Residents from Puslinch who were fighting an official plan amendment that would have allowed a gravel pit near their homes will likely be heading to the Ontario Municipal Board armed with the knowledge that the county supports them.
County council narrowly rejected the third reading of a bylaw that would have approved Capital Paving’s plan to excavate gravel from land located on part of Lot 13, 14, and 15, Concession 3 in Puslinch Township. The company needed an official plan amendment to designate about 60 acres as being within the mineral aggregate area.
The decision was not without its procedural wrangling, though.
The county had passed two readings of the bylaw, but deferred its final decision after receiving some information from Puslinch Township’s hydrogeologist that stated some of the information about water levels was misrepresented.
The Cranberry Area Residents and Ratepayers Association (CARRA) had fought the pit because their homes surround the site, and because the pit site contains wetlands.
The issue came to council on March 27 after having been defeated for approval at the county planning committee. Chairman Walter Trachsel said a motion to grant the bylaw a third reading failed to pass the committee level because the vote was tied.
Trachsel said he had “no new information to add. I still, personally, support it.”
But councillor Mike Broomhead wanted to know why council was even being asked to consider a recommendation that had been defeated at the committee. Tied votes are defeated.
He said the motion to pass the bylaw “was lost for a reason. I’m not supporting it. I’m not even sure why it’s here.”
Green explained that the issue had already been on the council floor, and it would be council that decided if the bylaw receives third reading.
Broomhead replied, “This is the first time I’ve seen this happen.”
Trachsel said his committee had been asked to review the information from the hydrogeologist, and bring the issue back to council.
Chief Administrative Officer Scott Wilson explained council had to vote on the third reading of the bylaw, because the first two readings had carried, and a committee “cannot thwart the will of council.”
Green said that no matter what council did, “It’s going to the [Ontario Municipal Board] one way or the other,” because there will be an appeal by either side.
Wilson added that nothing that happened at the committee meeting can prevent council from considering third reading of the bylaw.
Councillor Rod Finnie asked that the issue be separated from the committee recommendations for a final vote.
Green then stated council would consider the bylaw immediately instead of continuing with other committee business, because he did not wish to make members of CARRA or the company wait hours for the bylaw vote that comes later in the meeting.
When council debated the bylaw, Finnie said, “Right from the start I have been opposed. The area is bounded by a number of residences.”
Finnie said county planners have always tried to ensure that incompatible land uses are placed close to each other and away from residential uses, and, recently, had argued at the OMB against severance applications because of nearby residences.
Finnie also cited a recent decision at the OMB to take a system-based approach to planning and the environment. He noted the proposed pit is near two greenlands, which are part of a complex ecosystem.
Finnie said using a piecemeal approach means taking “a little bit here, a little bit there. Pretty soon, you have nothing left.”
He concluded, “It’s time to put an end to this project.”
Councillor Lou Maieron said council should delay its decision for at least two months because the huge amount of snow is going to melt, and there might be a new high water level to consider. That level will determine the amount of gravel available to the company, and he wondered if council can decide without knowing what the new high water level will be.
Broomhead said if council turns down the bylaw, “We’re certainly helping citizens.”
Green said one side wants county support from Wellington County.
Broomhead said “The Ministry of Natural Resources decides, and it won’t matter two hoots what Wellington County says.”
Trachsel urged a decision because that would be fair to both. “It’s been on the books for two years.”
Councillor Jean Innes argued against the bylaw.
“On one side we have a couple hundred ratepayers,” she said. “We owe a duty to our taxpayers.”
She said that allowing the extraction put nearby wetlands in jeopardy.
When council voted, councillor Mark MacKenzie asked that it be recorded.
Those voting in favour of the bylaw were councillors Joanne Ross-Zuj, Green, Trachsel, Carl Hall, Brad Whitcombe, Bob Wilson, and Gord Tosh.
Councillors MacKenzie, Chris White, Lynda White, Broomhead, Finnie, Dave Anderson, Maieron and Innes were opposed, and the bylaw was defeated 8-7.
Councillor Barb McKay declared a conflict of interest because her husband is a consultant and the company he works for does work for Capital Paving.