WEB ONLY: County approves official plan amendment despite objections

When it comes to creating an industrial use on agricultural lands, councillor Bob Wilson would prefer to deal with an entire property rather than do it piecemeal.

Wilson made his comments on Nov. 16 when county coun­cil considered a report from its planning committee to allow an expansion of Norwell Dairy, on Wellington Road 8, southeast of Drayton.

The report from county planner Mark Van Patter stated the company was estab­lished 28 years ago. The land it is considering is 3.14 acres. The existing building is 12,992 square feet and the outdoor storage is 21,529 square feet.

Van Patter noted the busi­ness is regional in nature, and offers milk production and storage equipment, sanitation supplies for cleaning and main­tenance of dairy production systems, livestock confinement equipment, and 24 hour emer­gency service.

The company, which has 40 full-time staff members, wants to re­locate and expand its facility be­cause of increased business.

To do that, it wants to redesignate seven acres of prime farmland to a rural industrial policy area. The work would in­clude a new shop and office building, along with an area to store agricultural equipment on agricultural land immediately east of the adjacent hardware and building supply store.

Van Patter said if the official plan amendment is granted, Mar-Span, a truss building company, will acquire the exist­ing Norwell facility. The ap­plication includes a sever­ance of seven acres from a plot of land that was once 50 acres.

Van Patter said the area was the subject of a 2003 county official plan amendment that allowed the redesignation of 16.3 acres of land from prime agriculture to rural industrial. Mar-Span and a building cen­tre were relocated from else­where to that site. The same area was subsequently rezon­ed from agricultural to indus­trial by Mapleton Township.

Norwell’s planner, Cuesta Planning, reported there are several reasons to remove the land from the prime agricul­tural designation. It is not in a specialty crop area and there is a need because of the company’s expansion in recent years, including the takeover of other companies in the area.

As well, there is no reason­able alternative. Drayton has enough land for the company in its industrial park, but it does not have enough serviced lots to meet the company’s needs.

Van Patter asked Mapleton council if it could purchase enough land to provide Nor­well with seven acres, but it  was unable to do so at the time.

The Cuesta planning report stated “it is probably better to expand an existing rural industrial area than to create a new one.”

The building site would meet the minimum distance separation formula for staying far enough away from four neighbouring farms.

The county has official plan industrial policies, and the ap­plication appears to meet them. According to Cuesta, there is a need, there is ade­quate separation from an urban boundary, and it avoids impacts on agriculture.

The Wellington Federation of Agriculture had some seri­ous concerns about building on the site in 2003, but had none for this application.

Yet Wilson told county coun­cil, “I’m not happy with that.” He said there there is no plan for the 50 acres of land in the area, and there should be.

“We’re going to develop with no plan at all,” he charged. “There should be a plan. That was decided years ago. Here we are – they’re back again. We should ask questions about what will happen to the whole property.”

Planning committee chair­man Walter Trachsel pointed out he had not been on county council for the last amendment.

The head of the county plan­ning department, Gary Cousins, said the company did spend some time considering a move to Drayton or Moore­field, but there simply was not enough industrial land avail­able.

He agreed the entire 50 acre property is all prime farmland, and, “I don’t think anybody’s willing to commit to losing 50 acres.”

Wilson replied, “We were told at the [2003 applica­tion] we would not lose any more.”

He said site specific agri­cul­tural uses are granted freely, and this is “an industrial use – whether we like it or not. We’re bypassing planning.”

When council considered it’s planning committee min­utes, they were approved, and that approved Norwell Dairy’s application.