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Committee reluctant to allow garage on agricultural land

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 07, 2014 - 8:12 PM |
A proposal to allow a temporary mobile garage on this property in Chelmsford was rejected Monday by the city's planning committee, because the land it sits on is zoned agricultural. Supplied photo.

A proposal to allow a temporary mobile garage on this property in Chelmsford was rejected Monday by the city's planning committee, because the land it sits on is zoned agricultural. Supplied photo.

Mobile farm repair business in Chelmsford will have to find another site

The city's complaint-driven bylaw policy is sometimes unfair, the chair of the city's planning committee said Monday, as an application for a temporary rezoning of a mobile garage in Chelmsford was denied.

The application, from Jason Gratton, sought to legalize what he already had been doing on the 20-acre property he plans to buy to operate a farm. Gratton told the committee he repairs farm equipment in the area, which is zoned agricultural.

He said about 60 per cent of the work he does is off-site, and much of the work he does on the property is on his own equipment. And speaking on his behalf, lawyer Dave Dorland told the committee Gratton is a one-person operation who was forced to move his mobile business after a dispute with his former landlord.

“And the (bylaw) complaint came about a month later,” he said. “So that was unfortunate.”

Longer-term, Dorland said his client plans to farm the property, but needs to store heavy equipment on the property so he can clear the land, which is mostly still undeveloped.

“But, as I say, most of his work is off site”

Gratton sought permission to operate his mobile garage for three years, and to use storage containers on the site to store equipment. Within the three years, he plans to build a permanent garage.

“It's not going to be a large vehicle garage,” Dorland said. “We're here just to allow this man to keep working on the land ... for a temporary period of three years.”

As for the land being zoned agricultural – which prohibits most industrial uses – he said the corner of the property where the garage and work will be done is zoned rural, which has less strict rules for industrial uses. And, Dorland said, the danger of an industrial spill contaminating the land is very low.

But neighbours in the area said their main concern was the water in the area. While creeks on the land are often dry, it refills regularly. And during spring melts, water levels rise significantly, further exposing the water table to contaminants.

“We're concerned about the pollution,” one resident told the committee. “Eventually, a spill (and contamination) is going to happen.”

“As soon as one (industrial) use goes in, we'll get stuck with others,” another neighbour said. “This is prime agricultural land – something's wrong here.”

Dorland asked the committee if there were any changes Gratton could make to his plans to secure approval, but concerns over allowing an industrial use in an agricultural zone were too great.

“I can't be supporting this,” said Ward 6 Coun. Andre Rivest.

He said setting such a precedent would be a dangerous move, and make it more difficult to reject similar requests in the future.

The application was defeated 4-1, with Kilgour the lone vote in support. He said if no one had complained, Gratton would have been able to develop his hobby farm without setting the precedent that other members of the committee were concerned with.

“Sometimes the complaint-driven process for our bylaws works against us,” he said. 
Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer


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