Cambridge manufacturer threatens to move if suggested land designation endorsed by city council

·3 min read

Don’t expect Dave Hopps to send out the welcome wagon for his potential new neighbours.

In fact, should the city endorse a requested employment land conversion at 180 Groh Ave. in Hespeler – one of the 17 Cambridge land conversions proposed to the region – the president of Canada Tool Company said in a letter to council he will pull up stakes at his manufacturing business and move the operation out of town.

Hopps agitation comes from a review of the Regional Official Plan in a bid for the region to fall in line with the province’s growth plan. Under the review, private landowners can request land designated for employment be converted to non-employment.

The property at 180 Groh Ave., recommended by the region for conversion, used to house Rauscher Plating Ltd., which filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2008.

The groundwater at the former metal plating plant is also contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), at a “low level,” according to a 2010 Ministry of the Environment report, but is currently being cleaned up by the owner. The landowner, according to a staff report, is looking to put a mixed-use and high-density residential development on the currently vacant site, which sits directly across from the Jacob Hespeler Secondary School football field.

“A planning application was submitted to the city months ago but deemed incomplete pending a response on the conversion of the lands,” stated a letter to council, dated Feb. 11, from MHBC, Planning, Urban Design & Landscape Architecture.

“The region confirmed support for the conversion earlier this month. As a result, the planning application will be re-submitted to the city within the next few weeks.”

Hopps said he has been approached by developers in the past to sell his property and declined, believing the employment lands designation would stay in place to protect industry in the area. The entire neighbourhood, in fact, is recommended for conversion.

Canada Tool, Hopps said, has been at 160 Groh Ave. since 1968 and currently employs 30 people at the automotive tooling and stamping plant.

The business’s main customer base is in Michigan for its auto parts but expanded last year to produce steel pool panels and steps, with those customers based in Brantford and Toronto.

Hopps noted the plant produces enough noise that his employees wear ear protection and in the summer the shipping doors are left open to cool the facility.

Also, there is “steady truck traffic” leaving the property, as well as daily deliveries of coiled and scraped steel coming in.

“It is critical to our operation that there is a significant distance buffer between our facility and residential areas. Developers do not concern themselves with noise issues that residents will be complaining about,” Hopps said.

The report stated mitigation of issues with surrounding properties could be solved with separation distances, noise walls or building design.

Hopps also said he has had discussions with the Ministry of the Environment about TCE migrating to his property and believes that “is not conducive to safe residential development”.

Thoughts of moving the company within in the city, should the recommendation be adopted, was nullified, Hopps said, when he saw the price of other properties and was told there is a waiting list for industrial land. Due to the location of his company’s customer base, being close to Highway 401 is critical.

If land can’t be found or deemed too expensive, Hopps said Canada Tool will likely move its auto parts operation to Michigan and its pool manufacturing business to Brantford.

“Canada Tool will not stay in Cambridge if our employment lands status is not maintained. Inevitably, residential areas will surround us, and conflicts will arise. It seems ludicrous to convert existing industrial land to other uses when there already is an acute shortage of industrial land,” Hopps said.

Bill Doucet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times