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Illegal use rectified, farmer gets three-year trial to show compliance to Woolwich bylaws

A Winterbourne-area farmer has three years to convince Woolwich he can operate an on-farm business in conformity with township bylaws, after which time council may make permanent a zoning change on his property.

Granted permission in 2010 to operate a metal fabricating shop on his 100-acre farm at 1220 Halm Rd., Aden Brubacher subsequently exceeded the maximum size of the operation’s footprint, added a spray-painting booth without proper clearances and shifted to a non-farm-related business. Caught out, he then requested a zone change from the township to legalize the operation.

Councillors meeting Dec. 13 showed some reluctance, but eventually approved an amendment to the agricultural zoning on the property to allow a welding, metal fabricating shop, steel storage area, loading dock and a paint booth using a maximum 435-square-metre area within an existing farm shed, a maximum area of operation of approximately 2,005 sq. m., and the outdoor storage area to be located along the side of the building,

Originally, Brubacher had received permission  to operate a 350 sq. m. on-farm business for a farm-related metal fabricating operation of conveyor components.

Bob Black, a planning consultant engaged by Brubacher, said his client acknowledged the illegal operation, seeking to make it conform. He explained that Brubacher had made improvements to the property, including meeting environmental guidelines for the spray booth such that he now has clearance from the Ministry of the Environment.

“He has done everything that has been requested or required of him. He feels he has addressed all of the issues.”

Neighbour Mark Demandt remained unswayed, however, citing residents’ concerns about truck traffic, speeding and the safety of pedestrians, particularly children walking to a nearby parochial school.

“This business should be in an industrial area,” he maintained.

The non-farm, industrial nature of the operation wasn’t lost on councillors.

Coun. Mark Bauman said he was concerned that simply approving the use after the fact would lend credence to others who’ll test the adage that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.

Rather than the simple approval of the zone change recommended by planning staff, he pressed for a three-year temporary-use bylaw. Brubacher will have to come back in three years, demonstrating compliance to regulations before seeking either a permanent change or another three-year extension.

To do otherwise would mean there’d been no consequence for simply running illegally until caught, he suggested.

“I’m not doing this to punish the owner,” he said, noting that simply approving the request would signal a “carte blanche” for any business operating illegally.

The temporary-use provision was quickly adopted by other councillors.

“This is an opportunity for Mr. Brubacher to continue on for three years and stay in compliance,” said Coun. Patrick Merlihan.

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