Whitcombe: gravel company has “painted itself into a corner”

Mayor Brad Whitcombe says he has little sympathy for Preston Sand and Gravel representatives, who applied too early to the Ministry of Natural Re­sources for a licence for a proposed gravel pit near Roszell Road.
The company now says its other pits in the township are “virtually depleted” of aggregate material, so it needs to move forward with a bylaw amendment as quickly as possible because the two-year deadline for beginning extraction is looming.
The MNR requires that a “substantial amount of material [be] removed” within a two-year period following the date of designation in order for the land to be considered an “established pit or quarry.” Otherwise, the land is  considered “a new property.”
Sherry Yundt, who represents Preston Sand and Gravel, told council on Feb. 6 MNR officials are “pretty strict,” and if the two-year window passes, the company would have to start the application process from the beginning.
But a premature application, submitted before all the necessary details were worked out, has nothing to do with the township, Whitcombe said.
“You’ve kind of painted yourself into a corner,” the mayor told Yundt and the other members of a delegation representing Preston.
“I don’t think it was an appropriate way to approach it.” Whitcombe added the township will not be rushed into a decision on a proposed zoning bylaw just because Preston officials made a mistake. The process, including input from the public, has to be respected, he said.
The delegation, consisting of a handful of experts hired by Preston, is requesting the application move forward to a public meeting.
Yundt told council the group has answered all the questions of the peer reviewers, neighbours, commenting agencies, and the township, and will continue to do so, but it is now time to proceed with the public meeting.
Rob Stovel, of Stovel and Associates, outlined the steps Preston has taken to mitigate the impact on neighbours and the environment, including:
– berms along the outside of the pit area and a screen of coniferous trees;
– consultation with hydrogeologists to ensure there is no impact on the natural features in the area as a result of extraction both above and below the water table;
– a silt barrier along the edge of the pit; and
– a revamped, three-lake plan.
The delegation also re­vea­led that about 120 to 300 trucks daily will be going in and out of the pit, using the preferred haul route, along Concession 4 and County Road 34 to Highway 6.
Councillor Matthew Bul­mer said regardless of a Pres­ton proposal to widen the shoulders along Concession 4, he still feels “awful for people going up that hill.”
And while he said he is “very close” to agreeing to go forward with a public meeting, Bulmer agreed with Whit­combe that it is not the township’s fault the two-year deadline is coming up. He added that Preston representatives have assumed all along the case will be going to the Ontario Municipal Board, which makes things difficult for both sides.
There is a solution to the situation, Bulmer said, but it may not be found if the application goes to the OMB.
Whitcombe agreed and told the delegation, “I’m glad the rhetoric has toned down a bit.”
Councillor Susan Fielding said there will be a lot of social impacts on nearby residents and that will have an effect council’s ultimate decision.
Whitcombe agreed, and echoed previous concerns ex­pressed about the haul route, which he said will have a major impact on residents.
He also stressed the importance of rehabilitation, saying “everybody’s going to have to deal with these features” after the extraction is completed.
“What’s the long-term benefit to the community if we allow this to go ahead?” the mayor asked, suggesting the delegation have an answer to that question at the public meeting.
No date was picked for the meeting.