Mapleton rejects zoning change for business expansion due to concerns over road usage

MAPLETON – Township council has rejected a zoning change application aimed at facilitating the expansion of a farm drainage business near Wallenstein.

A proposal to revise the current zoning and extend the zoning onto adjacent lands, which are part of a lot line adjustment application currently before the county’s adjustment committee, was submitted by AWF Contractors Inc., owned by Dan Frey.

The company provides farm drainage services to farms across the province. In addition to large drainage plows, the company utlizes backhoes, excavators, tractors, bull dozers and large trucks to move the equipment around.

The business was seeking expansion to provide space to park the large equipment when not in use. An existing building and a proposed building were to be used for maintenance of the company’s own equipment.

The proposed expansion would require a lot line adjustment to add lands to the east, as well as a zoning bylaw amendment to allow the proposed use on the new lands.

Also requested in the amendment was an increase in allowable ground floor area to 930 square metres, which includes a covered storage area attached to the building.

“As the current official plan and zoning is agriculture, and AWF Contractors is a farm drainage contractor, it is our opinion that the usage complies with current regulations,” explains a Sept. 29 letter to Mapleton planning officials from Duane Martin of Apex Building and Contracting on behalf of the applicant.

However, a May 23 report from the township’s planning department indicated an agricultural commercial zoning designation, which permits commercial or industrial uses directly related to agriculture that benefit from close proximity to farm operations, would be more appropriate.

An environmental impact statement provided by the applicant indicated a plan to remove 4,000 trees from a forested area of the property.

At the May 23 meeting the township had requested a tree compensation plan be provided.

At the Oct. 10 council meeting, Duane Martin told council that “instead of addressing the tree count, we looked at the size, physical square metres of trees that we’re cutting down.

“From a square footage perspective, we feel that we can replace that square footage in other areas of the tree canopy,” he explained.

While council members were generally supportive of the proposed tree compensation plan, councillor Michael Martin expressed concern about the impact of potential heavy equipment use on the Blind Line, which is restricted to half-load status for two months each year.

“I’m still struggling with it honestly, just because of the location,” the councillor stated.

“That fact that it’s a heavy equipment business, the road simply just isn’t suitable for that, it runs for those two months on the five-ton-per-axle (limit).”

“I just worry that it’s going to be very hard to stick to those guidelines for that type of business in that location,” agreed councillor Amanda Reid.

“They already own all the equipment that they’re proposing to move here,” noted Duane Martin.

“They just can’t physically store it at this site right now … And it’s been something they’ve worked around in the past 40-some years that they’ve been there.”

He added, “What they’re looking to do is trying to increase their efficiency and the maintenance season in order to get back into the fields in the summer.”

Some council members raised concerns about enforcement of half-load restrictions.

“What is our policy on all of our other roads during those two months?” asked councillor Marlene Ottens.

“Is there any sort of enforcement? Observation? If someone’s caught, what’s the what’s the punishment as it were? What do we do in the rest of the township?”

CAO Manny Baron explained that no exceptions are allowed to the restriction.

“For half load, there hasn’t been any exceptions whatsoever, even folks building homes, they are just not allowed,” he said.

However, Baron added the township has never been required to do any enforcement on violations.

“We’ve really never faced anything with enforcement. But if there is some damage to the road, or somebody is doing something, I can assure you we hear about it right away from, either the neighbours, or people that that know that shouldn’t happen,” he noted.

Mapleton planner Linda Redmond pointed out the applicants have been advised they would be required to provide a letter of acknowledgement, “an understanding that they are not to use that road during those two months.

“So they’re aware. I guess we could talk about perhaps having some kind of agreement in place that had a little more teeth perhaps,” she suggested.

Reid pointed out there were also concerns about ensuring the company’s haul route avoided a nearby residential area.

“Is that something we’re planning on putting in the same agreement?” she asked.

Redmond said that would be a matter for the public works director to address, but the applicant was advised the township would like to see machinery avoid the residential area.

“The more I think about this, the more I realize it’s too problematic,” said councillor Marlene Ottens.

“Because now you’re saying he can’t go through the residential area, so now you’re going even further the other way down … the half-load road with all the heavy equipment.

“It just seems like between the trees, between the residential, between the heavy equipment, between the road not being used too much – it’s too much.”

A motion for council to receive the planning report presented at the meeting and provide staff with direction related to the proposed use of the property and associated issues was defeated.

Later in the meeting, councillor Martin asked if council needed to take further action to clarify its intent.

“Do we need to pass something more specific by way of another motion that the applicant knows that this application is declined?”

Council then approved a motion stating the township “declined” the zoning application due to “road restrictions and scale of business.”