Looking for people willing to help with the battle against a large gravel pit proposed for a site just outside of Conestogo, the residents’ association this week got the backing of a heavyweight: the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.
Given a choice between remaining out of the fray and doing what she can to block the development of what’s known as the Hunsberger pit, Leeanna Pendergast said she’ll side with her neighbours in Conestogo.
“I’ll do what I have to do to stop the pit,” she said Tuesday night, addressing a meeting of some 100 members of the Conestogo-Winterbourne Residents Association (CWRA) in the gym at Conestogo Public School.
Advised by the province’s Integrity Commissioner that she might be in a conflict-of-interest situation – caught between being a private citizen of Conestogo and her duties as an MPP – Pendergast said she informed the commissioner she wasn’t going to remain neutral.
“At the end of the day, there’s no conflict: I have to represent the constituents.”
While the dust hasn’t even settled on the recent skirmish at Woolwich council over the nearby Kuntz gravel pit, the CWRA is preparing its strategy for when the Hunsberger aggregate application comes up for debate at the township. To that end, it’s building a war chest to pay for lawyers, planners, engineers and other consultants if the fight goes to the Ontario Municipal Board, which is a likely outcome, said Keri Martin Vrbanac, the group’s president.
Along with volunteering to take part in the evaluation of the many documents submitted by the applicant, Hunder Developments, Martin Vrbanac said residents could help the cause by being vocal about their opposition, airing their concerns to local and provincial officials.
“If you’re passionate about not having a gravel pit in your backyard, then it’s important to make sure that you let somebody know that that’s how you feel, and get your neighbours to let people know as well,” she said.
“There’s strength in numbers. The more people that come out and show that we’re against this, the better chance we have of potentially stopping or mitigating the impacts of the pit.”
That message wasn’t lost on Todd Cowan, Woolwich’s new mayor, who told the crowd council was elected on a mandate to review gravel pits, particularly the three larger operations proposed for the area between Conestogo and West Montrose.
“Gravel pits don’t belong in our backyards. Let’s look at a balance. Let’s look at where we should have these gravel pits,” he said.
In the case of the Hunsberger application, the pit would be located immediately east of the village. The proposal calls for a gravel operation sprawling over 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.
Information filed by the applicant indicates the pit would operate six days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., requiring an average of 18 trucks per hour to pass through its gates.
The CWRA has pointed to the applications for other gravel pits in the immediate vicinity –on Jigs Hollow Road and the Capital Paving proposal in West Montrose – as creating the potential for a cumulative nightmare for those living in that part of the township.