Industrial and residential uses come to a head on Muskoka Road 3 North, committee wants all of council involved in decision

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Huntsville’s Planning Committee found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place at its April 11 meeting as it deliberated on a zoning amendment to allow a rock processing operation to proceed along Muskoka Road 3 North.

While staff recommended that the application by Muskoka Rock Company President Seth Rudin be approved, committee members grappled with the opposition from area residents who maintained that the industrial nature of the operation is simply incompatible with the residences along that same corridor.

Nancy LeBlanc, a former Town Planner and Planning Consultant who lives along Muskoka Road 3 North and has been speaking on behalf of residents in Settler’s Ridge and Muskoka Meadows subdivisions, told committee that the biggest issue is compatibility.

“I am deeply disappointed that we do not have stronger language in our existing Official Plan regarding compatibility… However it is up to you, our elected officials, to remember that hundreds of people will be affected by this development so that one company creating 15 jobs can continue to reinforce that making money is far more important than people’s quality of life. And I know that’s a strong statement but that is how people feel,” she said.

“This was reinforced yesterday when an announcement was made that the Province of Ontario has awarded a grant of $350,000 to Muskoka Rock to expand their company’s operation. We’re facing serious budget shortfalls in our hospitals but the government can give over a quarter of a million dollars to a company to expand. It shows that the province is choosing rock over people… I ask you to deny this application and choose people over rock. You are our elected officials. Your responsibility is to make decisions in the broader public interest,” added LeBlanc, who also reminded councillors that a municipal election is drawing near.

But the fact that there are several quarries already situated along that stretch and that Muskoka Road 3 North is a main thoroughfare for truck traffic and other traffic that leads to two main highways was not lost on anybody. Neither was the fact that the municipality has continuously approved residential subdivisions and other forms of residential development along that stretch, nor the fact that the applicant has been asked to tweak his application on several occasions.

Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano said she found it difficult to approve the application, though through no real fault of the applicant.

“I’m still reluctant to approve this application for a few reasons and it’s not primarily on you guys, it’s more on us and that’s our Official Plan and the strength of the compatibility definition in our Official Plan and the fact that as council, we have been actively approving applications consistently for years on Muskoka Road 3 North and off of it… so it’s very much turned into a residential growth area,” she said. “The fact that we’re promoting that kind of growth makes me feel that to approve heavy industrial use doesn’t make any sense. They’re not compatible uses.”

Huntsville Councillor Jonathan Wiebe expressed similar concerns. “If it’s 10, 20 or 30, whatever the lifespan of that quarry is, by approving this facility we’re ensuring that this area remains industrial,” he said. Wiebe commended the applicant for meeting all of the requirements that were asked of him but said he still struggled with the compatibility of the operation with the increasing residential nature of the neighbourhood.

Councillor Nancy Alcock and committee chair echoed some of those sentiments. “Over and over again you’ve raised the bar considerably since the beginning to try and respond to concerns that have been raised by the community, by the committee, but I think from my perspective we’re asking for the impossible… I’m really grappling with the term compatibility,” she said.

I’m really having a hard time squaring this. It’s like putting a square peg in a round hole for me. From a planning perspective we have two really serious competing interests here and in the long run, this is where we’ve identified our residential community. So I guess I’m echoing—it’s a problem that we the municipality have, not you the applicant.
Councillor Nancy Alcock, Planning Committee Chair

Questions were raised whether the applicant could consider relocating the operation to his company’s existing pit to the North, but planning consultant for the applicant, Savas Varadas, noted that the municipality as well as the community would have less input as the approvals would fall squarely on the Province. Rudin also said that strategically moving the operation outside of the pit would ensure the existing operation is not impacted.

“I don’t want to make the mistake of saying abandon this project [and]they move it three, four hundred feet north, it creates a bigger impact on the neighbourhood and we’ve [then]done a greater disservice by that,” said Councillor Jonathan Wiebe.

Last month, the applicants were asked to return with a more in-depth noise attenuation plan, which they did, offering to build berms and reconfigure the location of the building on the property and decrease the number of doors on the same in order to keep noise down, explained Varadas.

Terziano asked Rudin whether despite the operation complying with the municipality’s noise bylaw it might still impact the quality of life of area residents. Rudin said that’s a subjective question.

“Our intention is to operate as a good neighbour. That’s what we do in all of our different sites,” he said. Rudin also noted that the lands have an industrial designation in the Town’s Official Plan and said that since the beginning of the approval process they’ve had very little direction from the municipality.

“We had very little to no direction… with respect to the parametres that would be sought out,” said Rudin. “Frankly we began this process because the Official Plan designated this specific piece of property in the manner that it did, that’s why we’re sitting here today.”

In the end, a majority of committee voted against the application. Councillor Jason FitzGerald voted in favour of it, but reasoned that it would still go to council for further discussion, which he welcomed. Wiebe concurred, noting that the discussion was an important one and the decision should be made by all of council rather than committee members alone. Councillor Bob Stone was absent for that portion of the meeting, having declared a conflict for personal reasons.

All decisions by committee must be ratified by council.

See related stories below:

Mayor tells staff to hasten planning process for proposed rock operation on Muskoka Rd 3 North

Residents along Muskoka Road 3 North up in arms over proposed rock cutting facility

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11 Comments

  1. Jacque Howell on

    My sympathy is with the residents BUT the industrial site was present before the development. I purchased a condo opposite an industrial site and have to accept that the pipe factory has night lights that shine in my living room bright enough to make shadow games, I have to listen to the pipes drop NIGHT and day. I made the choice to purchase across from an industrial site – not knowing what that the impact would be, but it was my choice and I move forward. Many of my neighbours listen to a factory that runs 24 hours a day.

