The Gleaner

Havelock to appeal court ruling in favour of asphalt factory

Frustrated and concerned citizens of Havelock crowded the town hall on May 16 for an extraordinary meeting following the release of a Superior Court of Quebec ruling in favour of Groupe Chenail Inc. and the installation of an asphalt factory on Covey Hill.

Around 65 attendees from Havelock as well as neighbouring municipalities demanded that the municipality act immediately to appeal the decision rendered on May 10 by judge Silvana Conte. The judge’s decision determined that the building of a mobile asphalt plant at the Carrières Ducharme quarry conforms to municipal bylaws. Five of six councillors were present for the meeting, and a motion to go to appeal was passed by majority. Two councillors voted against the appeal.

The case was argued over precedents and the interpretation of the municipality’s zoning bylaw. According to the ruling, Groupe Chenail and Carrières Ducharme first approached the municipality with their project in September 2020. Havelock’s inspector at the time confirmed the proposed plant complied with municipal regulations but would require authorization from the Commission de protection du territoire agricole (CPTAQ).

On July 5, 2021, an angry crowd protested outside the town hall during the regular council meeting, which was followed by a meeting on July 20 between the council and members of the community who had formed a group called the Committee for the Protection of Covey Hill. This meeting resulted in a resolution stating the project did not comply with zoning bylaws because the asphalt plant “represents the addition of a secondary principal use of the lot and cannot be considered an accessory use.”

Sylvie Tran, who had taken over as municipal inspector, admitted she changed her mind after having initially approved the project. The CPTAQ subsequently closed its file on the factory after receiving a notice of non-compliance from Havelock on July 28, 2021.

In her May 10 ruling, Conte declared the asphalt plant to be an accessory and complimentary use to that of the quarry and therefore an authorized practice according to municipal bylaws. She ordered the municipality’s inspector to inform the CPTAQ that Groupe Chenail’s authorization request for the mobile plant complies with Havelock’s zoning bylaw. The ruling also orders the municipality to provide its recommendation to the CPTAQ.

“In the past, the council has opposed the installation of an asphalt plant in the quarry. When the decision was made, our lawyer’s opinion stated the bylaws that were in place were sufficient to block the installation,” said Havelock mayor Gerald Beaudoin. “In the present, the court judgement went against the municipality,” he continued, suggesting the municipality has no choice but to comply with the court’s order, even if it is going to appeal. Beaudoin pointed out, however, that the judge’s order to transmit the recommendation to the CPTAQ is “one of the few instances where the council can express their opinion without regard for the bylaws.”

“Our lawyer has taken a very close look at the ruling and had found a list of deficiencies and errors in judgement,” Beaudoin said, noting the lawyer feels there are enough of these to justify an appeal.

“The judgement was done on legal points and not on the people’s choice,” said Havelock resident Pierre Montreuil during a very spirited question period. “I think that has to have some weight,” he added. Generally, courts function according to law and public opinion holds little sway; however, the consensus in the room was that an asphalt plant could produce devastating environmental and economical consequences for the population.

“I was absolutely shocked and devastated!” exclaimed Sharon de Gaspé Power, who is a member of the Committee for the Protection of Covey Hill. She pointed out that the ruling “never considered the jurisprudence in favour of the 800 citizens of Havelock, where the municipality can override the rights of companies that create an environmental hazard.” According to the Ministry of the Environment the project conforms to environmental regulations, though no formal impact assessment has been done.

Citizens questioned whether rural roads would be capable of supporting a significant increase in heavy truck traffic. Others were concerned about the impact on property values. What is clear from the meeting is there is little public support for the project, and there is a resounding will among the population of Havelock to fight the Superior Court’s decision.

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