After a flurry of activity around Conestogo, Winterbourne and West Montrose, it’s Maryhill’s turn in the gravel pit spotlight. Guelph-based Capital Paving wants to develop an extraction operation on a 230-acre property at 1195 Foerster Rd., south of the village.
Following its licence bid with the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the company last week applied to Woolwich for the zoning and official plan amendments needed to mine what is currently farmland.
Capital Paving is leasing the site, proposing to extract gravel in five phases, with the owner continuing to farm the land before and after each phase. The plan is to rehabilitate the entire site back to prime farmland when the project is completed, says project manager George Lourenco.
“We’ll return it back to [the owner] in an agricultural state,” he said in an interview this week, noting the company has returned other decommissioned pits back to farmland.
The firm estimates the site contains three million tonnes of aggregate materials. While the pit application is for 500,000 tonnes per year, Lourenco said he expects Capital would remove about half that much annually, meaning the pit would be in operation for 12 to 15 years.
The location is a good one, he says, as it’s close to Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph markets, with access to a regional road (Shantz Station Road) and Highway 7, itself the site of an upcoming construction project.
“We’ve always been interested in the area,” he said of the location, noting there are two former gravel pits in the vicinity, with testing at the site proving positive. “There’s a significant quantity of aggregate resources there.”
The proposed project is the company’s first in Woolwich since a 2008 bid for an operation near West Montrose. That application met with much public resistance and, after some legal wrangling and the township’s adoption of a cultural heritage landscape designation for the area, it was eventually dropped. Woolwich deemed the file closed in 2013.
This time around, Capital Paving has opted for public engagement from the get-go.
“We’ve taken a different approach with this – our objective is to inform the community as early as possible so they can be involved,” said Lourenco.
Representatives went door to door to adjacent property owners about a year and a half ago, making their intentions known. The company also kept the mayor and ward councillors in the loop.
To date, there hasn’t been much feedback, positive or negative, he said.
Preparing for a public open house on June 26, part of the application under the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA), the company has posted its studies online (www.shantzstationpit.com) in advance of the event.
“We want people to have a chance to review our reports and studies, and if they have any questions, they can ask them at our open house.”
Lourenco said the MNRF has accepted as complete the company’s application for the pit licence, setting its process in motion.
The township, however, will need time to review the zone change and official plan amendment applications submitted by the company, says Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning.
Those applications were received by the township on May 29, with the first step in the process being to determine if the company has submitted all the necessary studies, including noise, dust and traffic impacts of the proposed operation.
The township will also be looking at issues related to the site’s proximity to the village.
“That certainly raises some land-use compatibility questions,” said Kennaley, noting there’s also a nearby creek, raising environmental questions.
Kennaley acknowledged there are two former gravel pits in the vicinity, though Capital Paving’s bid is for a larger operation.
“That one’s fairly big. With a 68-hectare (168-acre) extraction area, it’s fairly large.”
The company was in contact with the township as it was exploring the site, he said, though the process really got going with a pre-application meeting in December.
The township isn’t formally involved in the June 26 meeting, which is part of the provincial requirements under the ARA, but will likely be attending.
Its own public meeting, also a statutory requirement, won’t likely be held until September at the earliest given the summer holiday season ahead, said Kennaley, who is retiring at the end of the month, meaning a new department head will be coming into the process at some point.
Both Ward 3 councillors, Murray Martin and Larry Shantz, said they’d not heard any public feedback, though the applications hadn’t been formalized until now.
The Capital Paving open house is set for June 26, 6:30-9 p.m., at the Maryhill Heritage Community Centre.