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Battle over gravel pits heats up

If this week’s public meeting is any indication, Woolwich’s gravel pit battle is going to be a fierce one.

Three of five applications under consideration were up for review Tuesday night at township council. Two smaller projects, essentially extensions of existing operations, drew little comment, but the third was an indication of what’s to come as the other two proposed pits work their way through the system next year.

The contentious pit is proposed for a farm at 125 Peel St., west of Winterbourne and north of the Golf Course Road area of Conestogo. Some of those speaking out against this pit also pointed to the application by Hunder Developments for an aggregate operation immediately to the southeast of this site, across the river. The so-called Hunsberger pit is one of the two proposals – the other is the Capital Paving application for a pit near the covered bridge in West Montrose – requiring more detailed study before moving to the public meeting stage.

The applicant, Kuntz Topsoil, Sand and Gravel, plans to extract up to 150,000 tonnes of gravel annually from the 89-acre site. With an estimated 840,000 tonnes of aggregate available, the pit would be active for a minimum of eight to 10 years.

Along with aggregate, the applicant proposes to recycle asphalt and concrete in the crusher to be installed. Permission has also been sought for a topsoil-screening operation.

David Sisco, a planner with the IBI Group, told some 45 people in attendance noise and dust from the site would be mitigated by a series of berms and other design features at the site.

But 11 residents who spoke challenged that assertion, expressing concerns dust, noise and truck traffic would all have a negative impact on their quality of life.

“I now find I’m no longer living in a rural community – I object to that,” said Golf Course Road resident Alan Burtenshaw.

“I think it’s totally objectionable for people to come in and change my way of life, to affect my health and everybody else’s in this residential area. It’s surrounded by residences; Conestogo and Winterbourne surround these two pits.”

Given the prevailing winds and topography, dust will be blown in and noise will carry directly to that area, added neighbour Bill Norrish, who added to the list concerns about vibration.

“If you have a crushing operation, you’re going to feel it.”

Countering Sisco’s claims, Winterbourne resident Jan Huissoon, an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, called into question the data supplied in the applicant’s dust and noise studies.

“Both of these studies leave something to be concerned about,” he said, noting the information was not site-specific and failed to include baseline measures of existing conditions in the area.

He said he expects the operation, if it were to go ahead, to completely disturb the existing atmosphere – “This is meant to be rural – this is why we live here.”

The concerns and questions raised by the public will be addressed by Woolwich’s planning staff as it reviews the zone-change application needed to permit aggregate extraction at the site. A recommendation report will eventually come back for council’s consideration.

Planner Jeremy Vink said he expects the Kuntz and Hunsberger applications will be judged for their cumulative impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, the other two gravel pit applications – one at 777 Sandy Hills Drive (NJ Excavating) and the other at 6225 and 6329 Middlebrook Rd. (DJ Lockhart) – drew only minimal comments. Both are extensions of existing pits, and are expected to have little if any added impact on their respective surrounding areas.

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