Proposal made to switch highway property from agricultural to commercial

GUELPH-ERAMOSA – The rezoning of a business property along Highway 7 left at least one Guelph-Eramosa councillor wondering why commercial zoning did not already apply to most properties fronting the highway between Rockwood and Guelph

On Feb. 10 Guelph-Eramosa councillors heard a report from Wellington County planner Zach Prince on a proposal to switch a property from agricultural site specific to highway commercial site specific zoning.

The property is located at 7956 Highway 7 and Jones Baseline and used by a landscape supplier.

Prince noted the applicant wishes to continue the same operation and the rezoning  would expand use to include an office. He said the property is currently bounded by Highway 7, Jones Baseline and the CN Rail corridor right-of-way.

“In terms of provincial policies, it is deemed to conform,” he told council.

The rezoning of the property would allow an expanded definition landscape supply yard to allow the storage and sale of a wider variety of landscape materials, and greater commercial service to the site, Prince explained.

He added the proposal would also require site plan approval after the rezoning.

Prince recommended the township receive the report and provide direction for the creation of a draft bylaw.

Mayor Chris White asked what exactly the change would entail since it is currently a site-specific agricultural zoning.

Prince said the site is currently limited to landscape supply sales. Originally the property only allowed the sale of stone and landscape supplies, he said. A minor variance was applied so sales could include topsoil and mulch.

Prince said this would redefine things rather than have a minor variance for each change – such as including the sale of paving stones or other landscape materials.

White asked if these changes could be done under the current zoning. He explained his question might answer why the proponent wanted to “flip the zoning.”

He noted the property is on the edge of the highway and a roundabout.

Prince said the proponents wanted to build a small office, which was not allowed under the existing agricultural zoning.

White asked if the move to commercial would make the next step easier for other uses “such as a water park?”

Proponents were agreeable to either the agricultural or commercial designation for the property.

Neighbours voiced concern that this could lead to further commercialization,  however Prince pointed out the commercial designation remains site specific and is limited to the sale of landscape materials. Any further changes would require a public process.

White said if proponents wanted to put in a water park they would be required to come back to council – “which they could do at any time – even today.”

Councillor Corey Woods said, “In my opinion I think all the highway properties should be C4 (Highway Commercial) between Rockwood and Guelph.”

He added, “They are never going to combine or harvest crop on the property at this intersection. It really shouldn’t be agricultural, it should be commercial all the way.”

At the same time, Woods said he understood the neighbours’ concern.

“But whether one is idling a farm tractor at 2am or idling a (delivery) truck at 2am, there are things which can happen on a farm which are considered intrusive.”

Woods agreed “a farmer may not want to take his crops off at 2am, but he’s not going to get in trouble for doing it.” He said he was fine with the switch to C4 zoning, provided it is for a limited use.

Councillor Louise Marshall noted the neighbours had wanted to see reduced use on Sundays. However, Marshall pointed out it was the province which opened up Sunday sales.

Councillors were interested in what the MTO had to say.

Prince said the MTO was contacted and requested a traffic impact study, a site and drainage plan for approval and noted provincial highway setback requirements.

He said most of this could be addressed within the site plan, because there is an existing entrance permit.

White said this would be coming back to council.

“We’re splitting hairs here. This is not a farm. If you say highway commercial is to go on a highway – this is a highway – it is never going to be a farm.”

He added the proponents can continue the business under the existing zoning but a rezoning would make it easier to construct an office.

White said the property is already limited with site specific zoning and any changes would need to be brought back to council.

Woods suggested perhaps in 2016, when this was brought to council, the zoning should have switched to highway commercial at that time.

White stated final report and bylaw will come back to council at a future date.