Rezoning of farmland for county garage in Arthur snagged in tie vote

Bylaw to lift holding provision on land will come before council on Dec. 19

KENILWORTH – A bylaw amendment to complete the rezoning of nine acres of farmland to make way for a Wellington County public works garage never made it before council for a vote at its Dec. 5 meeting.

The southwest portion of G and L White Farms Ltd., located at 7970 Wellington Road 12 in Arthur, was rezoned during a May 9 council meeting — despite the opposition of councillors Lisa Hern and Steve McCabe, and the Wellington Federation of Agriculture — from agricultural land to rural industrial with a holding provision.

The holding provision required more steps, including an archaeological assessment and another application to lift the hold, before the rezoning process would be complete.

On Dec. 5, GSP Group, retained by the township to report on the application, stated in a report to council that conditions of the hold “have been satisfied” and recommended a bylaw be passed to remove it.

The report also noted “no objections to the approval of the application” had been received as of Nov. 1, and “no appeals were received” after notice was given of council’s May decision to permit rezoning of the farmland.

“I wanted to bring this forward because I still oppose this,” McCabe said at last week’s Monday meeting.

Although land uses in the area are predominantly restricted to agriculture, exceptions can be made for public works buildings, provided there are no alternatives.

However, GSP Group’s May report noted potential alternatives had not been reviewed “within the Arthur settlement area which has vacant lands designated for industrial use and zoned industrial (M1) where a public works yards is permitted, and where full municipal services are provided or planned.”

Then CAO Mike Givens disclosed he had discussed alternatives within Arthur’s urban boundary, but nothing formal had been presented.

“It wasn’t just a single site conversation, they have looked at other sites, and there are reasons that maybe didn’t come through in the reports,” Givens told council at the time.

McCabe continued at last week’s meeting: “I’m not in favour of pulling prime agricultural land out, even though there is an exception for this.” He added he believes “there are better spots … for a public works yard.”

After McCabe’s comments were made, council voted on receiving the GSP Group report, but the motion was defeated in a tie vote.

Mayor Andy Lennox and new Ward 1 councillor Penny Renken voted in favour of receiving the report, and councillors Steve McCabe and Sherry Burke voted against. Councillor Lisa Hern was not present at the meeting.

With the status of the zoning application in limbo, the Advertiser wrote to the township on Dec. 7 seeking clarification on next steps.

“We are reviewing the details of the meeting proceedings and will be happy to provide some clarification once the review is complete,” deputy clerk Cathy Conrad responded in an email the same day.

Later that Wednesday evening, clerk Karren Wallace wrote in an email that “[council] defeated receiving the report and as such the by-law was not presented for consideration.”

In a Dec. 8 phone call, Lennox said the situation was “unprecedented” in his experience.

“Lifting a holding provision is just very much an administrative activity,” he explained.

The mayor said he was “more than a little surprised” by the defeated motion.

Later the same day, CAO Brooke Lambert wrote to the Advertiser stating the bylaw would come before council for a vote at its Dec. 19 meeting.

“I will be putting a staff report together with the bylaw for consideration,” she stated.