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Controversial gravel pit planned near Maryhill meets all requirements, experts say

Capital Paving is looking to mine gravel from what is now farmland around 1195 Forester Rd, south of Maryhill. [Submitted]

MARYHILL — The proposed gravel pit on Shantz Station Road,  a controversial project proposed near Maryhill, is moving through the review  phases for development.

Most recently, the Region of Waterloo’s ecological and environmental advisory  committee gave a green light, saying that after the company made some revisions  to its plans, the project meets all policy and legislative requirements.

The committee is a group of experts that advise the region on development  applications, environmental assessments and other environmental matters.

In turn, the Region of Waterloo is a commenting body on this project. The  decision to approve the project’s applications will be made by Woolwich.

Capital Paving, a Wellington County-based aggregate extraction company,  applied for a licence to remove aggregate above the water table, a zone change  to allow for aggregate extraction on current farmland, and an Official Plan  amendment in 2019.

The site is outside the areas the township currently designates for aggregate  extraction in its Official Plan, and extracting there will require an  amendment.

To access the pit, Capital Paving may use an older driveway that runs through  a wetland.

The driveway was used in the early 2000s for truck access to a now-closed  gravel pit. This access road will be paved and widened, and an extension built  to the extraction area through a neighbouring woodlot.

Though this wetland area is habitat for species at risk, the committee  believes the proposed access route makes more sense than the alternative of an  access route to Foerster Road. This route would be longer, more costly, run  along a township road that would need to be upgraded to accommodate the  increased truck traffic, and could endanger pedestrians crossing between  sections of a golf course.

The ecological and environmental advisory committee gave recommendations to  lessen the project’s environmental impact.

These include planting more trees to make up for the damage, prioritizing  planting the trees in the preliminary stages of the project and implementing a  formalized agreement with the neighbour to ensure trees are retained over the  years, according to Ken Hough, who presented about the project at the  committee’s February meeting.

Also, once the pit is in its rehabilitation phase, the committee recommends  the extension through the woodlot be taken out and the road through the wetland  be put back to its original size.

Ecological passages to allow amphibians and reptiles to move across the  access road were also recommended, though this was considered unnecessary by the  Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Hough said.

Overall, the access road “was a bit contentious but ultimately probably as  good as we could achieve,” Hough said at the meeting.

An amendment to Woolwich’s Official Plan would allow for aggregate extraction  outside the designated area.

The Hopewell Creek Ratepayers Association is a community group opposed to the  pit. The group cites concerns with how close the project will be to Maryhill, a  possible reduction in air quality, increased truck traffic and negative impact  on nearby businesses.

“Shouldn’t aggregate mapping adopted by the region count for something?” says  a letter last year from the group to the township and region. “Shouldn’t this  mapping give citizens some certainty about where an aggregate proposal could  arise?”

“It is very common when an application becomes public pretty much anywhere in  Ontario, there’s going to be certain degree of opposition,” says George  Lourenco, the resources manager for Capital Paving.

“I don’t know of a single application in the entire province that isn’t going  through issues with a community or a certain number of neighbours that are  nearby the operation.”

“I think it’s important to understand that gravel is only located in certain  locations in the province. Mother Nature didn’t bless us with gravel everywhere.  So we can only go to those places where it’s located and has a good enough  quality and a certain amount, or a certain size of deposit to be able to warrant  going for a licence.”

Lourenco also says the aggregate industry stresses that aggregate extraction  needs to be close to where it will be used. The Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel  Association estimates that adding one kilometre to the route of all aggregate  trucks in Ontario would burn approximately 2.5 million extra litres of diesel  fuel each year. 

Other completed reviews and discussion about the project are on the Township  of Woolwich’s ongoing projects  page on its website.

Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its  Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed.

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