One is a large project with plenty of public opposition. The other a fairly small expansion to an existing operation with some measure of public support. Yet both gravel pit applications may end up in provincial hearings, despite Woolwich council taking opposite stances on each of them.
Having rejected an application for a gravel pit in Conestogo at Tuesday night’s meeting, councillors shortly thereafter supported the bid by D&J Lockhart Excavators to expand their aggregate operations at 6225 Middlebrook Rd. In doing so, they rejected a planning staff recommendation the site plan include a sunset clause limiting the operation to a 20-year timeframe.
While the applicant reluctantly agreed to the clause, councillors opted against it because of the possibility a third party – the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association or even the Ministry of Natural Resources – would take the issue to the Ontario Municipal Board.
A second contentious provision controlling depth of extraction – so-called vertical zoning – remains in place, however, increasing the likelihood of an OMB appeal. Such zoning is already the subject of an OMB hearing, as the province has challenged the Region of Waterloo’s proposal to include vertical zoning in its new Official Plan. Woolwich has backed the region in that fight, supporting controls that safeguard the water table from problems related to aggregate extraction.
Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley argued in favour of retaining the sunset clause, noting the township would like to see time limits as part of aggregate policies. Acknowledging the likelihood of legal issues, he said the clause is defensible.
“I don’t think there’s any question as to the legality of it. This is what we’re prepared to defend at the OMB,” he told councillors, hoping to see the provision remain as part of the agreement. “I feel it’s necessary to have the sunset clause as a part of approval.”
Councillors, however, feared further delays for the company, which is running out of gravel and can no longer bid on larger jobs. They also seemed eager to avoid the expense of an OMB hearing.
“Somebody once told me you have to choose the hill you want to die on. I don’t want to die on this hill,” said Coun. Allan Poffenroth, suggesting this was not the place for the township to dig in its heels.
Coun. Mark Bauman, noting the applicant had cooperated with the township throughout the process, said he was satisfied with a gentlemen’s agreement the company would abide by limitations, adding the situation would be much clearer after the both the sunset clause and vertical zoning issues make their way through the various legal challenges.
The two parties had previously agreed on issues such as hours of operation, fencing and berming – outstanding items from provisional approval awarded by council in the spring.
The D&J Lockhart plan calls for a 24-acre expansion of an existing 12-acre operation. Annual extraction is not to exceed 150,000 tonnes, and the area contains and estimated one million tonnes of aggregate. The company expects about eight truck trips per hour (four trucks in and out) during a regular operating day.
The status of the project will be clearer following the 20-day appeal period once notice of council’s decision is circulated.