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Maryhill residents gear up for a gravel pit showdown

Gravel pits are mostly smaller-scale in Woolwich, which isn’t a large producer of aggregate but sees benefits in changing the assessment system for such properties. [Submitted]

Maryhill residents are gearing up for a battle over a gravel pit proposed for the area, decrying a Woolwich planning staff recommendation to approve an application from Guelph-based Capital Paving.

They’re expected to be out in force – at least virtually – when the report is discussed by township council June 22.

“Residents are very unhappy with this decision.  Residents will be going to council and speaking.  We don’t believe land compatibility has been taken into account properly – there is a village very close to the proposed site, homes, businesses and farms also,” said Maryhill resident Bonnie Bryant, the former Ward 3 councillor who’s been a vocal opponent of the project right from the start.

“Also, there is the cumulative effect of the Kieswetter pit at the Waterloo-Wellington line, which is less than 2 km. from the village.”

At issue is a bid by Capital Paving to develop an extraction operation on a 230-acre site centered on 1195 Foerster Rd., south of Maryhill.

The company has 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. The firm estimates the site contains three million tonnes of aggregate materials. While the pit application looks to extract 500,000 tonnes per year, Capital predicts it would remove about half that much annually, meaning the pit would be in operation for 12 to 15 years.

The applicant has checked all of the boxes and provided the required studies for the likes of noise, dust and traffic to clear the way for the required official plan and zoning changes, said manager of planning Jeremy Vink .

“Township staff have determined through the review of the application and the technical information provided along with the various peer reviews that were completed that the proposed operation minimizes the impacts in a manner that no unacceptable impacts will occur, and the application conforms to the PPS (provincial policy statement), A Place to Grow, the regional official plan and the township official plan, subject to the recommendations contained in this report and the proposed ARA (Aggregate Resource Act) site plan documents being approved by the ministry,” he concludes in his report.

Not surprisingly, the company welcomed the staff recommendation to approve the aggregate operation.

“The comprehensive report includes all the work that was done and peer reviewed by experts in their fields, the proposal’s compliance with all applicable planning policies and legislation, and the fact that any potential impacts will be appropriately mitigated.  We are hopeful that township council will approve the OP amendment and rezoning by-law to allow the Shantz Station Pit to move forward,” said Capital Paving resources manager George Lourenco in an email.

Residents, however, will be looking for council to put their interests ahead of the applicant’s by voting ‘no.’

“That’s what they want representation on,” said Ward 3 Coun. Larry Shantz, noting he’ll be listening to what everyone has to say at the June 22 meeting.

Maryhill residents have been very vocal to date in their opposition, he acknowledged, noting he’s received some calls and emails since the planning staff report was made public June 10.

Maryhill Road residents Silvana and Rob Gobbi, for instance, have been busy circulating comments to the township.

“We need our voices heard, but who is watching out for us? We depend on our councillors, mayor and MPPs to stand up for the taxpayer who voted you in to protect us, to follow the vision statement set up to support safe, caring, healthy, sustainable environments and communities, and mutual support for our community. I understand we need gravel, but it does not belong in the middle of a community that is surrounded by significant wetlands, farmlands, businesses, and water sources,” they wrote in their latest letter.

While council will have to vote on the issue, given that gravel pit applications typically involve appeals and intervention by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the ultimate decision likely lies outside of Woolwich, he said.

“It could possibly be out of our hands at the end of the day.”

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  1. 1. The staff argument that we need gravel for building demonstrates little consideration of maintaining aggregate resources for future generations, of long term protections of water quality, of a food security in jeopardy.

