Much of Muskoka may heat with wood, but not everyone wants a wood processing business beside them.
That was the message Huntsville’s Planning Committee heard at its December 13 meeting as it considered a zoning change to enable an existing wood operation on Muskoka Road 3 North to continue.
The owner, Marvin Green, has been operating the home-based business for the past 12 years but a handful of Settler’s Ridge residents say the business is incompatible with a residential neighbourhood and say the noise and emissions generated from the property are impacting them adversely.
“We all oppose this change to the bylaw on the basis that this area has been zoned residential, not industrial,” said one of the residents who said he attended the meeting on behalf of himself and other residents on his street. “This is not a home office, which is acceptable in a residential area as they do not create significant noise and disturbance to the neighbours… this is a manufacturing business, using heavy equipment, loud saws, heavy truck delivery, creating significant amount of noise which is not conducive to a residential area.”
Committee then heard from three other residents along that stretch of Muskoka Road 3 North, who attended the meeting to support the business owner.
“As far as the smoke coming from his property and the noise coming from his property, 90 per cent of it has been coming from the construction site that has been going on for the past five years,” said a woman at the meeting. “Since the subdivision has moved in there, our noise pollution has gone way up high,” she said. “And is this supposed to be Muskoka? It is supposed to be a place where you can enjoy having firewood and that’s what he’s doing is just creating firewood for all of us to be able to keep our houses warm.”
She referred Green as “just a fella trying to make a living,” and noted that he also drives a school bus and does the odd job around town. She said the property has always had firewood, long before the subdivision was built. “It’s part of Muskoka. It’s not a subdivision in Toronto.”
Green later told committee that the smoke coming from his property is from the wood furnace he uses to heat his home. His planning consultant, Graeme Huizinga of Wayne Simpson and Associates, also told committee that Green has built a berm around the operation to help mitigate the noise and that he plans to move the operation further back on the property, something that would be enforced through a zoning change, according to Town planning staff. Staff recommended the approval of the zoning change and noted the property would also fall under a site plan approval.
Green, who seemed dismayed at some of the accusations from neighbours, said he’d been criticized having a beer with a customer. He said he felt like some of the neighbours had ganged up on him and made him go through a lot of expense by getting the municipality involved. “Had they just come and seen me, we would’ve fixed it,” he said of the neighbours’ concerns.
Prompted by Councillor Bob Stone, Green said he cuts about 100 cords a year. Green said his customers will pick up the wood from the property and load their vehicles. He said it is a one-man operation; committee heard from staff that according to the rezoning proposed he could hire a limit of two other people who do not reside on the property.
“This is a tough one for me,” said Councillor Jonathan Wiebe. “From a municipal zoning perspective it’s my understanding that you should be able to, if you were to buy a home for example in this area, you should be able to clearly identify what is residential and what is not and I worry that this type of processing does blur that line into the industrial use and that’s why I’m having trouble supporting this.”
“This isn’t completely a homogeneous residential area. There are a variety of different uses in the area,” said Town planner Elizabeth Reimer. She said it is on a major road and there are quarry lands to the east.
In the end, committee approved the rezoning with the exception of Councillor Wiebe who voted against it.
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