    I do not feel I can ask the town to solve these disturbances but if they wish, I know we would be thrilled.

  2. Barry groomes on

    The town needs to stop allowing blasting in that area. Years of blasting is taking its effect. Fowler’s construction with their Whites pit and quarry may look like its back in the bush the more drilling and blasting of that big hill is getting closer to the houses . Truck traffic is screwing the roads this time of year. And like someone said before a $350,000 grant before any money is given to any company our hospital budgets should be met and you want to make millions trucking rock you build a road that will withstand the punishment of the trucks and maintain it. Not the trucks beat the shit out of the roads the quarry owner makes millions and when the road needs fixed the tax payer has to pay more every year.

  3. Both sides of this argument, of course, have valid concerns; but I consider the OP to be the arbiter. Otherwise, why spend into the hundreds of thousands to produce the document in the first place; and then pay the planners handsomely to interpret it?
    *
    There is lots of blame to be shared in this instance. Why were residential uses ever encouraged in this area? Road 3 North is an arterial roadway, and quite properly, the OP designates it for industrial uses. Then the Planning Department has continued to approve both residential and industrial applications for the area. In accordance with its profligate spending ways, the Province subsequently places itself foursquare behind industry (rightly in this instance: check the OP). IF the Town had amended the OP several years ago (on the 5-year anniversary of its last amendment), as required by accepted practice, the burgeoning residential nature of the area could have been recognized; at the expense of the industrial designation.
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    Finally, the planners have responded correctly by approving an industrial application in an area designated industrial. The applicant has incurred additional expense because these same planners have approved residential applications as well for the same area INCORRECTLY. I would hope to see the Council show some backbone and support the application: 15 jobs are not insignificant in these parlous times.
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    And for the record, Mr. Groomes, truck traffic is not destroying the road “this time of year”; because half-loads are always in effect during the freeze-thaw cycle in Muskoka.
    *
    Submitted with apologies to any who I may have inadvertently offended.

  4. Who pays more taxes ? Who lives there and experiences life 24/7. Pay attention to the electors and taxpayers not the profiteers…Simple !

    • David Harrison on

      The quarry was there first. It was established in accordance with township planning at the time.

      The quarry was in place and operational when the new residences were being built. There are enough signs notifying people of the quarry’s existence, yet people chose to purchase their homes with this knowledge. If they didn’t they should be suing their real estate agents. Regardless, I don’t think these house owners have any right to complain.

      The only viable solution is for the house owners to by out the quarry (not the taxpayers).

  5. Brian Tapley on

    Why in heck is the government giving $350,000 to a company to dig more rock out of the area? Look around, who has the big new trucks, who is getting millions of dollars for “rock” in all it’s many forms??
    Do they need a grant? I seriously doubt it.

    It’s funny too that today, each attempt at expansion of any pit or quarry seems to get a lot of attention but just a few years back, with zero zoning and planning input expansions of orders of magnitude were granted in Lake of Bays. Lake of Bays Municipality would not even discuss these expansions, simply saying that it was the MNR and Pits and Quarries act that controlled the matter. Seems curious how now Huntsville and Muskoka Lakes townships seem to have, or want to have, significant input into these operations.
    Either the rules have changed and MNR control of the Pits and Quarries act has changed, or Lake of Bays was misguided a few years back. Either way it seems odd.

  6. I live on Glenwood Dr and wasn’t sure where the blasting was coming from originally, but we really feel it here when it does. The house shakes and sometimes hard enough that I look for cracks in the drywall. My dog reacts like it’s a Thunder Boom.

  7. I’m sure the mayor will have some input when it gets to full council. He was an employee of Fowlers Construction for a few years.

  8. I think Council has to sit there and listen to the evidence and comments , but it is their duty to abide by the zoning regulations of the Town and the OP. This piece of property is surrounded by industrial uses, so how can anyone say that the zoning is not compatible with properties and is the area designated in the OP as future Industrial . The Huntsville Aggregate pit and quarry surrounds the subject property on 3 sides , and the former Tom Earle Welding shop is on the other side. . all zoned industrial , so how does this property not conform with properties in the area? These pits and quarries have been operating on the east side of Muskoka Road 3 North for many years, Fowlers, the White Pit , Laws Pits, and Youngs pit. Huntsville Aggregates has been in operation surrounding the subject property for over 20 years and abides by all the Quarry and Pit regulations of the Province Re the Pit and Quarry act .The applicants have bent over backwards to deal with the issues raised by the the Planners for the Town and the Planner for the residents. By the way this new proposed building could be constructed on the existing Huntsville aggregate property with out any rezoning , just a building permit application, as that zoning allows what is asked for in this application.. This building could be built close to Muskoka Road 3 with no input re buffering, door location etc. At this time a lot of the processing is outside, which is much noisier All these Industrial properties have been there long before the new Residential developments. Council must approve this application, as supported by the Planning staff. There have been traffic and noise studies completed by the way

  9. James Joseph on

    It looks like Huntsville needs a long term vision. It seems development is one disaster after another starting with no long term expansion plan for the hospital and now allowing residential developments helter skelter. What a mess. The town definitely needs direction and needs to stop blaming their shortfalls on others.

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