    2. How much of Woolwich’s 224,000,000 tons of high quality aggregate, identified by MNR, has been removed already?
    p15 http://www.geologyontario.mndmf.gov.on.ca/mndmfiles/pub/data/imaging/ARIP103/ARIP103.pdf

    3. According to the interactive map linked below, Woolwich has about 20 gravel quarries already. Has a limit on volume or acreage been established?
    https://www.lioapplications.lrc.gov.on.ca/Pits_And_Quarries/index.html?viewer=Pits_and_Quarries.Pits_and_Quarries&locale=en-CA

    4. Are there any Woolwich areas set aside for protection from aggregate resource extraction?

    5. What considerations/studies about the relationship between gravel extraction and ground water quality have staff considered? Ontario taxpayers pay millions each year for decades of Woolwich’s simplistic and failed approach in chemical industry monitoring.

    6. The extreme drought of the mid-west has crossed the Great Lake system into south western Ontario and is coming our way.
    https://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/agriculture-and-the-environment/drought-watch-and-agroclimate/canadian-drought-monitor/?id=1463575104513

  2. LISTEN TO SOMEONE WHO CURRENTLY LIVES NEAR A GRAVEL PIT !!!!!!! When the gravel pit was first proposed in my community I attended the open houses and information sessions. The hosts of these open houses assured residents that they would not be overly affected by the noise or dust and I seem to recall that originally the pit was supposed to be for extraction only—not crushing.

    We were told they would erect berms to minimize the noise and put dampers in place to minimize dust. They even volunteered to put a pathway in place for us. It seemed they were willing to work with us to do whatever it would take to satisfy us.

    Although I didn’t like it, I thought, “It probably won’t be too bad.” Well: when the pit was approved and operations began, reality hit, hard. The noise at times coming from the gravel pit is at best annoying and at worst fist clenching.

    Summer time is the worst. I was used to a peaceful, quiet surrounding and had no idea that the crushing would be taking place all through the night.

    When the gravel pit comes to life at night, all you hear is the constant whirrrrrr of the crushers. The options are to lay there and listen to the noise or close the windows and swelter in the heat.

    “One particular extremely hot, dry summer was a nightmare.” Bertha Staddon
    The dust around the house has at times been impossible to control, there always seems to be a constant layer of dust on everything despite the frequent cleanings.

    When they blast, you can literally feel your home shake. Several of my neighbours have lost their wells and others have several cracks in their foundations. They feel it could be directly related to the pit.

    One particular extremely hot, dry summer was a nightmare. The dust from the pit was horrific. My children would wake up in the night crying “mommy, water, mommy, I can’t breathe.”

    My daughter, who was a toddler at the time, would wake me up almost every night covered in blood from nosebleeds, which I believe were caused by the excessive dust coming from the pit.

    Imagine waking up in the morning after a few hours’ sleep with your mouth dry as sandpaper and your eyes burning and having to spend a huge portion of your day washing bloody bed sheets, cleaning dust and all the while fighting the anxiety raising up in your gut as to what the possible effects this is having on your family’s health. Just to wake up the next day and do it all over again.

    GravelPit

    I contacted Alberta Health Services, the City mayor and even the cops. This had to be illegal right? Well, with gravel pits there seems to be a lot of grey area when it comes to who governs them and the rules they have to follow. I was told it was a municipal problem, then a provincial problem—the list goes on, and on.

    Thankfully, as the seasons changed the situation did improve.

    However, I will never forget that awful, dry summer: amidst the frustration and tears, I thought the gravel pit has ruined my life and now I have to move.

    It is sad to say, but since then instead of enjoying my beautiful acreage all summer, the family separates and kids and I try to get away from our home as much as possible.

    The gravel pit representatives will do whatever they can to assure you that having a gravel pit in your backyard will not affect your quality of life. They will promise to do what it takes to minimize the noise and dust pollution, which they probably do—but it is not enough.

    Once a pit is approved, the reality is residents in the area will see their quality of life decline significantly. I believe the testing that is done regarding the dust and noise pollution is not a true reflection of reality and does not represent the real effects of living close to a gravel pit.

    Some days the wind blows in different directions, some days the noise is dampened by nature, some summers are drier, some winters colder.

    It also all depends on by who and when the testing is done. In my opinion, there are too many uncontrolled variables to get an accurate gauge of the true health effects.

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