Community development and Highland Companies
The Highland Companies used to be the operating and investment vehicle for a group of private investors; based in Canada and the United States.
During those days past, when they were in operation; their self-promoting description of their business was about creating a diversified portfolio. Involving sustainable local businesses in and beyond Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, Ontario. As well as its environs. By building sustainable local businesses; they were creating local jobs; as well as improving the life of the communities; in which they operated in.
In the wake of listening for two hours to a vocal horde of 60 people generally being negative to the gravel pit proposal; they backed down, about a proposed gravel pit. It reached a point where no one looked at the possible bigger picture. So they, and the other partners in the gravel pit venture had been turned into enemies of the people.
The development permit was ready to allow them to mine sand and gravel from 2 quarter sections of nearby land. The site, as of now utilized as an RV park; is found nine miles north of the east side of Highway close to the Line Camp.
“Getting used to gravel pits is similar to getting used to a toothache,” said Tom Cole; who lives close to the proposed gravel pit.
In any case
Aryol Brumley, a representative of the Three States Aggregate (gravel pit company); guaranteed to the commission that commotion, and dust. As well as transportation concerns that might arise from the plant would be moderated. It has been stated in the written proposal. As indicated by the license application, access is off Highway 145; with evaluated truck activity to be 30 round trips for every day.
Topsoil stripped from the area amid mining would be heaped into a 10-foot high berm to reduce the noise heard from machines. Along with the crusher used to beat gravel into various size products. They would be brought down lower into the pit to further mask the sound. Dust would be controlled through the utilization of water trucks; as well as water splash bars on the crusher.
Under the arrangement, gravel could be mined or pulverized between the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; with the exception of 21 days consistently where the operation could proceed; as much as 24 hours a day so as to meet requests for enormous expressway ventures. This specific site would be dug for up to five years. Just like any other developer, they were ready to give an air-toxin outflow notice.
What the commission said
The commission said that it is not safe to accept their assurances until they were examined by some outside consultants; (who happened to be against the gravel pit); and in this manner it was up to the commission to ensure that they were convinced if a license was to be endorsed, or not.
“Conditions around the pit could become worse, despite provincial safety inspections. They may not address issues that concern the locals. So we have to understand what the province will require; before we settle on a choice.” Kelly said.
The commission asked for more data from Three States Aggregate in regards to; what the provincial recovery prerequisites are with respect to gravel pits; how water rights would be influenced by the operation; as well as the desires that CDOT has about the passageway. They likewise asked for a point by point proposal from us on how we would recover the area once the mining ceased.
Everyone except one of the group of onlookers individuals who talked were against another gravel pit being placed in the picturesque valley. They encouraged the commission to deny the grant.
What grievances included
Grievances included worries about the operation’s consequences for personal satisfaction, tourism, wildlife, property value estimations as well as roadway security.
“The smoke and mess and commotion from these gravel pits will be spreading all over the valley and ruining the view of our blue skies,” said Carol Steppe; a landowner close to the proposed operation.
“We are the children of the original homesteaders of this area; and we need to make the most of our properties and think about the health of birds and deer.” said a voice amongst the crowd. “There is also a gravel pit about 20 miles away and we hear the noise from that; yet this one is much closer and will affect us all the more directly.”
“Property rights allow us to work on our own private land; and the neighboring land owners also need to not cause damage to our land by indirect effects. We need more protections.” said Cheri Robinson.
Robinson has initiated a push to stop the venture; and declared to look for a directive against the district; “We’re going to delay any mining until the courts rule in our favor.”
What the commission is required to do
The commission is required to substantially uphold the rules for having environmental recovery plans in the development license; so that the zone does not turn into a blemish. This was another concern raised by crowd individuals.
“Individuals come today in light of the fact that they have seen what has happened,” said Rollie Cundiff; who lives adjacent to a recovered gravel pit. “They botched the area, never planted one tree, and never did what they said they were going to do.”
We had plans to use the region to pull in campers and RVs for use during the summer months. Improving the nearby lakes into a more pleasing look and planting trees; as a part of the remaining land reclamation. “With great planning, things can be worked out” Nielson said.
“The license takes into account mining; however, in the meantime, they must leave the property in a way that we can be pleasing to look at. These lakes can be made alluring”, he said.
The commission asked for more data from Three States Aggregate in regards to what state recovery plans are with respect to gravel pits; how water rights would be influenced by the operation; along with the desires that CDOT has about the passageway.
In any case, another man in the group of onlookers said, guarantees should be upheld. “He says they need to be a decent neighbor; however, these things should not be taken lightly. Let us all stand firm and ensure the project is not done.” he said.
In unison, they protested against the pit project; which never saw its commencement. It was shut down with the stroke of a pen.
Highland Companies wrote this about themselves, when they owned this domain:
Nonetheless, we are creating a sustainable local businesses in and beyond Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, Ontario. Today, we are the largest potato farming operation in Ontario. From our base in Melancthon we are also pursuing an aggregate project. We are committed to building an area business which contributes to economic growth; creates local jobs and gives back to the community in ways that make life better for people.
