by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Cornwall Gravel has applied for a change in land-use designation for its lands known as the “South Gower Pit,” located at the north-east corner of Bennett Road and County Road 22, to allow for further mineral extraction.
A zoning by-law amendment is required to rezone the proposed pit from Rural to Mineral Aggregate. At the Council meeting of September 15, Council deferred approving any by-law changes on the matter until further public discussion could take place. Though Director of Planning and Development, Amy Martin, recommended that Council approve this amendment, Council deferred this decision due to the numerous concerns that had previously been raised by the public.
Cornwall Gravel initially brought its application to Council in March of 2020, just before the first COVID-19 lockdowns took place. At the time, residents raised concerns about the wetlands and forest on the property, the presence of wildlife, the possibility that the land is an archeological site, concerns about potential increases in local traffic, and the impact of mining activities on neighbouring agricultural properties.
As home to Provincially Significant Wetlands, the application was reviewed by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authorities (RVCA). Jamie Batchelor of the RVCA explained that, in determining the impact of the operation of the aggregate pit on the wetland and the adequacy of plans for rehabilitating the area after extractions are complete, it found its concerns to be overlapping with those of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MCP). As a result, the RVCA has deferred the decision to the MECP which is reviewing the application under the Aggregate Resources Act.
This review is still underway. The outcome of the review does not officially come to bear on proposed zoning by-law changes. The RVCA did make comments on the applicant’s proposal, and then stated that it was satisfied with the applicant’s response to the inclusion of its recommendations into the site plan.
Present on the property are some bats that may be a species at risk, and in March of last year, the public expressed a concern for preserving woodland for sensitive species breeding and habitat. Councillor Kristin Strackerjan noted that there was a great deal of “significant woodland” on the property map and questioned the relationship between areas marked as significant wetland, woodland, and the areas to be rezoned. Director Martin explained that “our official plan does not have policies currently for significant woodlands, so we go back and rely on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry manual for woodlands”.
Though there is no operational definition of significant woodlands in the current official plan, Director Martin said this “doesn’t mean we won’t in the future”. The woodlands in question do have some protection due to their overlap with wetlands and official Natural Heritage guidelines.
Mayor Peckford stated that it’s fascinating “when you see different land uses, or land designations, within close proximity. We’re lay people, we don’t have the expertise that the conservation authorities and others bring to the table. I think it’s hard for us to get our head around how you preserve sensitive habitats while at the same time extracting aggregate in large quantities”. As a result, she stated that “I believe there is a lot of information here, so I think it would be beneficial for members of the public to have some opportunity to digest”.
Members of the public who wish to do so can access a recording of the meeting on the North Grenville YouTube channel, as well as the documents pertaining to this file on the Municipality’s website.