Zoning approved but Wellington Motor Freight might not be trucking hub tenant

PUSLINCH – Council here approved a zoning amendment at its July 12 meeting that will allow a trucking hub to be established at 128 Brock Rd. in Puslinch. 

And although it was Wellington Motor Freight that submitted the original application, that company might not be the one that moves into the site. 

Wellington Motor Freight submitted a zoning bylaw amendment last August for the property at 128 Brock Road, at the corner of Brock and Gilmour Roads, to change the zoning from highway/commercial to industrial.  

The proposal was for a 200,000-square-foot warehouse/terminal, a separate 30,000-square-foot office building, parking for 170 employees, 21 loading bays and parking for 71 tractors and 48 trucks.

The site will have its own well and septic system.  

The proposal includes the addition of a right-turn lane on northbound Brock Road for trucks, while staff would enter from Gilmour Road.   

A barrier will be constructed at the employee exit, forcing cars to turn left onto Gilmour Road upon exit and then through the roundabout at the corner of Gilmour and Brock to mitigate concerns that Gilmour Road will become the preferred route for those employees.

Several local residents spoke against the proposal at a statutory public meeting in March and a second non-statutory meeting in April, especially those who live in the Meadows of Aberfoyle community across the road from the site.

They worried about increased traffic, notably on Gilmour Road, a rural, gravel road not designed to handle many cars or trucks; as well as noise, hours of operation, and losing the buffer they felt the highway/commercial zoning provides between industrial zoning further south on Brock Road and their residential neighbourhood.

Wellington Motor Freight  modified its plan to accommodate those concerns, including adding more and higher noise walls, greater buffers from wetland areas, greater setbacks from Brock and Gilmour roads, and limiting hours of operation to Mondays to Fridays between 7am and 7pm.

Township staff and Wellington County planners recommended the zoning change with some provisions and council was to make a decision on the matter at its May 24 meeting. 

But Wellington Motor Freight  had asked council to defer its decision at that time as it was dealing with “an internal legal matter.”

So it was a confused council that considered the application on July 12 as Wellington Motor Freight  is no longer the applicant and the property owner, U Go Fuel, still wanted the zoning change with all its site specific modifications.

“Wellington Motor Freight was going to purchase the lands and coordinated the applications up until the application was deferred at the previous May council meeting,” stated MHBC planner Pierre Chauvin, agent for the applicant, in an email following the July 12 council meeting. 

“As I noted at the meeting, the current owner is proceeding with the building as originally planned and plans to lease the building to a third party. This could be Wellington Motor Freight or somebody else.” 

Alastair McCluskey and Cam McConnell delegated on behalf of residents at the Meadows of Aberfoyle. 

While they appreciated that consideration was given to some of their concerns, they still had outstanding issues with the zoning change itself – and now with the uncertainty of Wellington Motor Freight pulling out of the deal.

“We ask that the landowner move on or develop commercially, and we’re asking you to be visionary,” McConnell said, addressing councillors.

“What will happen on that lot if Wellington Freight doesn’t go in there” once the zoning change is approved?

That was the question council sought clarity on as well.

“Zoning doesn’t change with ownership,” Chauvin told council. “We don’t people zone; we zone the use.”

Staff added a number of holding provisions on the zoning change application:

  • site plan approval and agreement registered on title (including providing updated reports);
  • confirmation of Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks approval and allowance to the township to review the proposed septic system;
  • that a drinking water threats report be submitted to the satisfaction of the risk management official;
  • an agreement between the township or risk management official to install a flow meter to monitor the quantity of water of water used on the site; and
  • a water balance addendum be submitted to the satisfaction of the township and the risk management official.

Councillors took some comfort in the provisions, but also wanted to be sure a future user could not change the plan and have a small office and more trucks on the site.

A realtor representing the owner, who was not introduced by name, said the owner wants to keep the building large and council introduced and passed a motion increasing the minimum size of the building from 3,000 square metres (30,000 square feet) to 12,500 square metres (135,000 square feet).

Council also heard that because the studies were reviewed and accepted by consultants hired by the township, the municipality would likely lose if council voted against the rezoning and the applicant took it to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

“I think this is the best arrangement we can get,” said councillor John Sepulis. “I understand the residents’ concerns and I think on noise, there was a big win. And water quality and quantity has been addressed as well.”

“I agree,” said Mayor James Seeley. “If this application is denied, we could end up with worse. Even though Wellington Freight is not at the table, I thank them for the backup beepers and the noise wall.

“It did get messy when they deferred, but I think it’s the best bylaw. We have some wins in there.”

Following the meeting McConnell said the residents’ group is considering its next steps.

He said they are seeking clarity on the provisions of the bylaw as it relates to the number of trucks allowed on the site.

“If the provisions are only on the building and not the number of trucks, then we’ll have something to say,” he said.

“If it addresses truck volume in the bylaw, then we won’t do anything.”