Puslinch council gets tough with gravel pit operators

PUSLINCH – Puslinch council is putting its foot down when it comes to aggregate operations in the township.

Council decided on July 13 to defer a zoning change application for CBM to expand operations of its Lanci pit until the company meets site plan approvals for all its existing operations in Puslinch, including installing a way to convey materials under a road. 

And if it doesn’t comply, the township will consider closing the company’s access to municipal roads.

CBM has an application before council for a zoning change to allow the aggregate operator to expand the Lanci pit to add a load and haul operation on its land south of Concession 2.

The proposed pit expansion also requires a change to the Wellington County Official Plan and approval for a license from the Ministry of Mines, Northern Development and Natural Resources and Forestry.

The proposal claims to increase the buffer between the excavation site and a natural woodland on the south end of the property. And it proposes that the excavated material will be trucked across Concession 2 to the Aberfoyle South Main pit, also called the McNally pit, where it will be processed.

It will produce a maximum one million tonnes of aggregate a year and the company anticipates it will take five years to exhaust the supply. The restoration plan includes planting trees, retaining the pond, and possibly building three homes on Sideroad 25, which borders the west side of the property.

The zoning change application is the only opportunity the township has to exert control over aggregate operations. Once zoning is approved, the matter moves to the county and then to the ministry. Any subsequent site plan changes are out of the township’s hands.

So council was suspicious when James Parkin, a partner with MHBC speaking on behalf of CBM, insisted the company was being forthright with its application and plans for the property.

“Sometimes an applicant will submit different plans after the township has removed its objections,” said councillor Matthew Bulmer. “How do we know you won’t do a bait and switch?”

“CBM has put forth both applications – site and zoning. Everything is on the table,” Parkin said. “There’s no possibility of a bait and switch.”

Puslinch resident John McNie spoke on behalf of the citizen’s group the Millcreek Stewards. He cited several concerns the group has with the proposal, including destruction of natural habitat and that the township will be left with a series of rectangular lakes divided by ribbons of road when the pits close – land that’s not useful for anything.

“And this Lanci pit skirts compliance over and over again,” he said. “They suggest compliance should not be a show-stopper issue, but we think it should be the show-stopper.”

McNie said by the group’s calculation, aggregate operations take up 12% of Puslinch.

“You bring up valid points,” said Mayor James Seeley. “If they come in compliance with their other sites, I would support this. We will look at this with a microscope.”

The township had its hydrogeologist look at the proposal as well as a traffic and road safety consultant.

CAO Glenn Schwendinger and clerk Courtenay Hoytfox presented the consultants’ findings in their report to council, outlining deep concerns about the safety of the road with rock trucks crossing every two minutes on average, and the township’s liability if an accident were to occur on Concession 2.

“It is important to consider the many aspects of an operation and not in isolation of one specific site,” the report states. 

“The CBM aggregate operations span across multiple sites and licences and function together with the feeder pits transporting material to processing pits. An expansion to one site may affect other sites, neighbouring properties, the community, or the municipality as a whole.”

The report notes CBM has other applications with the ministry to amend the Neubauer and Mast pit licenses to combine the tonnage limits of both licenses.

These pits also feed to the McNally pit on Concession 2, and there is concern this may intensify the hydrogeology and movement of water issues at the pits. 

As well, according to the original site plans, there was to be an under-road conveyance but there isn’t. Trucks are hauling material across Concession 2, damaging the road, putting other drivers at risk and making the township, as the road authority, liable, the report states.

“None of the site operational plans provides permission for the establishment of a road crossing and, further, the township has not approved a road crossing at either location,” the report states. 

The Lanci pit expansion proposal would put a second uncontrolled road crossing on Concession 2 within 500 metres of the existing, unauthorized crossing.

“It is recommended that any new amendments or expansions to either licence be granted until compliance with the operational plans for both Neubauer and Lanci pit is adequately demonstrated,” the report states.

Mayor James Seeley said aggregate operations are leaving the township’s roads in a mess and as the responsible road authority, the township must ensure roads are safe for all kinds of traffic.

Trucks hauling material to the processing site leave mud on the road that’s slippery, they eat the asphalt and leave potholes and they are big machines not intended to be driven on public roads, Seeley said.

“We’ve been talking with CBM for quite a while,” he said. “Can we close that crossing?”

“That is a possibility,” answered CAO Glenn Schwendinger.

The road safety consultant recommended some immediate steps to make the road safer, such as signage, a flashing light at the crossing, and a flag person during operating hours.

Schwendinger recommended the township do that work and try to recover costs from CBM later.

“We need to put something there … to make the public aware. As the road authority we need warning signs. That’s the priority,” he said.

“But the bigger discussion is there should not be a crossing there at all. They need a conveyor or auger or some other system.”

After much discussion, council approved a motion to put up signs and recoup the cost from CBM; for CBM to have a flag person on duty during hauling operations; for CBM to clean the road of mud and debris; for CBM to pave the shoulders of the road at its entrances and exits; and for CBM to return to council in August with its plan to install an under-road conveyance system.

The township will also ask the ministry to enforce the requirement for CBM to install an under-road conveyance system as per the licensing requirement.

Council also directed staff to begin working on a bylaw requiring businesses to clean up their messes from public roadways, and to hire a consultant to investigate whether aggregate operations in the township are in compliance with their licenses.

“This our warning shot across the bow,” Seeley said.