Puslinch not participating in pre-formal consultations regarding CBM Aggregates Lake Pit proposal

ABERFOYLE – Puslinch councillors are not prepared to commit to a consultation meeting to assist CBM Aggregates prepare a future application even before formal pre-consultation meetings with various review agencies.

In December 2019, CBM Aggregates approached the township asking council to authorize its hydrogeologist to meet with CBM’s hydrogeological consultant to review and provide input on preliminary groundwater modelling scenarios that are being prepared for the future pit application under the Aggregate Resources Act.

In correspondence to the township, CBM’s director of land and resources David Hanratty stated the company was open to meeting with the township’s consulting ecologist at the same time.

CBM estimated the meeting would require a minimum of a half day of the township consultants’ time, plus travel to CBM’s consultants’ office in Mississauga (if needed).

“We are not looking for the hydrogeologist to take a position on the application or provide an opinion, but rather we look at this as an opportunity to exchange ideas and comments as it relates to the groundwater model,” Hanratty stated.

The company would still participate in formal pre-consultation meeting(s) with review agencies, which would include the township, county, GRCA and MNRF.

Regarding the discussion on costs for such a meeting, CBM agreed to cover “reasonable” costs for the township hydrogeologist’s time and any associated travel outside of the township.

In his letter to council, township ecological consultant Greg Scheifele stated he had never been to the lake property and no knowledge of it since there has not been a formal pre-consultation meeting.

“Consequently, I don’t think I would have much to contribute to a meeting that was mainly focused on hydrogeological modelling,” Scheifele stated.

However, he added that should the township want him to attend the meeting, requiring a special trip from his Owen Sound office, he would charge $1,500 for the consultation.

Township hyrdogeologist Stan Denhoed provided a cost estimate of $1,080 to participate in the meeting.

Councillor John Sepulis read a motion stating he did not believe council should take part in the “pre-pre-consultation” as it could lead to a potential conflict of interest.

His motion noted the township’s role in application reviews “does not include assisting preparing applications.”

Further, Sepulis stated “there can be no perception of a conflict of interest.”

Sepulis said the township would provide a list of issues and factors that would need to be addressed within the application during its review.

He added “the township does not want to incur any costs to complete the CBM application and requested CBM pay all reasonable costs incurred with the township’s review of said application.”

Sepulis stated, “I think it is important that we are perceived as being above board and that residents are not faced with costs involved with this, or other such applications.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said he supported the direction of the motion. However, he asked whether the application fee itself is not designed to cover the costs of the review.

Township finance director Mary Hasam explained that for zoning bylaw amendments regarding gravel pits, there is an application fee to cover costs, but the applicant would be invoiced for any third party review costs.

Mayor James Seeley agreed with the motion made by Sepulis.

“I believe the burden should not be placed on our constituents,” said Seeley.

He added the optics of allowing township consultants to engage in a pre-pre-consultation “would not appear favourable” for the township.