Residents opposed to Jones Baseline manufacturing facility

GUELPH/ERAMOSA – After getting wind of a proposed development along Jones Baseline, residents in the community are concerned about the effects of urban expansion to their countryside homes.

A Georgetown-based fridge and freezer manufacturer, which currently occupies an 80,000 square foot space, has planned to move its operations to a larger plant in Guelph/Eramosa.

Jones Baseline Corporation (Minus Forty) has submitted a planning application to rezone 27.8 acres at 5063 Jones Baseline from agricultural to rural industrial land.

The lands for the proposed development are located just off of the Highway 7 roundabout, between Rockwood and Guelph.

The requested zoning change would allow for the construction of a 163,979 square foot industrial facility with 90,000 square feet for future expansions.

The first phase of the proposed development will include administration, manufacturing and warehousing areas with eleven loading bays, 242 parking spaces and room for two additional expansions.

Founder and CEO Julian Attree said the reason behind the move is the need to build a bigger plant, noting the company’s current location is home to roughly 150 employees, but the expansion would allow for an additional 250 within the next five years.

“Finding an opportunity in the area made sense for us,” he explained, while noting the company’s clean manufacturing fits the requirements of the property and there are limited companies that would likely fit on the type of land given its constraints.

Attree explained the Guelph/Eramosa location was chosen because it would allow the company the opportunity to draw in employees from the surrounding areas of Rockwood and Guelph.

The proposed location is currently zoned agriculture but has been designated as a “rural employment area” under the County of Wellington Official Plan.

Under this designation, the county policy notes the lands are therefore “set aside for industrial and limited commercial uses which would benefit from a rural location.”

Dan Mallette, whose residence borders the land of the proposed development, said he didn’t know about the county’s plans for the neighbouring property when he bought his property in 2017.

At the time, Mallette was told the area was zoned agriculture and environmentally protected.

“But what people don’t think to ask is, what are (the lands) future zoned as? And I think that’s where the community needs to be a little more forceful with the township on the way they do that, and it needs to become way more visible to everybody,” said Mallette.

“If this can happen to us, then it can happen anywhere else. Just because there’s this piece of land, doesn’t mean it’s the only land out there.”

Residents in the area have formed the Jones Baseline Community Group to oppose the proposed development, with the main objective of stopping the lands from being rezoned from agriculture to industrial.

“You come out here and sit on the patio and on the weekend, you can hear the birds chirping but it’s really quiet and I really don’t want to hear the whining machinery going until 11pm because they’re running their second shift,” Mallette said.

“I don’t want to hear 200 odd cars leave the parking lot when the 11 o’clock shift leaves.”

Jon Pigozzo, who also resides along Jones Baseline, said he found many of the planning reports to be misleading.

“They’re all based either on the initial factory size and the initial employees or it includes the first two expansions,” he explained, adding “once the expansions are done it’s going to be over four times the size of the average Costco.

“You sort of need to look at worst case scenario and start working your way backwards. This is what the building will eventually be, not what we’re approving right now because it’s much harder to say no to these expansions after they’re already there.”

Pigozzo added, “It’s going to ruin our little residential hamlet where people bought houses outside of the city because we didn’t want to have to deal with the noise.

“You move there to get away from all of that and now it’s like it’s trying to follow you out there. You’re moving the factory into the neighbourhood.”

Another concern facing residents like Mallette and Pigozzo is the impact the development will have on property values in the area.

“It’s going to be a huge eye sore,” Mallette said. “Who’s going to want to buy a place that’s got a huge monster in the backyard?”

Pigozzo added, “Who’s now going to want to purchase one of the houses in the surrounding area that has to deal with all this traffic, that has this massive factory that’s either right in front of them or right behind them?”

In response to concerns from residents, Attree said there will be little impact to the community from the development.

“We’re a very clean manufacturer by design. We don’t use a lot of chemicals. We don’t do painting on site and the main reason we don’t is because we want to keep our processes very clean and environmentally friendly,” he said.

“We don’t have a lot of trucks coming and going. We just have trucks bringing in materials and then trucks with finished product going out.”

He added the company has brought in all the necessary consultants to ensure each step of the application process is done properly.

“We’ve completed a very thorough application and did all these evaluations to make sure that we meet every requirement,” said Attree.

In an email statement, the Township of Guelph/Eramosa stated it has circulated the planning application to various agencies for review and comment, which was due on Aug. 12.

Township staff are now preparing a report to council and a public meeting has been tentatively scheduled for Sept. 7.

Following the public meeting, council will make a decision on the application at a later meeting.