GUELPH/ERAMOSA – The proposed rezoning of the controversial fridge and freezer manufacturing plant along Jones Baseline will proceed as long as several holding conditions are upheld.
After a stringent review process that included a review of several studies, public comments and provincial and local policy documents, township council has voted to move forward with the proposed rezoning, allowing Georgetown-based fridge and freezer manufacturer Minus Forty to relocate its operations to a larger plant in Guelph/Eramosa.
Council approved the zoning bylaw amendment application in a Nov. 15 meeting to rezone the land from agricultural to industrial use with a holding provision to facilitate the development of a dry industrial use.
County of Wellington planners recommended the township rezone the 27.8 acres from agricultural to rural industrial land at 5063 Jones Baseline, southeast of Highway 7 between Rockwood and Guelph.
The rezoning amendment was passed in a 4-1 vote from council with councillor Louise Marshall opposed, pointing to noise concerns brought forward by residents.
“It is a quiet area, and this would create so much more noise and the people there don’t want that noise,” she explained.
Over the past few months, many neighbouring residents have voiced their opposition to the proposed manufacturing plant and after receiving comments from the public in a September meeting, council again heard from several delegations during Monday’s meeting.
Area residents have expressed concerns about potential traffic and noise increases, threats to groundwater quality, loss of farmland and risks to safety should the manufacturing facility be approved along Jones Baseline.
“We need to be afforded the same considerations as any other residential area and this would never be accepted in the middle of a neighbourhood in Rockwood,” Jillian Wood, neighbouring resident to the future facility, explained in Monday’s meeting.
The county’s senior planner Zachary Prince said the concerns at large have been addressed in the bylaw county staff were proposing to council.
“Planning staff are of the opinion that this subject development is consistent with provincial policy,” the county planner said. “It’s in conformity of the growth plan and maintains the intent and purpose of the County of Wellington Official Plan.”
Prince explained the draft bylaw looks to address public concerns to deal with land use compatibility by providing additional setbacks for the area.
“The holding provision seeks to add further requirements to ensure that the development is phased appropriately, and the last remaining concerns are addressed as well too,” he added.
Many of the delegations pointed to the fact the land was designated as employment lands in 1995, contending the official plan is outdated.
In response, Prince said the designation “is very much active,” noting the county’s official plans are meant to be long term documents and are meant to be in existence for 30 plus years.
“I understand that the policy environment changes, and the official plan seeks to stay up to date with those policy changes,” he explained, adding “it is a document that very much gets updated over time.
He continued, “Being that it is designated, we’re working more within the parameters of compatibility and how does this development become compatible with the surrounding existing land uses?
“And that’s what we’ve sought to achieve with the proposed bylaw.”
Councillor Mark Bouwmeester said he’s not opposed to the site plan on the basis that the plant collaborates with the residents. He reiterated however, in response to the delegations, the importance of the county’s official plan.
“These aren’t just crafted on the back of a napkin or anything like that. These are lots of involvement, lots of public involvement and it’s carried on through that,” Bouwmeester said of the official plan.
“These aren’t small things,” he added. “They sort of sit at the top of the land use planning pyramid to make decisions based on.”
As noted by Prince, a holding provision has also been put on the rezoning to “ensure that adequate phasing and technical concerns including the submission of updated reports and studies will be addressed prior to development of the site.”
As part of the holding provision, site plan approval, approval of proposed septic and stormwater management ponds, potential improvements to the existing municipal drain, road improvements on Jones Baseline and additional assessments of water monitoring on site are conditions of the rezoning approval.
County manager of planning and development Meagan Ferris provided clarification on the holding provision for public understanding, stating the process can’t move forward until the requirements are addressed to the satisfaction of the municipality.
“It needs to be addressed prior to this holding being removed and its part of the detailed technical review and that’s prior to any permits being issued,” she explained.
Councillor Corey Woods said after reading the reports he was generally satisfied with the proposal, but also emphasized the conditions of the holding provision.
“Some people think that the holding provision is there as a way to hold up an application, that council can arbitrarily not remove the holding provisions and that’s not what it’s for,” he explained, noting if the applicant meets all the requirements of the holding provision, then it’s removed by the township.
“It’s not a way you can hold up an application and say, ‘well just don’t remove the holding provision’ and then they’re never allowed to do it.”