Members of the planning committee sided with concerned neighbours on Monday, rejecting an application they acknowledge conforms with Ontario planning laws.
But Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre said planning laws need to change if they allow the type of development being proposed on Monday.
At issue is an application from a Hanmer business in Lapierre's ward that operates in land zoned rural. Ranger Wrecking and Salvage Inc. on Bodson Drive wants to build a 145 square-metre warehouse, a covered tent and an office trailer on their property.
Technically, zoning laws don't permit industrial uses on rural lands, but the business has been operating on the property since before current land use laws were established.
“The salvage/wrecking yard use was established on the subject lands in the early 1970s prior to any zoning being in effect on the property,” says a staff report on the application.
In those sorts of cases, businesses are allowed to continue operating as a “legal non-conforming” businesses, grandfathering them into the new planning laws. Land use changes are to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The overall intent is to get rid of the non-conforming uses in the city, but existing businesses can continue to operate and even make major changes, as long as the changes conform to certain criteria.
They include not making the existing land-use conflicts worse; that the proposal won't negatively impact the area by adding more noise, fumes, traffic and related issues; and existing water and sewer services are adequate for the planned changes.
Planner Kevin Jarus, representing the company, said whether the committee approves the application or not, the company can keep operating on the property.
By allowing them to build their warehouse, it would bring much of the work inside, reducing noise and other conflicts with their neighbours.
“They have a legal right to operating as a wrecking yard,” Jarus said.
It has operated for decades, he said, and the current plan offers a chance to update the property to modern standards – with stormwater control, setbacks and other measures that reduce the impact the business has in the areas.
“That nuisance will be mitigated to a certain extent,” he said.
The warehouse being proposed is smaller than the shed that was on the property for years before being demolished in 2017, he added.
But a few dozen concerned residents made passionate appeals to the committee to reject the plan.
Dana Dumont said a wrecking yard has no place in the middle of a rural ares.
“It's a residential area,” Dumont said. “People walk their horses in that area.”
Not only will the business threaten the environment – with chemicals from vehicles leaching into the soil – she said homes in the area will lose their value and children won't be safe on the roads with the heavy truck traffic.
“We're concerned about the safety of our children,” she said, adding that “toxins and traffic” don't belong in a rural area.
“It should not be grandfathered in,” she said. “It's not the original owner.”
Pat Robillard brought in a petition signed by 220 people against the plan.
“We're scared,” Robillard said. “We don't like it.”
While it may make the wrecking yard more profitable, it will wreck their quality of life, he added.
“Life ain't just about money, guys. The environment means more than money.”
Lapierre agreed, saying he wouldn't support the resolution. He said it was time to get rid of legal non-conforming sites such as the wrecking yard.
“This was never good land use planning,” he said. “It's time to update our industrial locations to proper areas.”
But Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said he doesn't like the plan either, but planning laws say it is legal.
“This application puts us in a really difficult position,” he said. “I don't think anyone around the table likes the fact that legal non-conforming is even a thing. But it is. If we turn this down, we have another LPAT hearing we're going to.”
The committee voted 2-1 to reject the proposal, with Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann joining Lapierre to reject the plan.
That decision still has to be ratified by city council.