Opponents of a gravel pit proposed for West Montrose aren’t popping the champagne just yet, but are “cautiously optimistic” after Woolwich closed the file on an application that’s been on the books for five years.
Having heard nothing in the past year from Guelph-based Capital Paving about the company’s application for a gravel pit on Letson Drive, the township this week declared the file closed. If the company still wants to go ahead, it will have to submit a new application, though it could still launch a legal challenge of Woolwich’s decision.
Right now, however, both the township and opposition groups have no idea what Capital Paving will do, as the company has essentially been incommunicado.
“We don’t know where it stands,” Tony Dowling of the BridgeKeepers organization opposed to the gravel pit said this week. “For now, we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning, said the township has heard nothing from the company in more than a year. His department sent a letter to Capital Paving last July asking for an update on the company’s intentions. It received no reply. Only June 21, Woolwich notified the company in writing that it planned to close the file on the application, but still got no response.
“We still don’t know what their intentions are. As far as we’re concerned, the file is closed,” he said Wednesday.
While the application dates back to September 2008, there has been little movement or even discussion of the bid since 2010. Capital Paving was involved in legal action against Woolwich’s 2008 plan to tighten up its rules governing gravel pit applications, appealing official plan amendment 13 (OPA 13) to the Ontario Municipal Board. The company argued its application predated the new rules, meaning it did not have to submit the additional studies demanded under the new policy.
The township eventually reached an agreement with Capital Paving, pre-empting a hearing.
In 2009, the company pressed the township to speed up its handling of the application, while planning staff called for more information and studies from the applicant.
The process became more complicated – and further delayed – when Woolwich launched a formal review to determine if the area around the West Montrose covered bridge should be deemed a cultural heritage landscape (CHL). All development was frozen under an interim control bylaw, and the area was eventually given protection.
Capital Paving did not take any action throughout the CHL process, however. Instead, it was the Murray Group, which had an interest in a neighbouring property, that challenged the interim control bylaw.
“We were, frankly, a little surprised that they (Capital Paving) didn’t appeal the CHL designation in our official plan,” said Kennaley, noting the appeal was eventually dropped, and no application was ever received from the Murray Group.
“We haven’t heard a word from them either.”
A lack of information about future development is why West Montrose residents aren’t celebrating just yet, said Dowling.
Still, they’re happy with the way things are proceeding, he said, noting that the CHL designation should convince would-be developers that the vicinity around the historic bridge is a poor choice for aggregate extraction.
“I’m very pleased that the cultural integrity of West Montrose will remain intact for the foreseeable future” said Ward 3 Coun. Bonnie Bryant in a release this week. “My ward is home to some of the most picturesque communities in Ontario and it’s important that we continue to preserve and protect these communities.”