As we grow, our focus will remain on harnessing and protecting the area’s natural resources; operating in an environmentally, socially and economically responsible way. As well as helping to make our rural community self-sufficient and sustainable.
Their vision was…
The responsible development and use of natural resources; agriculture, wind energy and aggregates; are hallmarks of Melancthon’s past and are helping to shape its future. Our vision is a Township that is the model of a self-sufficient; sustainable rural community.
What do we mean by a self-sufficient, sustainable community?
It’s one that achieves the right mix of economic activity, local government services and quality of life; without having to increase taxes, reduce services or rely too heavily on provincial grants.
We believe in working with the community in pursuit of a positive economic vision. Along with a vibrant local economy. We view economic growth and diversity as essential if the community is to create jobs, fund government services and amenities for people; and ensure a sustainable future for our area.
Highland Companies (of Ontario) was in the news in 2012 for proposing a quarry; then withdrawing the application when faced with criticism. They were praised afterward for doing so. In July 2013, Highland sold 6500 acres of land. Because their Corporate overview was to be an investment vehicle; that sale might have been a success in and of itself. If land prices had risen; (which is usually the case).
I’ve noticed that a company called Highland Property Development in Arcadia, California owns the domain highlandcompanies.com.
There are several posts on the site about how you can participate in community development. As well as other ways that one can get involved in community affairs to build a better, conducive and sustainable community.
Empowering Youth to take Initiative
Today in many economies, the rate of unemployment is souring; especially among the youth and the recently graduated. As the youths fail to secure jobs, they most a times become frustrated and may end up engaging some antisocial behaviors; such as drug abuse or criminal activities.
This is a situation which was prevalent in my village that I hail from. When I got elected to represent the county as a Member of the County Assembly; I knew that I had a duty of bringing hope to the various unemployed youth who were struggling with unemployment. This was a promise that I had made to many as I campaigned for my election. I really wanted to ensure that the dream becomes a reality.
As I had earlier planned, I rolled out a sensitization program whereby I wanted the youth to team up and form various youth groups according to the different areas of interest. There are those who loved drama and they teamed up and formed a youth group as per their interests; there was another one for business minded youth as well as several other groups.
I then called upon various stakeholders and formed a committee; which would see the youth organized into various cohorts; so that they could do some training. This was successfully implemented and everything went as planned.
My biggest worry
However, I was worried about how I would go about sourcing for funds to enable them start various business locally; as well as engage in other productive activities. The little funds that I had earlier sourced were all used up in the training and empowerment; which they received before. I was worried that all these efforts would go unrewarded if I failed to source the funds. Yet still, I wasn’t sure how prepared they were to handle the funds if they were available. Cases of misappropriation would be a big blow in the event of my next bid for re-election.
After some consultation with my advisers and friends; I decided to bring a motion in our parliament; whereby part of the funds received for county budgeting would be used to form a kitty to fund the activities of these youths. This would be a program; which would be budgeted for each year. Being my first time it was hard for me to convince the other members of the house about the viability of the initiative. Therefore, it took about 4 months of deliberation before the motion was passed.
The pilot program
A pilot program was launched in my ward. This was because the youth there were already prepared and some follow-up measures were formulated. There was need to access the feasibility and practicability of the project for at least a year before a complete program would be launched in the entire county.
Luckily, all those who benefited from the kitty never let me down. By the end of the year, there were various businesses; which had been launched by the youths. Others had engaged in other profitable ventures. This led the house to believe on the benefits of the program. The following year it was rolled in other wards.
I’m a happy man as I wait for elections next year; knowing that what I did was the best that any leader could do to his people.
Youths Against Drug Abuse
I was a victim of drug addiction for four year during my teenage period. The addiction began gradually when I went to college; though I believe that it stemmed from the abuse that I was subjected to as I grew up by my dad. I was lucky though to be taken for rehabilitation. However, I was able to overcome the use of substance.
However, there are many teenage boys whom we used to take drugs with. Those I knew went into the drug peddling business that I still pity to date. There are those who’ve become riff raff in the society.
Knowing the dangers of drug addiction; I decided that the best thing that I could do to give up to my community was to try helping the various individuals; whose lives have been spoiled by drugs. The good thing about my endeavors was my earlier experience with drug addiction; which gave me an upper hand at determining the degree of vulnerability of various substance users.
My first efforts went into creating a program
Whereby I would publish and distribute various booklets to teenagers in schools; with information about drugs use and its effects. I then scheduled various meeting every evening to meet the youth in their schools to address issues touching around drug addiction.
Nonetheless, I was not an easy task as I anticipated. I faced various hurdles; especially financing the program; as well as logistical issues. At the end of the first six months when I came to review my progress; there was little that I could show for it.
I knew that I had to change tactic. The thought of visiting various drug dens; which I knew back then and talking to the users who frequent them didn’t sound that wise either. All of a sudden, I started to feel as if I was frustrating myself.
