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Another meeting about gravel pits, another rough ride for applicants.

The war over gravel in Woolwich opened a new front this week over an Official Plan amendment requested by Hunder Developments, the group behind a pit immediately east of Conestogo.
A bit of a late-starter, the amendment comes after Woolwich staff determined much of the area proposed to be rezoned for a gravel pit falls outside the mineral aggregate resource area identified in the Regional Official Policies Plan. Under that circumstance, a change to the Official Plan became necessary, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley told a full gallery gathered in council
chambers Tuesday night for a public meeting.

Seizing the opportunity, concerned residents again denounced the bid for a gravel operation on some 150 acres of land on two farm properties located at 128 Katherine St. S. and 1081 Hunsberger Rd.

“The time for extraction of this is long past. It should have occurred before the residential development was approved. Now that the residential is there, it’s not consistent with the area,” said David Lehmann, a Golf Course Road resident whose property backs onto the applicant’s land.

The pit’s incompatibility with residential areas surrounding has been the cornerstone of objections. Tuesday night was no exception.

Armed with detailed reports drawing on township, regional and provincial documents, opponents argued gravel extraction should not even be considered for the area.

Keri Martin Vrbanac, president of the Conestogo-Winterbourne Residents Association (CWRA), noted the pit would be bordered by four residential neighbourhoods, including Golf Course Road in Conestogo and Sunset Drive and Meadowbrook Place in Winterbourne. From noise and dust to traffic and property devaluation, the negative impacts would affect hundreds of residents.

Although the township is looking separately at three large gravel pit applications in the area, the cumulative effect has to be taken into consideration, argued Winterbourne’s Jan Huissoon, pointing to the operation proposed for Jigs Hollow Road and the Capital Paving proposal in West Montrose.

In defence of his family’s application, Kyle Hunsberger pointed out that many of the objections aimed at the Hunder bid were directed at the Golf Course Road subdivision when it was first proposed.

Gravel extraction in the area is not a “yes or no” issue, rather the township and neighbours have to figure the best way to make the project work, he said.

Having owned the property for 63 years, the family is mindful of the residents and doesn’t want to ruin the experience of living in the area, which is the reason they’ve pursued development themselves rather than simply selling the property to a gravel company right off the bat, added Hunsberger, a comment that drew groans from the crowd.

Asked by Mayor Todd Cowan if the family had pursued residential development on the property, Hunsberger said that idea had been shot down by the township’s desire to maintain a hard boundary between the settlement area and surrounding farmland.

“I wouldn’t totally close the door,” said Cowan, who pressed Hunsberger into admitting there would in fact be changes in the character of the countryside around Conestogo if a gravel pit went ahead.

Hunder Developments hopes to remove 4.3 million metric tonnes of aggregate, proposing to extract up to 500,000 tonnes per year.

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