County: no defence at OMB

County council rejected the official plan amendment that would have a allowed a gravel pit in Puslinch Township, but it will not defend its decision at the Ontario Municipal board.

In March, county council rejected the third reading of the bylaw that would have allowed the Capital Paving gravel pit on part of Lots 13, 14, and 15, on Concession 3 in Puslinch Township. The company needed an official plan amendment to designate about 60 acres of land as being within the mineral aggregate area.

Council’s latest decision means the Cranberry Area Residents and Ratepayers Association (CARRA) and Puslinch Township council will be the only groups conducting the battle against the pit at the OMB.

Councillor Rod Finnie and Carl Hall presented a motion that Chief Administrative Officer Scott Wilson hire a legal team to represent the county at the OMB. That was necessary if council was going to defend its decision, because county staff had recommended the official plan be approved.

Councillor Mark MacKenzie asked what it might cost to do that. The team would consist of a lawyer, planners, and possibly a hydrogeologist.

County solicitor Hugh Guthrie said it could be $100,000 and more for the six week hearing.

Finnie argued the county official plan clearly states council has designated where gravel can be extracted, and said he is not for or against the gravel industry. But, he said, “We have to protect the county official plan.”

MacKenzie said, “We have a moral obligation.”

Finnie said the official plan specifically states no pits are to go in areas where there are sensitive wetlands – and the Cranberry bog is a significant provincial wetland.

“We must take a systems approach to our greenbelt,” Finnie said. “We can’t take a pocket approach.”

He conceded that defending the official plan “may cost us a bit of money,” but, “Either we protect it – or we don’t. I believe we should protect it.”

Councillor Jean Innes agreed and said this is an issue that is of much interest to the citizens living in the area. She said the cost is less than what the county will pay for laptops for councillors next year.

But councillor Bob Wilson said he thinks the estimate is low. He suggested the high end could be $500,000, and the low end $200,000 to defend the decision.

Councillor Lynda White suggested the county simply observe what happens at the hearing. She said it should check the costs, and make a final decision in January.

Councillor Lou Maieron pointed out the county land division committee had, over time, given severances in the area and allowed people to build homes in an area that was not designated for gravel ex­traction. He wanted to defend the council’s decision.

Councillor Chris White suggested the county could partner with the other opponents of Capital and share costs of representation at the hearing.

Councillor Gord Tosh said staff wrote the official plan, and they did not find the proposal inappropriate.

When the vote was called to defend the official plan, it was lost, 8-5.