HUNTSVILLE – Three industries have been shut out of a Huntsville property because of a council decision, says business owner Kris House.
House, owner of HLD Corporation and an 88-acre property at 17 Golf Course Rd., said he had been working for well over three years to have biomass-to-fuel, metal fabrication and large millwork-style businesses locate to the property.
But after a town council decision to deny a zoning application that would have allowed such industries on the property, those businesses and the jobs they would have created will not be coming to Huntsville, he said.
“Council sent a pretty clear message that we’re not open for business in Huntsville,” said House. “They’ve walked away from a huge number of jobs here.”
The town held a public hearing last month on the rezoning application, which would have changed the property designation from rural to rural special industrial.
Nearly 50 community members attended the hearing to oppose the application for a variety of reasons ranging from environmental and safety issues to concerns about changing the natural and residential character of the area.
Most people seemed to be concerned with the application because they did not know what the property would be used for. Some speculated the rocky property would be turned into a quarry.
“A couple of the abutting neighbours were spreading a rumour that we were starting a pit and quarry, and they felt the rezoning was just a stepping stone to get to that. That was not the case at all,” said House.
He said he was only trying to get the property rezoned for low-effluent producing industrial uses as outlined in the official plan.
“The negativity to it was all fabricated,” said House. “They got it in their head, because I own and operate pits and quarries, that I was trying to sneak an application through.”
Rezoning for a pit would have been completely different zoning designation from what he was trying to get, he said.
Regardless, what the property would have been used for was nobody’s business, said House.
“We were just conforming to exactly what the town wanted in their official plan,” he said. “When we’re filing an application to go with exactly what the town wished to do in their official plan, I really don’t think we have to substantiate uses, plans or anything.”
He said he wanted to leave the uses for the property broad because he intended to attract several different businesses and create an industrial node.
He argued that there is not a lot of industrial land left in the municipality, especially lots off services. Unserviced lots are appealing to some industries that neither need nor can afford municipal services, he said.
“They don’t want to pay the increased taxes and everything else from being on serviced land,” he said.
He said the property was in a prime area for industrial uses.
“This is an industrial area. You drive up Muskoka Road 3 and, yes, they’ve scattered some subdivisions in amongst it, but at the end of the day the primary uses historically have all been aggregate, industrial,” he said. “That’s what the use is for this area.”
But for now the property will stay undeveloped.
House said his company will be working with the businesses to locate them elsewhere, but they will not be in Huntsville.
It is unfortunate, he said, that the jobs these industries would have created will not come to Huntsville given the high unemployment rate here.
“We do need jobs in this community, that’s what it boils down to,” said House. “It would be nice to leave every piece of property in the whole world covered with trees and bush, but that’s just not reality in the world today.”