Aikensville pit bylaw deferred after error found in elevations

County council has sent a bylaw approving a gravel pit in Puslinch Township back to its planning committee because of an error found in the elevations presented to council in November.
The proposed Aikensville pit is on part of Lots 13, 14, and 15, Concession 3 in Puslinch Township. It is in the northwest part of the township, north of County Road 34, and im­mediately west of County road 35. Capital Paving wants to ex­tract about 1.5 million tonnes of gravel from the pit over seven years.
In order to operate, over 60 acres of land has to be desig­nated as being within the mineral aggregate area in the county official plan. The com­pany will also require a licence from the Ministry of Natural Re­sources and appro­priate township zoning.
A group of citizens is op­posing the pit, and councillors acknowledged the issue will be decided at an Ontario Muni­cipal Board hearing when they approved the official plan amendment in a 7-6 vote in November.
Council made that decision after hearing from residents and Capital Paving proponents.
But on Jan. 31, when council considered a third read­ing of the bylaw, councillor Rod Finnie opposed it and moved that it be sent back to the planning committee in light of some last minute informa­tion coming from Puslinch  Township’s own hydrogeolo­gist.
Finnie said there was “a poten­tial error” in the floor ele­vations presented to county council, and the pit floor elevations are below the high water level. The company is supposed to restore the mined pit to agricultural land.
There has also been a change in the areas on the site where extraction is to take place. Opponents are hoping to protect wetlands on the property from the mining operation.
Councillor Mike Broom­head supported Finnie.
“Once you change the ex­traction area, it changes other things, too,” he said, telling council, “It’s extremely import­ant you refer it back [to the planning committee].”
Planning committee chair­man Walter Trachsel said coun­cil approved the official plan amendment in November and asked that the bylaw be pre­pared. He wondered why his committee should deal with the issue again and consider reversing its previous decision.
“My suggestion is let the OMB deal with it,” Trachsel said.
Finnie said council is not re­versing the decision, but saying there was an error in the information they heard when they made their decision. It was “not consistent with their intent when we passed this,” he said.
He added that Broomhead had also pointed out the com­pany will not be able to mine as much gravel as it has stated that it intended to take from the site, and, “We must make sure the elevations are consistent with what we passed.”
Councillor Brad Whit­combe said, “I’m not sure I care that much.” He said there is gravel on the site and it was a “political decision to allow it to be mined.”
Whitcombe said the site plan is up to Puslinch Town­ship, where he is mayor, and the Ministry of Natural Re­sources.
“It’s interesting stuff .. but we have made  political de­cision” about allowing a pit in an area that has houses sur­rounding it.
But councillor Lou Maieron pointed out that when the gravel extraction is completed, the land has to be returned to be used for agriculture.
“It’s hard to restore when it’s under water,’ he said.
Maieron, an aquaculture operator, added, “I understand water tables.”
He said, “We passed this based on certain criteria,” and add­ed that it is not the op­ponents bringing in the latest information, but the township’s own hydrogeologist.
Maieron said if the com­pany obeys the regulations, “it may be uneconomical” to mine the area.
“Infamous ‘new informa­tion’ has come in. It may change the whole scope of the issue.”
Councillor Jean Innes said with that new information, “If it goes to the OMB, we may support the residents rather than the proponents. There are advantages for planning staff to take a new look at this infor­mation.”
The lands to be mined are also close to a provincially signi­ficant wetland, and op­ponents want those protected, as well as getting protection from noise, dust, and traffic. It would take the company about seven years to mine all the gravel at the site, but Broom­head noted at the November meeting that if the company takes its maximum gravel each year, the gravel would be gone in four years.
The motion to send the by­law back to the committee carried 11-4, with only councillors Whitcombe, Carl Hall, Bob Wilson, and Trachsel in favour.
Councillor Barb McKay declared a conflict of interest because her husband has connections with a gravel company, and was not in the room for the debate or the vote.