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County crews pull quarry protest signs

The Sun Times

ARTICLE

By Paul Jankowski, Sun Times Staff

Grey County road crews were told yesterday to remove "Stop the Keppel Quarry Expansion" signs that contravened county bylaws.

Gary Shaw, the director of transportation and public safety with the county, said the order went out after he received calls in the morning "that all these signs were being put up on our road allowance on County Rd. 17 and 170." At a meeting that morning he said he told the area foreman to have his men, when they were in the area, to remove any illegal signs.

Some residents began putting up placards this week to publicize their opposition to a proposal by Harold Sutherland Construction for a gravel quarry on Grey Rd. 17 between Benallen and Copper Kettle. One of them, Nancy Shouldice, said she noticed the signs were missing as she drove to her home on County Rd. 170 near Shallow Lake after dropping her children off at school in Sauble Beach.

"Then when I got home my signs are all gone. There were three of them, so I immediately came back in the house and grabbed two more."

After she set them up she saw "a County of Grey truck slowly going down the road." Thinking it odd, she drove down the road and spoke with the driver who told her: "I've been given orders by Gary Shaw, the head of transportation or whatever for the County of Grey, to go around and take down all the signs whether it's on private property or not," she said. "He said 'Ma'am, I'm just doing my job'."

Shaw said yesterday morning that he doubted any signs were removed from private property. By the afternoon he had checked with the crew that had been in the area that morning and "they're saying they (the signs) were all on the county road allowance . . . I'm seeing some pictures of some of the signs and they are out in front of the civic address signs. You know people cut their lawns to the edge of the road and they assume they own right to the ditch line."

The county bylaw, he said, prohibits "advertising or decorative devices that promote ... advertise, attract attention to or to promote publicity for an individual, organization, firm, product or event" on not just the county road allowances, but for "three metres behind the property line." However, he was told county workers hadn't gone onto private property to remove any signs.

Shouldice said her signs were on her property and that people in the coalition opposed to the quarry were told not to put their signs, which they pay for, on road allowances "and I am firmly believing they have not been put on road allowances. They are on private property."

She said she spoke with a supervisor at the county "who apologized profusely" and promised the signs would be returned to her. She "called the OPP as well because on my land? I know that they crossed onto my private property and took down the signs."

By yesterday afternoon 13 signs had been returned to Shouldice and she had spoken with an OPP officer. She wants theft charges laid but not against the "front-line worker ... I have absolutely no doubt he was doing what he was told to do."

If it was just a question of miscommunication, "then Mr. Shaw should be forthcoming with a huge apology and perhaps delivering the signs back to the private owners."

County Warden Kevin Eccles said the county's policy is, as a "first step," to speak with people who are contravening a bylaw. "I can't say it's 100% of the time because we have a lot of non-resident people ... staff on a general basis will try to connect with the person" before taking action. He said he would be discussing with Shaw whether that had happened yesterday.

Eccles said while the county supports Sutherland's proposal in principle, he didn't see any problem with the how it looks that a county employee was removing signs that oppose it.

"The optics are that the county has a policy that any type of promotional placarding and whatnot will not be allowed whether it's for or against any subject . . . our county roads won't be allowed to be used as a backdrop for that type of personal or private expression."

Signs supporting personal opinions are "very much allowed" on private property, "but to use the public highway property for that, no."

Eccles said it wasn't a "regular occurrence" for signs to be removed "because regularly we don't have people who are flaunting or disobeying the regulations or the policies."

Residents opposed to the quarry are being supported by groups including Protecting Escarpment Rural Land, Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario Nature, Owen Sound Field Naturalists, Bruce Peninsula Environmental Group, Saugeen Field Naturalists and the Grey Association for Better Planning. Their concerns are mainly environmental, Shouldice said earlier this week.

"It is a highly inappropriate place (for a quarry) ... What we are really concerned about is it is the headwaters to all of the lakes and the spring-fed lakes and rivers and streams and wells."

The proposed quarry is adjacent to lands designated as a provincially significant area of natural and scientific interest as well as a provincially significant wetland. It is also close to important watersheds and is near The Glen conservation area.

The company is seeking to licence 219.6 acres for an 144-acre quarry. An estimated 30.8 million tonnes of rock was to be mined over the next 48 years, with a maximum of 600,000 tonnes per year.

The OMB began a pre-hearing for the licence application on July 30. It is to continue on Dec. 1 at 10:30 a. m. at the Georgian Bluffs municipal buildings at Springmount. The OMB is holding the licence application in abeyance pending the outcome of the NEC plan amendment and development permit application process.

With files from Rob Gowan

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