There are no answers, only more questions as Woolwich goes into Ontario Municipal Board hearings that will decide the fate of a gravel pit proposed for the Winterbourne valley.
Following public input, the township has expanded its list of concerns to be addressed in upcoming proceedings, starting with a mediation session next month, involving Kuntz Topsoil, Sand and Gravel’s application to mine gravel from a 90-acre site at 125 Peel St.
New information has called into question some of the studies submitted by the applicant, with a host of new questions to be answered, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley told councillors meeting Apr. 16. The new data, for instance, have caused the township to reverse its position that the pit would have no adverse visual impact on residents of Conestogo’s Golf Course Road.
“We’ve changed our professional opinion. We’ve now determined there would be an unacceptable visual impact.”
With that in mind, the township will be asking the applicant to address the issue.
Other questions have arisen due to studies showing the water table is higher than initially measured, meaning there’s less gravel accessible, as extraction would have to remain at least 1.5 metres above the water table. That, in turn, poses challenges to the economic viability of the project, perhaps removing 300,000 tonnes of aggregate from the expected total of 850,000 tonnes.
The higher levels could also reduce the height of the pit face, perhaps changing the impact of noise from the site, Kennaley suggested.
And, if less gravel is to be taken, the township would have to look at perhaps reducing the 15-year sunset clause it hopes to attach to the project.
In a presentation to councillors, West Montrose resident Lynn Hare raised another issue that made the township’s list of concerns, namely the suitability of plans to recycle concrete and asphalt onsite. The material, which would be trucked in, would generate “an incredible amount of dust,” she argued, calling the extra crushing incompatible with surrounding residential land use.
For Coun. Bonnie Bryant, concerns about the recycling operation are significant enough to look at removing that component from the application. At the very least, the township will look at a temporary-use bylaw to govern recycling of waste material onsite.
Kennaley said the township would be seeking legal advice about removing or controlling the recycling operation.
Coun. Mark Bauman, who was the lone dissenting vote in plans to expand the township’s official list of concerns, argued against further restrictions on recycling, saying it would be hypocritical given that Woolwich recycles the concrete and asphalt from its road projects.
He also opposed more delays in the project, which was given tentative approval in the last term of council; Bauman is the sole member from that term still serving on council.
“We’re continually throwing hurdles in front of this application,” he said.
On the subject of gravel, councillors cleared the way for progress at the pit operated by D&J Lockhart Excavators at 6225 Middlebrook Rd., agreeing to withdraw its objections to the company’s Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) application.
The expansion to the existing small pit had been held up over the inclusion of depth-of-extraction provisions – known as vertical zoning – in the township’s zoning bylaw.
Both the township and Region of Waterloo are challenging the province’s stance against vertical zoning in an OMB appeal regarding the new Regional Official Plan. In this case, however, the township has agreed to separate the depth provisions from the rest of the bylaw, allowing them to be included in the ARA site plan.