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This article was published 22/9/2020 (388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A decade-long dispute over a stretch of land in Lilyfield has ended with a provincial tribunal's approval of a proposed limestone quarry.
In the first appeal made to the provincially appointed Municipal Board of Manitoba, it overruled a decision made last year by the Rural Municipality of Rosser to reject the project.
Several owners have tried and failed over the years to gain the approval of Rosser’s council to build a quarry in the area near the northwest edge of the Perimeter Highway.
Current owner of the land and president of Lilyfield Quarry Inc., Colleen Munro, has been seeking to build such a limestone quarry since 2015. The company took its application to the Municipal Board after it was rejected by Rosser council in November 2019.
"We spent countless years and time and money on expert reports, scientific reports, trying to educate not only the local municipality but the residents within it," Munro said Tuesday. "And I believe the provincial government did recognize it and did the right thing."
Both sides of the argument were heard during a three-day hearing (July 27-28 and Aug. 18). Concerned area residents argued the project would bring disruptive noise and traffic to the small community, and blasting could affect the small community of Lilyfield’s water supply.
However, in a written decision dated Sept. 17, the Municipal Board approved the proposal — contingent on the quarry following a 15-page list of conditions that had been mutually agreed upon prior by Munro and Rosser council, led by Reeve Frances Smee.
The list includes: dust mitigation measures, guarantees equipment only be used during set operating hours, installing and maintaining an on-site observation well, and retaining existing vegetation and wildlife "wherever possible."
The RM signed the agreement, not to condone the proceeding of the quarry, Smee said Tuesday, but to protect residents should the quarry be built.
"I’m not sure that the Municipal Board members understood that — that it was not the municipality saying, ‘This is a yes, we agree to everything.’ We were simply protecting our position and the position of the residents by doing that," Smee said.
Smee called the proceedings of the first appeal heard by the Municipal Board since changes to the Planning Act made in 2018 confusing. She said information was hard to get prior to the hearing, noting residents were asking the RM for data they were not able to receive from the province.
Smee said such disorganization led to residents not being able to express their concerns amid a pre-set guideline of rules and regulations.
"There were people who were sort of restricted in what they were saying; others were given free reign. There was confusion as to what people were allowed to present, so that was a concern to us," she said.
Smee voiced concerns the case will set a precedent that will work against municipal officials. She referenced Manitoba's proposed Bill 48, which would, among other changes, severely limit municipal input into decisions on land use and community development.
"That takes these decisions away from duly-elected municipal officials and puts them into the hands of unelected, appointed municipal board members… It’s kind of a window into how we will be going forward should this legislation be adopted in the form it’s being adopted, and that is just fundamentally undemocratic," she said.
Meanwhile, construction of the quarry is set to start this week, Munro said. While some in the Rosser are supportive of the quarry, she said, some are "NIMBYs (not in my backyard) that will never change."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.