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Opponents line up experts against Hunsberger pit

Plans for a gravel pit just outside of Conestogo were assailed this week by opponents who called into question studies submitted by the applicant, Hunder Developments.

The Conestogo-Winterbourne Residents Association (CWRA) had the studies reviewed by other experts, presenting the findings to Woolwich council Monday night. The outside agencies found grounds for concerns in almost every instance, including “questionable practices” and inadequate documentation, said Keri Martin Vrbanac, the group’s president.

The township is currently reviewing Official Plan and zoning changes related to what is known as the Hunsberger pit. The property owner hopes to obtain clearance 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 peer reviews commissioned by CWRA challenges the findings of a range of studies, including acoustic, dust, aggregate quality and quantity, impact to agricultural productivity and Official Plan conformance.

“The noise abatement being proposed is invalid; depth estimates are inaccurate; quality and quantity of aggregate estimates are suspect; height of the water table is in question; the applicant’s proposal does not conform to government requirements,” Martin Vrbanac rhymed off, citing the findings of the experts. “In conclusion, based on the information provided, the zone change application and Official Plan amendment should be rejected.”

The information presented this week is sure to be fodder in an Ontario Municipal Board hearing requested by the developer. A date has yet to be arranged.

Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning, said the township has commissioned peer reviews of its own. Combined with the findings submitted by the CWRA, the information will go a long way in staff’s assessment of the Hunder applications.

“I’m sure that information will be helpful in determining what staff’s recommendation to council will be in terms of a position at the Ontario Municipal Board and, ultimately, what council decides will be its position at the Ontario Municipal Board,” he said.

Launching the OMB appeal because of delays in the process that has gone on for more than two years, Hunder Developments is prepared to reach an agreement if the township makes a decision on the applications.

In an interview this week, Bob Hunsberger said Woolwich’s inaction forced his hand with the OMB, as the two-year maximum time period for aggregate applications had passed, with the Ministry of Natural Resources likely to bring its own challenge.

While he hasn’t seen the information presented to council by the CWRA, he has requested copies of the documents.

CWRA’s presentation was the latest salvo in well-organized effort to halt the pit, would have an impact on four residential areas, including Golf Course Road in Conestogo and Sunset Drive and Meadowbrook Place in Winterbourne. Over the last few years, residents have come to meetings armed with detailed reports drawing on township, regional and provincial documents, opponents argued gravel extraction should not even be considered for the area.

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