Residents object to South Aberfoyle Pit expansion

PUSLINCH 50ȻƵ It appears CBM will have a tougher job convincing residents that extracting gravel from a pristine piece of agricultural land is a good idea than it will persuading province.

Company staff and a planning consultant from MHBC Planning held a virtual public meeting on May 8 to discuss its application for an expansion to the South Aberfoyle Pit on Concession 2, also known as the McNally Pit.

However, the 44.8-hectare (110-acre) property at 6947 Concession 2 is 2km down the road, with woodlands and a provincially significant wetland on the south and west sides, and Mill Creek and a tributary running through it.

It is designated core greenlands and greenlands on Wellington County50ȻƵs Official Plan and is not located within the county50ȻƵs mineral aggregate resource overlay.

It is zoned natural environment and agricultural in Puslinch Township50ȻƵs environmental overlay.

As such, CBM Aggregates must apply for an official plan amendment with the county and a zoning change with the township, as well as apply for an aggregate licence with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The extraction area is 27.5 hectares (67 acres) and CBM plans extraction above and below the water table to a maximum depth of 25 metres.

Preliminary exploration indicates there are 5.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel on the property and officials expect it will take six to 10 years to extract it, with a maximum annual extraction rate of 1 million tonnes per year.

When it50ȻƵs done, the site will become a lake about 26 hectares in size with 0.3 hectares of new wetland and 6.7 hectares of new forest created in the setback areas.

CBM officials are calling this a feeder pit as material will be taken to the McNally pit for processing.

About 20 people attended the meeting and several were concerned about calling this an expansion when it is two kilometres from the existing South Aberfoyle Pit.

50ȻƵIt50ȻƵs misleading to the public to say it50ȻƵs an expansion,50ȻƵ said a participant named Kathy during the question perio.

She added people assume an expansion means making an existing pit larger, not adding a new pit that is not physically connected to the McNally Pit.

50ȻƵIt downgrades the importance of this application,50ȻƵ she said.

MHBC planner Neal DeRuyter said it50ȻƵs called an expansion, 50ȻƵbecause it will be operationally linked to the Aberfoyle Pit, in extraction and shipping. And it has the same requirements (in terms of environmental studies) as a new application.50ȻƵ

Kathy also wanted to know why the area to be licensed is bigger than the extraction area.

50ȻƵThere is no intention to extract in that area,50ȻƵ DeRuyter replied. 50ȻƵAnd the official plan and zoning applications specifically noted there will be no extraction there.50ȻƵ

Kathy wasn50ȻƵt buying that answer, noting that in the past another pit (not a CBM pit) said there would be no extraction in a licensed area and then the zoning was changed, and the area was extracted.

50ȻƵIf it50ȻƵs not being extracted, then it doesn50ȻƵt need to be licensed,50ȻƵ she countered. 50ȻƵIf it50ȻƵs licensed, you could change the zoning later.

50ȻƵWe50ȻƵve seen it a few times. I object to this because of history.50ȻƵ

Mayor James Seeley attended the meeting and said he doesn50ȻƵt want the McNally pit to become a central processing site for all the CBM pits in the township.

With the land in question being called an expansion of the McNally pit, he worried any future site could be considered an expansion too.

His main concern was for township roads and the inconvenience to residents due to heavy trucks rumbling through the municipality.

50ȻƵWill you commit to not receiving material from outside the municipal boundary?50ȻƵ Seeley asked.

50ȻƵWe saw this property as a natural expansion of McNally,50ȻƵ answered David Hanratty, CBM50ȻƵs director of land, resource and environment.

He added it makes sense not have processing at multiple locations.

50ȻƵWe look for opportunities to minimize impacts. I think it50ȻƵs a wise way to do it,50ȻƵ he said.

Other questions had to do with personal wells and what residents can do if their wells are affected by extraction operations.

Hanratty said well monitoring is set up on the site and any low water levels 50ȻƵwill show up at our site before yours.50ȻƵ

He also noted homes within a certain radius of the property can opt into the company50ȻƵs well monitoring program. Base levels are taken before the operation begins and then there will be annual water monitoring reports sent to numerous agencies for review.

The proposed pit is far from a done deal. Commenting on the Environmental Registry of Ontario posting closes June 3.

Public meetings will be arranged by the county and the township when the official plan and zoning amendment proposals have been received and subject experts have gone through CBM50ȻƵs studies.

In the meantime, the township has sent a letter of objection to CBM and to the ministry.