Industrial rezoning application deferred into 2021, petition in opposition tops 120 residents

·7 min read

East Ferris residents concerned about road safety and future business expansion on MacPherson Drive won a brief reprieve at the planning advisory committee, Wednesday.

At issue is Paige Engineering’s official plan and rezoning amendment applications to permit “light” industrial manufacturing out of an existing garage at 382 MacPherson Dr. The specific use designation would go from rural and agricultural to “lands for economic development” and industrial special use – M2S.

More than 120 local residents signed a petition opposing the applications and two individuals made presentations citing concerns for road safety, future expansion and planning process.

John Paige, in his presentation live-streamed via the East Ferris YouTube channel, said 95 per cent of his business involves computer design with only limited manufacturing activity.

Paige stressed that there will never be explosives on the site, they merely create explosive storage containers and vehicles designed to deliver emulsions at construction sites and mines.

“We contract others (fabrication businesses) for the noisy, heavy work,” he said, noting the operation on MacPherson would be limited to outfitting vehicle frames and piecing together equipment.

Paige and his wife, Joanne, said he lives on a nearby waterfront lot, and they respect the character of the area. He said they want to leave their current commercial lease at a North Bay location to cut costs and bring the work closer to their home.

There would be no emissions, other than a propane heater exhaust, he said, with plans to muffle any noise with interior insulation and new sealed doors.

“It would be less than a residential home,” he said of the sound reaching the roadway, which is seven metres away.

Related story: Residents oppose industrial zoning sought on MacPherson Drive

Paige said the business will bring economic development to the municipality while increasing the area’s international exposure through clients around the world.

He said traffic increases would stem from several employees daily, five-tonne truck deliveries every other month or so, and tractor-trailer deliveries once or twice a year. The complete out-fitting of emulsion delivery trucks only happens once or twice a year, Paige said.

The infrequent transport deliveries would require the tractor-trailer to pull over on the shoulder to unload, something that can be done in a few minutes, he said.

John O’Rourke, planning committee chairman, recognized the concern of residents regarding future expansion and asked Paige where the business might be in five years.

“We’re not looking to make a massive company,” Paige said, although he couldn’t predict where things will go other than noting they would prefer to expand the design side than manufacturing and assembly.

Greg Kirton, East Ferris planner, described the operation as “very, very light industrial on the spectrum of industrial uses.”

He said the application is for a M2S zoning designation, which means it would allow manufacturing but limited to the specific uses laid out in whatever rezoning bylaw council might pass.

Kirton said the East Ferris Official Plan indicates the ideal separation of an industrial structure to be 70 metres from another property line but that can be reduced to 20 metres. The garage, he said, is 25 metres from the nearest property line and the nearest neighbouring home 55 metres.

As for compatibility with the area, Kirton said there can be a mix of all the different zones “if done carefully.” He noted that Gerry’s Auto operates a repair shop not far up MacPherson Drive. And he said the truck traffic for Paige Engineering is similar to the septic pump out vehicles residents call for service at about the same number annually.

While it might represent a change to the area, Kirton said he doesn’t see it as “precedent-setting … it’s reasonable use of these lands.”

As for the concern the business may expand in the future, Kirton said it’s not possible to zone an area “to prevent future growth” but later added that the site plan control agreement could be limited to only a portion of the seven-plus acres.

O’Rourke addressed the traffic hazard concerns residents had already voiced, specifically when trying to imagine a tractor-trailer trying to back up a load at the beginning of an ‘S’ curve in the road.

Kirton suggested the application could be deferred until a more detailed plan is prepared that focusses on pedestrian and vehicle safety at the time of deliveries.

Sylvie Hotte and Bill Hodgeman, the adjacent resident neighbours to the property, spearheaded the petition in opposition to the applications. Hotte made a presentation to the committee via Zoom and questioned the non-conformity of the building and discrepancies in the application.

She noted that the garage is only 11 metres from the road, which is too close to where pedestrians walk and vehicles travel, and his property line 7.6 metres from her garage/loft, encroaching on their enjoyment of residential property.

“It would change the character of the neighbourhood … and on the most hazardous part of the road,” she said, adding that Gerry’s Auto offers a service residents want while Paige Engineering is the only benefactor to that operation.

“The reason why we have moved to a rural area … it’s to get away from that,” she said of industrial activity.

There were 27 viewers taking in the YouTube live-stream presentation at this point.

Maggie Preston-Coles, who appealed council’s approval of a 25-lot subdivision off MacPherson Drive and Centennial Drive, also made a virtual presentation.

She asked Paige to be more specific about his future growth plan and if there was going to be an additional building added in the future.

“I really don’t know where we are going,” he said, explaining that the priority right now is to survive the pandemic economy, save expense and “trying to keep the business going.”

That’s when Kirton said they can literally draw a circle around the garage and parking area to “limit the boundaries of activity.” If Paige Engineering wanted to expand down the road, a new application would have to come to PAC for a recommendation to council.

Preston-Coles said there’s “a lot of other areas better suited (for industrial activity in the municipality) … this location doesn’t make sense.”

She said it’s already “extremely scary” walking along Centennial and MacPherson, noting the subdivision has the potential to add another 50 vehicles to increase traffic more.

When there’s oncoming cars and a pedestrian on the side, she said, one car has to stop already. A transport unloading at the side of the road even for a short period “is enough to get somebody killed.”

Coun. Erika Lougheed, a planning advisory committee member, said she wasn’t comfortable deciding on the application at this point with so many people “unsettled” about the issue. Between the subdivision approval and this, Lougheed said area residents are “enduring a fair amount of change” in the midst of a pandemic.

“I feel there is still some work to be done” for this application before residents and committee members can consider all the information, she said.

Bill Boake, also a PAC member, said he has a similar view and would support a deferral to better review the details and concerns.

PAC member John Symons said he lives not far away and said it is “dangerous” traveling Centennial whenever a vehicle of any type on the side of the road.

“Probably one of the biggest concerns in my mind” is traffic and hazards for pedestrians,” he said

The decision to defer consideration of the application was unanimous with Kirton and Paige expected to work together on getting a detailed plan together regarding traffic safety.

Kirton said public notice will be given for another hearing once it’s ready with doubt it will be in time for the next PAC meeting on Jan. 20.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca