New twist in MacPherson Drive industrial rezoning saga

·5 min read

East Ferris residents opposed to a rezoning application for a light industrial operation on MacPherson Drive can’t be blamed if they started to smile when first reading a municipal update Friday.

Greg Kirton, manager of planning and economic development, wrote that Paige Engineering has withdrawn its applications. While still on the Planning and Advisory Committee agenda for Wednesday, the presentations for and against won't take place.

“These files have been closed and will not proceed any further with the Planning Advisory Committee or Council,” he said, referring to the contentious issue that was set for a second public hearing.

Numerous letters of opposition were gathered since the last meeting Dec. 16 and a new petition, urging the municipality to help the business find a better-suited location, is nearing 100 signatures.

See: Industrial rezoning application deferred into 2021

See: New petition opposes industrial rezoning request

See: Residents oppose industrial rezoning on MacPherson Drive

The PAC deferred a decision until Paige Engineering figured out how a tractor-trailer could safely unload occasional deliveries at the 382 MacPherson property. Concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety were among those raised last month because the garage is situated at the beginning an ‘S’ curve on a rural road with little shoulder, no sidewalk and not much of a parking area.

Other issues raised included the big gap between the existing Official Plan designation of agricultural to land for economic development and the rezoning from rural residential is a leap to light industrial. Paige Engineering wants to outfit trucks and equipment with explosive storage and delivery components it designs for mining and construction clients, both domestic and international. Most of the heavy fabrication work is contracted out before its delivered for assembly. No explosives are permitted on site, John Paige told the PAC.

Looming subdivision plans east and west have the potential of adding more than 75 homes plus individual lot development, a pressure of change fuelling comments about the changing character of the area.

The withdrawal of the applications would have been rare good news in the middle of a pandemic as the province endures another strict lockdown.

The next paragraph wiped those smiles away.

“However, Paige Engineering would like to make the committee aware of their intention to re-apply for a Temporary Use By-law under section 39 of the Planning Act,” Kirton wrote in his letter to the PAC, while also circulated to nearby residents and those who registered to speak and receive updates.

“A Temporary Use By-Law is implemented in the same way as a Zoning By-Law Amendment under section 34 of the Planning Act; but is limited to a 3-year duration,” he said, noting the East Ferris Official Plan covers such things in section 9.17.

“The intention of Paige Engineering Limited is that, if approved, they will use this 3-year temporary approval in order to explore permanent options elsewhere in the community.”

Sylvie Hotte, who lives adjacent to the subject property, was not impressed with the change in tack, especially after spending most of the last month before and after the holidays organizing opposition twice already. Her first petition had more than 130 signatures but she was told it was not specific enough and it is unclear if the 'temporary use' application might require a third specific to it. Time will tell if letters of opposition gathered from residents might also need to reference the new application terms, even though fighting a three-year operation doesn’t change the chief concerns for Hotte.

Traffic hazards and all other impacts will be the same, she said, and there is no certainty of another change of mind in three years.

“This kind of ‘trust me’ and incremental approach is unacceptable,” she stated in her most recent communication to the municipality. Hotte said they are not being told important details, such as environmental protection plans, parking configuration, drainage, and water services, etc. because they are determined during the site plan control stage that doesn’t include public input.

Hotte maintains it doesn’t make sense to cause so much disruption in so many lives when East Ferris is planning to develop a 22-acre industrial park on its Callander Bay Drive border.

"The residents of this area are furious," she said Friday. "No industrial in our neighbourhood means 'No' ... it does not conform."

Brian and Debbie Callahan, who live on the other side of MacPherson Drive, are among the residents who submitted letters of opposition.

“We have lived across the street from this location for over 20 years and have come across several problems with traffic on this section of MacPherson Drive,” Callahans wrote.

“When our children were younger, they were transported to school in North Bay by school bus. Due to traffic travelling towards Centennial Crescent, the school board deemed it unsafe to have the bus pick up our children at the end of our driveway due to a very sharp corner affecting the safe flow of traffic,” he wrote.

“Instead, our children had to walk to Woodcliffe Road to catch the bus. Traffic does not slow coming around the sharp corner, posing unsafe conditions in front of our residence as well as the property in question.”

The Callahan's said this kind of change to the Official Plan would give those considering investment in East Ferris a reason to reconsider because property owners don’t know what will be approved next.

“We recently found out that a couple that we know from North Bay have been contemplating buying the property near the aforementioned property to build a permanent residence on. They changed their minds when they found out about the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment,” they said.

Also worrisome to them was “continuous hammering and construction taking place at the property in question” in recent weeks.

“The noise is very noticeable and annoying even though the doors to the building are closed,” their letter states. “The big problem is the prospect of having the doors open during the summer with manufacturing taking place inside. So much for a quiet residential area."

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