A bid to designate the area around West Montrose’s covered bridge a cultural heritage landscape (CHL) moved into the final stages following a public meeting Tuesday night.
After reviewing the latest round of input, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley expects to bring back a recommendation to Woolwich council in three weeks’ time. A favourable decision next month on the designation isn’t likely to be the final word, however, as a legal challenge is likely to follow: two companies are looking to extract gravel on land within the CHL.
Guelph-based Capital Paving has already filed an application for a gravel pit, though the process has been on hold pending the outcome of the CHL exercise. And The Murray Group of Moorefield has an interest in mining an adjacent property. The company has not yet made an official application to the township.
Some 30 people attended the meeting Nov. 22, a light turnout as the process winds down. A second public session was called because substantial changes were made to the proposed Official Plan amendment following public input at the first meeting back in June, Kennaley explained.
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The changes largely involved tightening up language to remove ambiguity and give landowners more certainty by including the proviso that any future changes to the CHL designation would require the full consultation of another Official Plan amendment.
The boundaries of the proposed cultural heritage landscape remain unchanged. The area covers some 1,670 acres bounded by Northfield Drive to the west, Line 86 to the north, Katherine Street to the east and an irregular line to the south to a point beyond a line extending from Maryhill Road. Along with the bridge and older homes in the immediate vicinity, the CHL designation encompasses the surrounding environment and views that makes up the historical context of the structure.
The continued exclusion of the newer subdivision in West Montrose suits longtime resident Les Bauman just fine. Addressing councillors Tuesday night, he argued the designation should not include that area, as it has no cultural significance.
Two members of the West Montrose Residents’ Association, also known as the BridgeKeepers, pressed council to keep going with the CHL project, praising the work done thus far.
Hans Pottkamper said the wider area around the bridge should be kept free of development in order to avoid repeating the kinds of mistakes seen at Kitchener’s historic Pioneer Tower, where sprawl has overrun the historic setting.
“This area must be protected before it’s too late,” he said. “Without the countryside, there is no context for the bridge.”
His sentiments were echoed by fellow resident Tony Dowling, who called the bridge and its surroundings “Woolwich’s most important cultural landscape.”
Alluding to the potential for legal challenges related to gravel pit applications, he noted the CHL process began in 2005, three years prior to Capital Paving’s bid. He urged the township has to pursue the designation not because of residents’ demands or the aggregate controversy, but because it’s required under the provincial Planning Act, plain and simple.
Kennaley plans to have a recommendation back to councillors Dec. 13.