Residents win epic struggle against gravel company

A group of local residents has emerged victorious in what an Ontario Municipal Board official calls “an epic struggle” with Capital Paving over a proposed gravel pit in their neighbourhood.

Last week, the OMB ruled against Capital Paving Inc., which was seeking approval for a gravel pit on a 51-hectare site located north of County Road 34, and im­mediately west of Wellington Road 35.

The company wanted to extract upwards of 1.25 million tones of gravel from the site over five to seven years.

“I’m very, very pleased,” said Dennis Lever, who, like many other residents, had been awaiting a decision since the OMB hearing ended in late November.

Lever, president of the Cranberry Area Residents and Ratepayers Association (CARRA) – composed of about 60 residents who opposed the Aikensville gravel pit from the beginning – admitted he was unsure about his group’s chan­ces heading into the hearing.

“We always hoped for this outcome, but you have to be realistic,” he said, noting there are countless similar cases where the decision has gone the­ other way.

Peter Pickfield, lawyer for Capital Paving, said both he and his client are “shocked” at the decision of OMB member Norman Jackson.

“We were very surprised and very disappointed,” he told the Advertiser. “It took us completely by surprise.”

Pickfield maintains his side presented convincing evidence, though he is unsure if Capital Paving will want to appeal the decision or not.

“We’re moving as quickly as we can,” he said, noting there is some analysis involved in the decision, which he ex­pects will be made by the end of this week.

Lever noted CARRA is waiting to see what happens and said the group will do “whatever’s required” if Capi­tal appeals the decision.

Capital’s official plan amendment was rejected by county council in March 2008 and eight months later Puslinch council refused to pass the required zoning amendment.

The county later announced it would not take part in the OMB hearing, although county planning officials did testify  when called upon by other parties. A lawyer representing Puslinch did take part in the hearing, though  Lever said the township’s presence likely had little influence on the outcome.

When asked what led to CARRA’s success – seemingly against the odds – Lever said, “I don’t think it was any one thing.”

He noted the proposed gravel pit’s proximity to homes and the provincially significant wet­lands on the site, were among the main items that swung the case in favour of  residents.

In his decision, Jackson ruled “the board accepts the evidence of Capital that the proposed site is in an advantageous location close to High­way 401 and markets.”

However, he also noted the subject lands are part of the Paris Moraine, “home of the head waters of the Irish Creek,” as well as the “a provincially significant wetland complex with a total size of 329.8 hectares.”

Jackson ruled that, “Capital has failed to satisfactorily analyze ground and surface water on the site as a whole and in adjacent areas and, as a result, the board cannot accept the Capital assertions that there will not be impacts harmful to an existing high level environmental regime.”