After fire, first steps to rebuild begin at council meeting

WELLINGTON NORTH –Around a year and a half following a fire at John’s Towing, Kyle Woods appeared before council on April 25 seeking to build a new 3,500 square-foot shop on his Mount Forest property.

Woods’ property is currently zoned as prime agricultural and core greenland in the county’s official plan and agricultural (site specific) and natural environment in the township’s zoning bylaw – obstacles requiring council’s blessing to overcome.

Put before council at an April 25 public meeting was a proposal to rezone the land to allow for a commercial licensed automotive body repair shop, an automotive sales and service establishment, and a salvage yard.

The salvage portion of the proposal caught council’s attention, prompting councillor Sherry Burke to picture an eye-sore and question Woods’ intention.

County senior planner Jessica Rahim also noted the township’s zoning bylaw specifically prohibits salvage yards in all zoning categories and would require site-specific zoning and a site plan subject to approval – including site design, grading, servicing, stormwater management, landscaping, parking and fencing.

Woods said his business focuses primarily on end-of-life vehicles, and the intent was not to stack cars and collect heaps of metal and scrap. 

“I’m not looking for a wrecking yard … none of that stuff,” Woods said.

“I’ve heard from the community as well, people do talk and I understand coming to the town from the east right now; I understand that property doesn’t look the greatest, it is a bit of an eye-sore,” he said. “My hands have been tied since the fire.” 

The proposed new build would certainly be an improvement beyond the current situation, Woods said, and would include a large, enclosed compound keeping scrap cars  “out of sight from community eyes.” 

Mayor Andy Lennox said he’s not a “big proponent” of permitting non-agricultural use in agriculturally zoned lands, but acknowledged the land has been used for other purposes since being rezoned as agricultural site specific in 2006 to allow for an agricultural equipment rental business.

“It’s not really going to revert to agricultural production for sure, so I think maybe this is one of those occasions where stepping outside of the best policy may be the best solution,” Lennox said. 

Rahim appeared before council again on May 9 with a proposed bylaw that would rezone the land, omitting the salvage yard element.

“Planning staff do not support the addition of a motor vehicle salvage yard on the property,” states a report to council from Rahim. 

“However, the attached bylaw does allow for accessory storage including a yard compound (temporary vehicle impoundment) that is related to the towing business use. Planning staff feel that this captures the use the applicant is requesting, while limiting any future salvage yard uses on the subject lands,” Rahim’s report states.

Specifically not permitted are a salvage yard, storage of tires, scrap metal, construction material and “other debris.” Nor can the land be used for a transport establishment.

Council approved rezoning of the portion of the land.