Residents opposed to plans for a gravel pit near Conestogo won a battle this week, but the war continues.
Woolwich council’s decision to deny zone change and Official Plan changes requested by Hunder Developments likely moves the debate to the provincial arena via the Ontario Municipal Board.
Still, it was reason for a full gallery of spectators to cheer Tuesday night as councillors backed a planning staff report recommending the applications be turned down.
Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley argued the proposed aggregate operation presented a range of problems that make it inappropriate for the area.
“Concerns relating to geological resources, transportation impacts, visual impacts, water resources impacts, noise impacts, dust impacts and land-use compatibility have caused staff to be unable to conclude that there will not be unacceptable impact associated with the proposed Hunder gravel pit,” he said in recommending the township take a stand against the pit, which is already the subject of an open file at the OMB.
Hunder Development took the issue to the provincial board because of the delays in the application process that had gone on for more than two years. Owner Bob Hunsberger said he expects the issue will end up decided at the OMB, but he’s prepared to meet with township staff to sort out what he sees as minor differences between the two sides. To date, however, his requests for meetings have gone unheeded.
“It seems the township wants it to go to the OMB. We’re prepared to do that because we believe we’ve got a strong position … and the work we’ve done is defensible,” he said in a later interview, noting he would prefer to avoid the OMB route, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“A hearing is an expensive process for all sides.”
But that route seems likely in the face of the township’s position and a well-organized public effort to halt the pit.
Keri Martin Vrbanac, president of the Conestogo-Winterbourne Residents Association (CWRA), argued in favour of the staff position as councillors prepared to vote, noting the pit would be bordered by four residential neighbourhoods, including Golf Course Road in Conestogo and Sunset Drive and Meadowbrook
Place in Winterbourne. From noise and dust to traffic and property devaluation, the negative impacts would affect hundreds of residents.
“This would have a negative impact on the residents of Woolwich Township,” she said, adding there’s no need or justification for the pit under either the township or Waterloo Region policies.
Her arguments were bolstered by Warren Sorenson, a planning consultant retained by CWRA to review all of the documents related to the Hunder application. He highlighted a range of compatibility issues, many identified in Kennaley’s report, and the potential for adverse impacts on surrounding communities.
“It’s akin to the establishment of a heavy industrial use in a residential neighbourhood,” said Sorenson, calling the proposal “contrary to good planning.”
Those negatives ultimately swayed councillors, who voted 3-1 in favour of denial, with only Coun. Allan Poffenroth opposed to the motion.
For Coun. Mark Bauman, the list of outstanding issues prompted a vote against the pit, though he suggested the two sides meet to see if the developer could satisfy staff’s concern, perhaps prompting the township to change its position. To goal would be to avoid an expensive OMB hearing.
Hunsberger, who had request council defer a decision until his team had time to review Kennaley’s report, said later he still hopes for a meeting once his consultants have a response to the concerns raised Tuesday night.
The current plan calls for a gravel operation on some 150 acres of land on two farm properties located at 128 Katherine St. S. and 1081 Hunsberger Rd. Hunder Developments hopes to remove 4.3 million metric tonnes of aggregate, proposing to extract up to 500,000 tonnes per year.