Woolwich planners are clearly on the wrong track by putting up roadblocks in front of a plan to rework the former Paleshi Motors site in Elmira.
Once home to a municipal dump, then operated for decades as a wrecking yard and used auto parts depot, the site is now the property of 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers. Owner Frank Rattasid wants to expand the types of metal collected to items beyond motor vehicles. He’s looking to spruce up a site that has become something of an eyesore, carrying on the business out of sight while improving the front of the lot.
With the transfer station destined for the scrap heap, Elmira could have an outlet for getting rid of some of its waste, with the added bonus of diverting items to recycling programs. Moreover, Rattasid is open to running a full transfer station at the site.
Woolwich has been anything but receptive, however. The planning department is calling instead for a lengthy rezoning process to allow for expanded uses at the Arthur Street North location. Barring that, Rattasid can take his chances seeking a minor variance before the township’s committee of adjustment. That’s not a prospect he’s confident about given staff’s opposition.
The planners’ stance doesn’t make sense to the site’s new owner, who sees the additions as a way to reduce noise, pollution and hours of operation at the metal recycling operation.
Rattasid purchased the property and the auto salvage business – most recently operated by Alex Auto Parts – planning to expand the metal recycling options. The site will need to process 50 tonnes of metal daily to be viable, he said. That translates into 50 cars being crushed each day. If other forms of metal are accepted there – residents could sell or drop-off unwanted metal items – then there would be less need to truck in cars for processing.
Township planners had been adamant the property’s current zoning allows for the processing of only salvaged vehicles – the M-1 classification has a site-specific exemption for cars dating back to 1987 – but approved other forms of steel salvage. That was the right move, but they imposed rules that essentially force the company to do all the colleting and sorting out in the front parking lot: bins, trucks and a large crane will take up much of the front of the property, blocking access to the site and making parking difficult, Rattasid maintains.
Addressing Woolwich council this week, Rattasid found some sympathetic ears, but councillors maintained that the committee of adjustment is the course to follow. Denial there would mean the next stop would be a legal challenge to the Ontario Municipal Board. Rather than go that route, he suggested councillors could intervene in the interest of providing a needed public service.
Alternatively, he could run the whole noisy, messy business out by the street – he can do that today without anymore contact with the township. That, however, would be horribly inefficient, and rather unnecessary given that there are acres of land well back from the road and behind a 10-foot-high fence, well out of sight.
Coun. Murray Martin has it right when he questions whether the township is making the process more complicated than it needs to be – “Are we making too big a deal about this?”
The simple answer is yes. There’s going to be metal recycling at the site – it’s a useful service that’s clearly in demand. Why not do everything possible to help a motivated new owner make the place run well?