Woolwich has dropped the fight against a gravel pit proposed for a site near Maryhill, clearing the way for Capital Paving to begin mining there.
The Guelph-based company had taken the process to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). A hearing scheduled for later this year was essentially pre-empted by the settlement deal, though it could still go ahead, with residents opposed to the project.
The so-called Shantz Station Pit will extract gravel from 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 has predicted it would remove about half that much annually, meaning the pit would be in operation for 12 to 15 years.
Council approved the settlement in a closed session February 14. Meeting Tuesday night, councillors again backed the move, citing the low probability of winning a legal battle.
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Opposition to the project has been led by the Hopewell Creek Ratepayers Association. Two of the residents made appeals to council Tuesday night.
Silvana Gobbi, whose property backs onto the gravel pit land, decried the township’s decision, “made behind closed doors.”
She argued the township’s planning department has failed to protect farmland and the community by backing the company’s application, adding that council’s support had “compromised” its integrity.
“The council has supported a business, Capital Paving, over its own people,” she said.
Dr. John Schaman, a physician who’s run the nearby Ontario Aerobics Centre since 1978, said he agreed with Gobbi’s assessment. He noted the township’s settlement is likely to force him to drop from the appeal process – he currently has party status in the OLT process.
“I’m going to have to give up the fight,” he said.
In response, Mayor Sandy Shantz said the township couldn’t be transparent about the settlement given that legal matters are carried out in closed sessions.
She said the township had no technical reason to oppose Capital Paving’s application, so an appeal at the OLT would likely have been futile.
“Our hands are tied,” she said, noting the fact that people are “inconvenienced” isn’t an appropriate reason to oppose the application.
There’s a “98 per cent chance we’d lose,” Shantz said of the OLT process, in which the township could end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in vain.
In that light, negotiating better terms via a settlement was seen as the best approach.
Having hired a hydrogeologist to look at residents’ concerns about the gravel pit’s potential impact on the area’s water supply, the township got Capital Paving to agree to some improvements to address shallow dug wells and tile drainage outlets, and the related need for monitoring.
The hydrogeology study was paid for by the township, but the cost of monitoring and any remediation that may be required falls on Capital Paving, chief administrative officer David Brenneman said in an earlier interview.
Though the company has cleared a hurdle with the settlement, it is still preparing for the OLT hearing rather than making other plans, said George Lourenco, Capital’s resources manager.
“While we have settled the issues with the township and the region, there are other parties involved in the proceeding and we will work to resolve or scope down the remaining issues prior to the hearing commencing,” he said in an email.