is balanced and in keeping with our belief that development on the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, must be harmonious with the features and functions of the natural environment,” said Harmer.
“The decision is PERL’s dream come true.”
According to Toronto-based Environmental Defence, the decision gives Mount Nemo and its rare and endangered species a chance to breathe after a century of quarrying and protects the unique ecological functions of the Escarpment that cannot be replaced by planting trees nearby, which was originally proposed by Nelson Aggregates to offset its negative environmental impact.
“This is a true victory for the Escarpment and all the public agencies that worked to protect Mount Nemo, a gem of the Greenbelt in southern Ontario,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.
“It shows that the Niagara Escarpment Plan, a cornerstone of Ontario’s earliest environmental protection efforts, is still relevant and strong.”
At press time, Nelson Aggregate had not yet released an official statement about today’s decision.
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