HUNTSVILLE - The people have spoken.
Nearly 50 Huntsville residents attended a public hearing about a rezoning application and were so outraged when it was nearly postpone part way through for a closed-session council meeting that councillors chose to continue the public hearing instead. Residents also got council to deny the rezoning amendment.
The gallery was packed in the Huntsville council chamber for a public hearing on a rezoning application for 17 Golf Course Road on April 23. It was standing room only as close to 50 people attended in an effort to get the application rejected by council.
The applicant has been trying to have the 88-acre property rezoned for special rural industrial uses since 2010.
The applicant is a numbered company and both the developer and planning representative have been secretive as to what the property would be used for, though some suspect it will be used as a contractor yard for a landscaping business.
The two and a half hour public hearing was the third one to be held since the initial application was made.
John Gallagher of John P. Gallagher & Associates spoke on behalf of the applicant and argued the property was designated for special rural industrial use under the town’s official plan.
While the property is in an area designated as special rural industrial, the specific property has not been rezoned.
The official plan was publicly amended to allow for the rezoning in 2006, Gallagher stated.
“It just seems that every time we’ve come back … it never meets the requirements,” he said.
Residents were firmly against the application for a number of reasons.
Included in their lengthy list of concerns is the lack of a traffic and environmental impact study, watershed protection issues, impact on property values, truck traffic safety, the health effects on neighbouring livestock, and light pollution.
There were also concerns that industrial use would contradict the rural character of the area, affect the TransCanada Trail system that runs along the road, negatively impact the golf course, and destroy the serenity of the neighbourhood.
Many of the concerns seemed to stem for the applicant not indicating what the property would be used for.
Several residents and planner Bart Carswell of Carswell Planning and Mapping spoke against the application. Many residents seemed to believe the property would become a pit or quarry as most of the property is rock.
The zoning bylaw states that rural special industrial areas are not zoned for pits or quarries.
But resident Nancy LeBlanc suspected the applicant could likely blast the granite ridge on the property, truck the debris to a quarry and crush it elsewhere to circumvent the zoning bylaw.
“We have a right to know (what the property will be used for) because the land use he is proposing, which is the board range of this (rural special industrial) zoning, are not all in our opinion light industrial uses,” said LeBlanc.
Fuel storage facilities, heavy equipment sale and service, transportation depot, garden centre and light industrial use are permitted for rural special industrial designations under the zoning bylaw.
“We once had a lovely, rural area there and an industrial use of the magnitude being proposed today is not compatible in any way with the residential or rural character we enjoy there right now,” said LeBlanc to applause from the gallery.
She and several other speakers asked councillors to put themselves in the residents’ position and asked what they would do if a development such as this were proposed for their backyards.
Residents argued the area was rural and home to waterfowl, deer, turtles and other animals. The narrow road was used for passive recreational activities. Heavy trucks, industry and possible blasting would threaten the environment, they said.
Council seemed swayed by the argument that such industry would not match the rural character of the area.
Coun. Tim Withey was the first to reject the application for several reasons, which included that the town did not do enough to define design guidelines for the rural special industrial area in its official plan.
Coun. Brian Thompson called the Golf Course Road proposal a shining example of a zoning amendment that would affect the character of the surround area and rejected it as well.
Couns. Karin Terziano, Fran Coleman, John Davis and Det Schumacher also denied the zoning amendment.
Mayor Claude Doughty had declared a conflict of interest for business reasons in regard to the application. Coun. Scott Aitchison was away and Coun. Chris Zanetti was chairing the meeting.
Council denied the zoning bylaw amendment and the gallery broke out in applause and cheers.