Maryhill gravel pit opponents start fundraising campaign

Gearing up for a legal fight against a gravel pit proposed for a site south of the village, a group of Maryhill residents is looking to build a war chest.

The Hopewell Creek Ratepayers Association wants to raise $100,000 to cover the cost of lawyers and other specialists when it takes on Capital Paving at an Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hearing. The company took the matter to the OLT last month, saying it could wait no longer for a decision from Woolwich council.

Capital Paving wants to develop an extraction operation on a 230-acre site centered on 1195 Foerster Rd., south of Maryhill. 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.

“After a two-year municipal review, which included extensive peer reviews, it now appears that Capital Paving’s Shantz Station Pit application is stalled. We believe it is in the best interest of everyone that the application be resolved by an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal,” George Lourenco, the company’s resources manager, said following the move last month.

The matter removed from the township’s hands, the residents must now take the battle to the quasi-judicial tribunal, a costly endeavour says association executive committee member Bonnie Bryant.

To date, the group has raised about 30 per cent of its goal.

“We’re just beginning at this point. We’ve just started – we’ve put out an appeal, we have a GoFundMe page and we will be starting other projects soon. We’ve had a lot of donations made to us at this point,” said Bryant.  “The community does not want this pit and they are stepping up and donating funds.”

The association will use the funds to pay for a lawyer and experts to review all studies done by Capital Paving, most of which have been challenged by residents.

“There is so much community support and people are not happy about this and we’ve watched Capital Paving do this type of stuff in other areas as well. They’ve done it in Puslinch – they tried to put in a pit down there in a very similar situation to what we’re dealing with: with wetlands, compatibility issues, a whole bunch of different things. They also have tried to put a pit in West Montrose in the past,” added Bryant.

“They should have looked for an alternate site. They’re sitting right at the doorstep of the village of Maryhill by businesses, homes, a golf course is right there. There’s a school, one of the largest dairy farms in Ontario – there are so many things wrong with this proposed site. It should never have got to this point.”

Residents are questioning the information presented by the company, with many having expressed fears it will apply for a license to mine gravel below the water table. At a public meeting in July, opponents set about meticulously challenging the reports filed by Capital Paving, making cases on a number of fronts that the proposal was bad planning, threatened the local environment and reduced the quality of life for those living and working in the area. In the latter category, organizations such as the Merry-Hill Golf Club, St. John’s-Kilmarnock School and Schaman Clinic outlined the potential negative impacts of the development, including issues unaddressed by Capital’s studies submitted to the township.

In bypassing the township, Capital is looking for the tribunal and Ministry of Natural Resources to move the project forward, said Bryant.

“I don’t think it looks good for the residents when all the controls are out of the hands of the township and they’re in the hands of the Ministry of Natural Resources. We know they’ve cut staffing at the natural resources so you’re not going to get anything accomplished. We see what’s happening at the Kieswetter pit, which is fairly close to the village of Maryhill now, it’s actually in Wellington County and there have been some issues with that and the neighbors have been fighting and fighting trying to get the ministry to resolve these issues and it’s just not happening,” she said.

“We’re not anticipating getting the support from the provincial government that we would like to see happen.”

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