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Maryhill gravel pit proposal meets with widespread pushback

[File Photo]

A new gravel pit near Maryhill? Not if residents have anything to say about.

They in fact had plenty to say, giving Woolwich councillors an earful during a public meeting Tuesday night, the packed gallery sending a resounding “no” to Capital Paving’s bid for a sprawling operation south of the village.

The company is looking for official plan and zoning changes to a combined 230 acres of land spread across four properties at 1226 Maryhill Rd., 1175 Foerster Rd., 1195 Foerster Rd and 1472 Village View Rd. Actual extraction would take place on some 168 acres, which contains an estimated three million metric tonnes of aggregate material.

While the pit application is for 500,000 tonnes per year, the company suggests it would remove about half that much annually, meaning the pit would be in operation for 12 to 15 years.

But residents hope it never comes to that, laying out numerous concerns and calling on council to turn down Capital Paving’s request. The township received more than a hundred letters of opposition prior to this week’s public meeting.

“An industrial operation doesn’t belong in a residential community,” argued Maryhill Road resident Silvana Gobbi, noting the project brings with a host of problems, from increased truck traffic to dust and noise issues.

Moreover, there’s a risk property values would drop 10 to 40 per cent. An appraisal of her own home indicated a 30 per cent drop in value due to the prospect of a gravel pit, she said.

“How will homeowners be compensated for that?”

Bonnie Bryant, a Maryhill resident and former Ward 3 councillor, said the negative impacts on surrounding residences, farms and businesses are enough to quash the application.

“This proposed pit is not a compatible land use.”

That’s a sentiment shared by residents and nearby business, including the Merry-Hill Golf Club, Ontario Aerobics Centre, Grootendorst Farms and St. John’s-Kilmarnock school    (SJK).

Brandon Peister, representing the golf club, noted none of the studies submitted by the applicant mentions the impact on the  golf operation despite the close proximity and prospect of problems arising.

“That’s going to have a big impact on our business,” he said of the proposed gravel pit, which he argued was at odds with the surrounding uses.

Ian Watt, deputy head of school at SJK, said the school was likewise left out of Capital Paving’s assessment in what he called a “gross and egregious oversight.”

As with the golf club, the school faces the prospect of dust, noise and traffic problems, with perhaps hundreds of trucks passing through the school safety zone each day.

“Do we really put gravel ahead of children?” he asked.

John Schaman, the doctor who runs a cardiac clinic at the corner of Shantz Station Road and Hopewell Creek Road, said the pit threatens the tranquility and serenity that is the hallmark of the treatment centre. Engaging councillors, he said the proposal would have massive impact on what has taken decades to build.

“This would be clearly devastating.”

His own calculations predicted truck traffic of 35 to 60 per hour.

Challenged by Capital Paving, he did more investigating, eventually concluding he was on the low side.

The company stuck with its own estimates of five to nine trucks per hour, a daily average of 59.

Representing Capital paving, Brian Zeman, president of MHBC Planning, said the extra trucks would represent a three-per-cent increase in traffic on Shantz Station Road, which the company predicts will see the bulk of traffic leaving southbound from the proposed site.

The company downplays suggestions trucks will be heading through the village, noting the markets for gravel are principally to the south, west and east.

“There is also incorrect information that is being spread in the community that this pit will represent 300-500 trucks each day. This is wildly inaccurate,” he said.

But resident Don Schwartzentruber, who runs Spectralis Haulage & Excavation Inc., said his own experience moving gravel tells him the applicant is downplaying the noise impacts and the truck traffic.

“I take issue with the numbers – I think they’re low,” he said, predicting he’s looking at the prospect of a truck passing his home every three minutes. “I think the reality is going to be higher.”

He, like others speaking out against the project, challenged the numbers supplied by Capital Paving, arguing the averages the company use look to equalize traffic over the course of the year, even though demand falls way off in the winter months, for instance.

Given much to think about Tuesday night, councillors won’t be making any decisions on the gravel pit application for months yet. This week’s meeting for essentially the start of the process, with planning staff continuing to take public input, review the information submitted by Capital Paving, and having some of the company’s reports reviewed by third-party experts.

An eventual recommendation report from staff is likely several months away, suggested township planner Jeremy Vink.

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