The Ontario government is using a Minister’s Zoning Order so new homes can be built sooner on the Dolime Quarry lands in The Township of Guelph/Eramosa.

Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, made the announcement Monday morning.

The city of Guelph requested the MZO in order to transfer the lands from the township’s boundary, into the city.

It also strengthens protections around local drinking water supply, with plans for a quarry rehabilitation program.

“There’s been extensive consultation and I’m glad to be near to support the city is protecting safe drinking water for many years to come,” Clark said Monday morning.

Council officially asked for the MZO on July 19, 2021, after years of public consultation.

 “Every step we’ve made toward protecting our community’s drinking water has felt like progress, but this is the big one,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie in a news release.

The annexation of the lands officially comes into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

A spokesperson from River Valley Developments Inc. (RVD), who owns the Guelph Quarry, said they’re looking forward to working with the community on planning the residential phase of the project.

“This is a great day for our City. The quarry has a 175-year history of contributing to the creation of Guelph’s infrastructure, including many architecturally significant municipal buildings, homes and the iconic Basilica of Our Lady, and this decision will allow RVD to continue to support the city’s future by improving the quality and quantity of Guelph’s water supply,” the statement said in part.

The spokesperson said there are currently 12 people working at the quarry.

“No employees will lose their jobs as they will continue to work on other of our aggregate partners sites,” he said via text.

The company will still own the land even after the quarry closes due to future developments.

The quarry is still in operation, but is very slow for safety reasons as the city performs operational testing.

“Getting these lands into our city it helps to actually close down the quarry earlier than I would’ve normally been allowed,” said Guthrie.

The mayor said there’s been growing concern about the water supply.

“The breaking of the aquitard that affects the quality and quantity of the water for our community,” Guthrie said.

The quarry diverts about 11 million litres of water per day, according to the city.

Officials said they can use it for drinking water when the city assumes control of the water.

The group Wellington Water Watchers said they've been fighting to stop mining operations there for 15 years.

“(Fifteen) years is far too long for a resolution of such a serious threat and is further evidence for why our Provincial government should no longer permit blasting below the water table.”said Arlene Slocombe, the executive director of Wellington Water Watchers

Guthrie said a specific plan for any redevelopment of the site is still in the works. But ensured any future phases will require more community feedback.

“The city won’t see any movement on the site in regards to any sort of residential anytime soon,” Guthrie said.