Concerns raised about Meaford/TBM townline winery proposal

A proposal for a winery/restaurant business on a rural property on the Meaford/The Blue Mountains townline has led to numerous concerns being raised by the local community.

On Nov. 7, the council chamber was packed for a Meaford council public planning meeting about the proposal. Although there was some support for the proposed development, numerous speakers brought forward a range of concerns about the proposed development.

The meeting was held to hear public comments about the proposal to amend the Meaford official plan and zoning bylaw to permit an increase in the size of the agricultural-related on-farm diversified uses related to the winery facility.

The proposal would see a 17,752-square-foot winery building constructed on the property located in the southeast corner of Meaford on the Meaford/The Blue Mountains Townline. The property is just north of the boundary with Grey Highlands.

The proposed building would include wine-making, storage and tasting uses as well as hospitality, retail and restaurant areas. Currently, the property is home to 10 acres of vineyards, with a further 20 acres of vineyards across the Townline in The Blue Mountains. The proponent’s presentation about the proposal can be found here.

“All along, this whole proposal has been to allow the vineyard to expand into a winery,” said Jason Miller, who represented the property owner – Liang Zhao – at the public meeting. “Our owner believes it’s a nice thing to provide to the community. We do want everybody to understand their concerns do matter to us.”

The business, if approved, would have 22-28 employees. An operations building for the business would be located on the property across the Townline in The Blue Mountains.

At the meeting, Meaford Manager of Planning Services Denise McCarl read a summary of numerous written comments and concerns the municipality received about the proposal.

They included:

A number of speakers at the meeting expressed concerns and opposition to the proposal.

“I’m concerned we’ll be impacted by noise,” said local resident Tony Belcher, who said the size of the proposal was out of line with other wineries found in the local area. “I encourage you to work with the applicant and the affected neighbours to scale back this proposal.”

A number of speakers raised similar concerns to the written comments and also questioned some of the details in the proponent’s presentation about the proposal. Several speakers questioned if the proposed restaurant would remain 64 seats, or would eventually expand into a larger operation capable of hosting events such as wedding receptions.

Local resident John Hetherington favoured the proposal.

“We need jobs in this town for younger folks who can work the vineyards,” he said. “We need it in our municipality. We need the excitement of a nice winery close to town.”

Another local resident, Robert Hart, said parts of the proposal had merit, while other aspects were concerning.

“I have never objected to a vineyard. I have never objected to a tasting room. It’s the size. A restaurant is not common to wineries in Ontario. We will be disturbed. Traffic will increase,” said Hart. “There is no compensation for people whose evenings are disturbed by this constant noise.”

The Blue Mountains resident John Ardiel, a founding partner of Georgian Hills Vineyards near Ravenna, said he lives two kilometres from the proposal and he expressed concerns about the impact traffic would have on roads in The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands.

“Meaford is in a unique situation. You have a proposal brought forward which is going to affect your neighbouring municipalities far more than yourselves traffic-wise,” said Ardiel, who said he anticipated major road work being needed to handle the increased traffic. “Meaford has very little risk there. It’s all on the other two municipalities. Which taxpayer in which municipality is going to pay for these upgrades?”

After the public comments, Miller responded and noted that they have completed a number of environmental studies for the project and had engaged reputable engineers and planners for the work. He also addressed the size of the proposed restaurant.

“We have no desire to have a large, 170-seat restaurant. We’re trying to be more up-market and provide something that looks quite nice,” he said.

Meaford Mayor Barb Clumpus closed the meeting and explained no decisions would be made that evening.

“There will be some further exploration, obviously, that will be undertaken,” said Clumpus, who said the matter would go back to the planning department for a full report to council. “Once staff are satisfied that they have all the necessary information needed to make a recommendation on this application, a detailed planning report will be brought back to council to assist us in our decision making.”

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca