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Residents continue to assail Jigs Hollow pit proposal

Currently the subject of a visual impact study, a gravel pit proposed for the Winterbourne valley should be assessed for its effect on the heritage aspects of the area, say opponents of the project.

The application by Kuntz Topsoil, Sand and Gravel to extract gravel from a Peel Street site has already been referred to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), putting any further township action on hold, but that didn’t stop residents from making yet another pitch as councillors met in televised session Monday night.

“You have a heritage river, a heritage bridge and a heritage driving tour … yet no heritage impact study,” said Winterbourne resident Laurie Breed, calling the oversight unacceptable.

She said the pristine view from the old steel bridge would be permanently marred by allowing a gravel pit to cover the landscape.

She was joined by West Montrose resident Lynne Hare, who called on the township to seek an amendment removing part of the property from the rezoning process. The upper portion, she argued, is not supposed to see any aggregate removed, but is included in the bid to rezone the property to ‘extractive’ from the current ‘agricultural’ designation.

Allowing the application could stand risks seeing the township lose control over any subject bid by the applicant to extend the operation into the western part of the site, despite a lack of studies and public input, she added.

The Kuntz proposal calls for rezoning some 90 acres of agricultural land at 125 Peel St. to permit extraction on approximately half the property, which contains an estimated 840,000 tonnes of aggregate.

For Winterbourne’s Jan Huissoon, the visual impacts of the proposed Jigs Hollow pit remain a major stumbling block. At past meetings, he has presented images attempting to illustrate what the gravel pit might do to the landscape and what it would look like to surrounding residents in Winterbourne and Conestogo, as well as to visitors who tour the area.

This week, he showed a series of photos indicating that berms and other measures to hide the operation would be largely ineffective, as the pit would be visible from most vantage points.

The result, he said, would be “visually unacceptable.”

His arguments and illustrations prompted councillors to order a peer-reviewed visual impact study last May. The township is in the process of reviewing the results of that study, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

At the OMB, the process is still at the prehearing stage, subject to closed-session discussions, he added. No date has been set for a formal hearing.

In a related matter, the township has still had no word about an expected OMB appeal related to council’s denial of a bid by Hunder Developments to extract gravel near Conestogo.

In other aggregate-related matters, Woolwich is moving along with a proposed cultural heritage landscape (CHL) designation for the area surrounding the covered bridge in West Montrose, in the vicinity of a pit application by Capital Paving. A review of those plans have been on hold pending the outcome of the CHL process, which continues Nov. 22 with a public meeting in council chambers.

The Murray Group’s submission for a gravel operation on an adjacent property have gone to the province under the Aggregate Resources Act, but the company has yet to apply to the township under the Planning Act, perhaps awaiting a decision on the CHL, Kennaley said on Wednesday.

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