I feel sorry for the people living near the proposed refrigeration manufacturing plant on Jones Baseline.
They looked to Guelph Eramosa Township (GET) council for protection from an incompatible land use and didn’t get it. Instead, on Nov. 15, 2021, council approved the rezoning. Now the only hope for the rural residents is to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal, an expensive and uncertain process that, if council had done its job properly, would not have been necessary.
The initial county staff report prepared at the time of the public meeting made it clear that, notwithstanding the designation of the site as a “rural employment area”, one of the tests that council needed to use to evaluate the proposal was land use compatibility.
The report notes that Section 6.8.3 of the Official Plan states that “when considering rezoning applications, council shall ensure that existing and proposed uses are compatible, and that sensitive uses are adequately separated from industrial uses. The zoning bylaw may also limit the location and size of commercial uses.” The report adds, “As part of this development proposal, land use compatibility will need to be appropriately addressed.’’
If ever there was a location where a manufacturing plant should not have been permitted because of the number and proximity of surrounding residential uses, this was it. But council blew it and made a very bad decision instead.
And the county staff were complicit in that bad decision because in their recommendation report to council they did not themselves give adequate weight to land use compatibility and recommended approval of the rezoning.
But ultimately it’s council that is responsible for making a decision and, in this instance, council should have stood up and said, “No, this is fundamentally wrong and we are not going to approve this proposal. Not only that, but because of the number and proximity of residential uses, we want the county to remove the ‘rural employment area’ designation that should never had been applied in the first place.”
Something has to change. Across the board, GET council needs to ensure that its residents are protected from incompatible land uses and should go on record to that end so that no one is surprised by a new direction in its decision making.