New petition opposes industrial zoning request

·5 min read

There’s a new strategy being deployed to oppose Paige Engineering’s proposal to run its light manufacturing operation on a MacPherson Drive property.

Sylvie Hotte, who lives beside the seven-plus acres in question, is determined to convince East Ferris officials how “illogical and careless” it will be to approve such changes.

A second petition, Hotte said, will be circulated within the next week proposing the municipality “assist” Paige Engineering to establish their industrial business in an area “better suited for their use.”

Hotte said people choose to live in rural residential areas to avoid that very kind of activity and suggests the negative impacts will far outweigh nominal economic benefits.

More than 130 people signed her first petition before Hotte and another East Ferris resident making presentations opposing the applications at a planning advisory meeting Dec. 16.

Concerns about road safety topped the list of issues raised because the access way to the property is right before an ‘S’ curve. Hotte said there’s already no space for pedestrians or cyclists due to the narrowness of the road, with oncoming vehicles sometimes stopping to let one squeeze by at a time.

Related story: Residents oppose industrial zoning sought on MacPherson Drive

Related story: Industrial rezoning application deferred into 2021

The existing double garage to be used for the manufacturing activity, which she said doesn’t conform to current set-back standards, is situated only eight metres from the roadway.

The road safety issues are partly connected to trucks making deliveries to the site. John Paige, in his presentation, said one or two tractor trailer deliveries a year are planned but he said drop offs are relatively short-term activities. He said smaller five-tonne truck traffic would be about every other month.

Paige and his wife, Joanne, live on a nearby waterfront lot, and he said 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.

The specific use designation in the Official Plan would go from rural and agricultural to “lands for economic development” with rezoning to industrial special use – M2S.

Paige Engineering, he said, is primarily about designing with about five per cent of the work involving outfitting industrial vehicles to deliver or store explosive emulsions used by the mining and construction sector. Most of the heavier infrastructure work is performed by businesses elsewhere before it is installed on vehicle frames. No explosives would be at the site as they are tightly regulated.

A decision on the applications was deferred into 2021 to give the proponent time to prepare a detailed plan for how a transport truck could make deliveries without causing an additional road hazard.

East Ferris planner Greg Kirton had told the PAC members it wasn’t likely to be done for the next meeting but notice of it being on the Jan. 20 agenda were circulated this week.

Hotte said the full extent of looming residential growth in the area should be considered with a 25-lot subdivision, approved by council in 2019 and under appeal, plus additional lots advertised for development and potential for twice as many more at the end of MacPherson. The latter reference is to an Algonquin Nation plan for residential development on land between the Stepping Stones and Johnson Road. While the proposal is likely years away, it’s earmarked as part of a negotiated land claim settlement.

Hotte also feels the municipality should take a hard look at how it advises residents of such proposed changes while also requiring tightening up the application process itself.

Kirton said during the meeting East Ferris directly informs residents within 240 metres of the property, twice as far as the minimum set out by legislation. But Hotte said there are several hundred homes between Highway 17 and Trout Lake and only six to eight properties are within the notice distance.

Hotte also takes issue with lack of detail and inconsistency in the applications. One description of planned use, she said, indicates the garage door would be closed for the winter but a submitted noise study (by a Paige Engineering employee) calculates low decibel levels for tools like an angle grinder at the roadway based on having a new insulated overhead door to muffle the sound.

In addition, Hotte said she is not confident that limiting the manufacturing activity to only a small portion of the property would alleviate concerns for expansion. Paige has said he can’t predict what the company’s needs for growth might be in the future, with this application allowing three to eight employees.

“Once the Pandora’s Box has been open, it would be a breeze for Paige Engineering or any other owner to apply to the Committee of Adjustments for future changes,” she said.

Hotte said the industrial park East Ferris wants to establish on 20-plus acres near the Callander Way border is a better option for such a business.

One suggestion being discussed by residents is for the municipality to make a deal and swap property to create a trail system to give area residents a safer option when looking to stay active.

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