Plans change: Tri-Mech to move in; Norwell Dairy headed to industrial park

About a year ago, township and county councils provided zoning and official plan approvals allowing Norwell Dairy to expand on land adjacent to its current facility on County Road 8, southwest of Drayton.

The company argued quite strongly there was no reasonable alternative for relocation, including the township’s industrial park, which Norwell officials stated does not have enough serviced lots to meet their needs.

However, now the company has decided to relocate to that industrial park and is in the process of selling its current  location to Tri-Mech Inc., a pressure washer and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) sales and service business.

The township received a letter recently from Drayton resident Gerald DeBeyer, who is concerned about the move and that the seven acres rezoned last year from prime agricultural to rural industrial is being sold by Norwell Dairy to adjacent business Mar-Span.

“This indicates that the rezoning was done under false pretence by Norwell Dairy spokespersons,” DeBeyer wrote, adding the seven acre parcel “should be returned to prime farmland.”

When mayor-elect Bruce Whale asked how the township will respond to DeBeyer’s letter, Clerk Patty Sinnamon said staff will send DeBeyer  a letter indicating all the proper procedures were followed.

Also at its meeting last week, council considered an application from Tri-Mech seeking a rezoning of the current 3.1-acre Norwell site to allow its business to locate there.

County planner Linda Redmond explained the site is currently zoned MI site specific, which restricts the use of the property to dairy equipment manufacturing and storage. The proposed new zone will remain M1 site specific, but replace the current restriction with one suiting the Tri-Mech business.

No one spoke in favour or against the proposed zoning change at the public meeting last week.

Noting that “business is always evolving,” councillor Mike Downey asked why the zoning has to be so specific.

Redmond replied that is what the application states. She also said the original site-specific zoning for the Norwell property went through an Ontario Municipal Board appeal years ago, and the intent from the start was to restrict the use of the land.

Downey said that may have been the case, but now the property is home to an established business. He wondered what would happen in a year if Tri-Mech wants to do something different.

“If it’s M1, let’s make it M1 [without the restriction],” said Downey.

Redmond said the M1 zoning is industrial, and any commercial operation is an accessory use. She explained retail sales are allowed on no more than 25% of the entire floor space.

Councillor Jim Curry said he “personally would not support” making the zoning M1 with no restrictions. That would open it up to any industrial use, and the intent was to retain the rural flavour of the property, Curry explained.

Redmond suggested the township could use the new rural industrial zoning established in its new comprehensive zoning bylaw, which seemed agreeable to both Curry and Downey.

However, Sinnamon explained there are two Ontario Municipal Board appeals to the township’s comprehensive zoning bylaw. So council unanimously approved the Tri-Mech zoning amendment under the township’s old bylaw.

The amendment also states “the operation of the dairy equipment … is permitted until Nov. 23, 2011.”