A neighbour’s take on the visual impacts of a proposed gravel pit near Winterbourne – a stark contrast to the version presented by the applicant’s consultant – has Woolwich councillor rethinking a decision made by their predecessors.
In a presentation to council Apr. 19, Jan Huissoon showed a series of photos of the landscape Conestogo and Winterbourne residents can realistically expect if a bid by Kuntz Topsoil, Sand and Gravel goes through. He was joined by to other area residents calling on the township to reconsider its tentative approval for the project.
Councillors were swayed by their arguments, opting to look at an enhanced, peer-reviewed visual-impacts study. That may have to be done in the context of an overall reconsideration of last November’s vote by the previous council.
Along with the photographs, Huissoon’s illustrations of what the site would look like with berms and gravel stockpiles in place hit the mark.
The previous council’s decision came without enough information to assess the negative visual impacts on the valley, he said, painting a picture of a horizon filled by a gravel pit operation, including piles of gravel 20 metres in height.
“If the previous council had been aware of these [views], they would not have passed it.”
If approved, the Kuntz pit, which would occupy a third of the valley, could lead other landowners to seek gravel licences, he added.
In light of this information, and the absence of a cultural heritage study, council should reconsider the township’s position on the Kuntz pit, said Winterbourne resident Laurie Breed.
When the old council voted to approve the rezoning application in principle, they voted based on information that was incomplete; had they had the complete picture, they may well have voted differently,” she said.
The valley, considered a tourist attraction by the township and the Region of Waterloo, would be scarred if a aggregate extraction is permitted, she argued.
“The township’s own tourist information encourages tourists to visit Winterbourne’s heritage bridge and entices them with the promise that ‘the roads in the Winterbourne Valley are surrounded by impeccably kept Old Order Mennonite farms…’ Nowhere does it mention stockpiles and berms.”
The presentations were enough for Coun. Bonnie Bryant to call for a more detailed study of the visual impacts, prompting chief administrative officer David Brenneman to explain any change to what was approved by the previous council would likely have to come as part of a larger review. Staff were then instructed to look into the legal and procedural options of reconsidering November’s decision.
The Kuntz proposal calls for rezoning some 90 acres of agricultural land at 125 Peel St. to permit extraction on approximately half the property, which contains an estimated 840,000 tonnes of aggregate.