Angelstone rezoning application in limbo while council awaits planning report

A councillor here has urged Angelstone Farms and its neighbouring opponents to come to an independent agreement because further municipal action could lead to high legal costs.

At a March 17 public meeting regarding the rezoning of the equine facility to allow for horse show and entertainment events, councillor Jeff Duncan had some advice for Angelstone Farms and the surrounding community, especially Fred and Nancy Gilbert, whose land borders the farm, to work together.

“At the end of the day, the most affected party is the Gilberts, and I would really try to encourage those two parties, if too much water hasn’t gone under the bridge, to be able to perhaps reboot their situation a little bit,” he said. “You can realize that compromise isn’t a failure, that the best way for you to succeed is with having an outcome that you both can live with.”

Anglestone Farms has applied for a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow the facility to host “seasonal equestrian events, which includes the sale of related merchandise, sale of food, LLBO licensed events and camping for participants,” said a Wellington County planning report.

The current owner purchased the farm in 2007 and in 2013 made a zoning amendment application for those activities.

In 2014, a temporary zoning approval was given for six specific equestrian events on the property throughout the summer.

“The events leading up to the application … really involve a lot of concerns by members of the public about the operation of Angelstone, including noise, lighting, traffic, basically a number of public nuisance concerns,” said county planner Gary Cousins.

Since the application was submitted, Cousins said the planners have received several necessary reports.

“We’ve got a site diagram, traffic impact study, noise study, emergency evacuation plan, plan justification report and the storm water management drainage report,” he said. By the March 17 meeting, Cousins added, he had received letters from the Grand River Conservation Authority, Wellington County, and various community members about Angelstone’s application.

Several Erin residents oppose the rezoning because of issues affecting their quality of life, as well as a desire to treat all businesses equally.

Nancy Gilbert has opposed the facility for two years.

She explained, “2013 was our year from hell, living next to Angelstone.”

She said 2014 was better, but, “We feel this was in part due to Angelstone wanting a permanent zoning amendment.”

One of the stipulations for receiving a temporary amendment last year was that they “make peace with the neighbours,” she said.     

Gilbert is concerned about run-off from Angelstone, and potential contaminants getting into the water system, an incomplete privacy fence that covers just a quarter of her property line, and a lack of access to reports submitted to the town.

She also said the noise from Angelstone events disrupt her “private, peaceful, quiet country life.”

“The loudspeakers continue from 7am until evening,” she said. “Sometimes it is loud enough that you think someone is talking to you, and at other times it is like listening to a loud static-ky radio slightly off station – and you cannot shut off.”

Additional concerns that have yet to be addressed according to Gilbert include: entertainment and LLBO events, hours of operation, the number of events, overnight camping, the nutrient management system, parking, bonfires and costs incurred to date.

President of Angelstone Farms Keean White told council, “Over the last year, my team committed that we could run the event and not be a hindrance to the existing neighbours. We replaced rock bands with a piano player, instead of going until one o’clock in the morning we shut down at 11.”

He continued to say that it is difficult to make big investments and improvements on sound technology when the facility only has a temporary permit.     

Anna Spiteri, of the Neighbourhood Connection, also had some comments. She is concerned that Angelstone’s land is designated for prime agriculture but will be used primarily for commercial purposes.

“In reality, it is an equine/entertainment business,” she said. “There is no farming done here.”

Spiteri also objected to the “parachute nature” of Angelstone because the facility only appears to be active for a month or two in the summer.

She requested that council disallow a rezoning and deny any entertainment package requests. Spiteri also suggested the economic development committee and the equine community work together to develop a Town of Erin Equine Centre that could economically benefit the town and perhaps create other businesses.  

White said the primary use of his facility is not entertainment.

“My revenue from Angelstone Farms is triple that of Angelstone tournaments annually,” he said. “We buy young horses, we train them, and we sell them. We increase our value by competing.

“That is agricultural use and that is my primary use of the property.”

The farm’s planning consultant, Jon Cox, pointed out that new provincial regulations allow agri-tourism to be a secondary use of farmland. He said this is exactly what the shows are to Angelstone.

Veterinarian Marieke Wevers, who owns property about 5km from Angelstone said she was held to restrictions on her home business when she requested a zoning amendment from council.

“As business owners following the rules in our town, we must apply for building permits, site plans, site sign permits and adhere to the conditions of the permits before we started our businesses,” she said.

Angelstone, she said, has found a way to circumvent the system and has not been required to follow the regular steps for a business. She asked council to deny the application and take the Region of Halton Hills as an example.  

“I, along with my neighbours, are asking this council to consider the Town of Halton Hills as an example in denying Halton Place, who also pushed their development without permits until they were shut down, and I think you are, at this point, in the same position,” she said.

Councillors listened to the presentations and made comments.

“Whatever council decides here, most likely, if it’s something the other party isn’t happy with, there’s a good chance that it might go to the Ontario Municipal Board,” Duncan said. “You’re going to be getting lawyers, planners, engineers, technical experts and other people’s invoices with no guaranteed result of how they will make a decision.”

He said if the Gilberts and Angelstone can come to an independent agreement it might be better for everyone.

Councillor John Brennan agreed.

“The previous council said … that we want to encourage the equine business, we want to encourage Angelstone to be successful, but you’ve got to live with your neighbours,” he said. “The best solution is the one you guys work out between you, without our interference or without the interference of any other authority. That’s the one that you can make together you’ll both be able to live best with.”

Mayor Allan Alls noted some mistakes might have been made. He said, “If you’d exercised being a good neighbour to start with and had met with your neighbours and worked with them, I don’t think any of us would be in this room tonight. Instead, now it’s placed back on us to make some kind of decision.”

Cousins said a report from the county planning department should be ready for the end of April or beginning of May.