The Bold Move
That’s when something new came into my mind. I decided to lobby for stringent laws concerning drugs to be formulated; as well as I approached various stakeholders in my community with the intent of building a drug rehabilitation facility. All this took a lot of courage and commitment to have the projects initiated. This was complete after two years.
By then, I had created a community website; whereby I had information about drug addiction published. I got several schools and institutions to publicize it. This got things going and by the thirds year; fewer cases of drug abuse and addiction were being reported.
The rate of school dropout decreased considerably while the performance of students; especially in colleges went up. I still feel proud of my contribution to make my community a better place.
Giving Back to the Community
There’s always the need for a community to go about analyzing situations; which can enrich the lives of its members and then work towards implanting solutions which bring about the changes. This calls for the parties involved to determine the needs; as well as unfulfilled opportunities that should be acted upon to better the lives of the members.
The aspects of community development include; principle of involving the community members, principle of cooperation amongst all parties to the development; as well as empowerment of the people. Along with their subsequent and mobilization & participation in the projects involved.
How a small idea turned to be a blessing to my community
Nevertheless, I always wanted to give back to the community. Always, I was short of ideas about what best I could do to them. Whatever came into my mind was unfeasible. Then I thought that nobody could appreciate it. For long, I thought about the whole issue; until a year when the rain was never enough. This meant that there would be shortages of foods and vegetables. It saw their prices escalate higher. That’s when the idea of starting an irrigation scheme came into my mind.
The project was challenging because it was a bit complex. It needed a lot of resources and inputs. But I knew it would work. I started by mobilizing local leaders; as well as other representatives of the community to whom I sold the idea. During our first meeting; I shared with them the importance of the project; especially in ensuring food security. It wasn’t hard convincing them the way forward.
After several deliberation and consultations during the next subsequent meetings; which we held later; a framework for the project was born. I was certain that we were on the right path. Much of the finance needed was supposed to be availed from our municipal government; while we decided to raise more among community members, so that the scheme could be expanded.
Trouble began when the money; which had been collected; was secretly embezzled by some of the officials who were tasked with its safekeeping. They made secret withdrawal of nearly half of the funds. They also siphoned them to their own personal projects.
When it came time for tendering for the projects; it was when it dawned to us that there was some cash missing. This created a huge storm; especially when the municipal committee came to learn about the issue. We were summoned to explain where the loot had gone.
This brought a lot of controversy with some finger pointing at me. This was because I came up with the whole idea. Some of those involved were my friends; as well as people that I had known for a long time. It appeared as if we had conspired to loot the cash. Therefore, I was taken to court alongside them.
I felt really humiliated. The reason was because the whole community was accusing me of the embezzlement. After about two years of battling the case in caught, I was found innocent; while some of those who we had been accused together were found guilty and prosecuted.
I was glad to be set free though I couldn’t clear my name to several members of my community. That became the end of my noble idea. Maybe one day, the community might decide to push for it again.
My Fight Against Milieu Degradation
Contributing my fair share of efforts to make our environment a better place has always been my desire since my tender age. This was because my mom used to work for a NGO; which dealt with environmental conservation. She used to preach and lecture to us different ways; in which we could be part of a better tomorrow; by making our environment cleaner. Along with protecting the resources that we derived from the it. I must admit, that all her words resonate well with my desire to be environment-friendly.
Therefore, when I moved to a new town near to my place of work; I felt sorry for the environmental degradation that was quiet rampant in the area. Litter and other garbage was a common sight; Cutting down trees was a major act that was done by majority; use of chemicals like non-organic fertilizers; as well as dumping wastes into rivers was also a challenge. However, some of these degradation naturally occurred due to the impact caused by population growth rate. This meant more human activities were carried out resulting to environment pollution.
Sensitizing the community
Aggrieved by this, I started creating awareness with support from like-minded people who believed on my philosophy. This was a group of my co-workers who we reasoned together. I then enlisted their support. This was the best alternative to attract and win more support from the people. Within no time I had a number of people on my back. We held several meetings with different groups of people. Also, we educated them on the need to protect and conserve the environment.
Nevertheless, I highlighted the dangers of deforestation and pollution of our resources. Then I mobilized them to plant many trees and need to use inorganic fertilizers. I analyzed the dangers associated with water pollution. This protection campaign bore fruit. Efforts were recognized by many peoples who concurred with my ideas.
What we were able to do
We were able to plant many different species of trees. The environment looked beautiful and promising. This time I kept agitating for the need to protect environment. I encouraged them to use organic manure when planting. Still, I encouraged them to keep rivers clean and more so to opt for other sources of energy; such as the use of solar power.
I am glad that everyone in the society has recognized my effort on conserving the environment. Since then I do educate on need to protect our surrounding. Along with sensitize people needing to have a conducive habitat. However, I do feel that this is the best way to give back to society. It’s my hope that everyone will realize the importance of conserving the environment.
Click here to check out the next post about how and why Hard Landscaping is also hard work.