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Earlidale Meats gets the go ahead from council for most of its expansion bid at Floradale location

A Floradale business owner’s expansion plans won approval this week from Woolwich Township, with councillors loosening planning staff restrictions they deemed too tight.

The decision clears the way for Earlidale Meats to construct a new 600-square-metre facility on the a 3.2-acre property at 2065 Floradale Rd.

That’s more than triple the size of the existing building, which will be retained rather than torn down as requested by planners. That’s in keeping with owner Andrew Martin’s original plan to use the current for dry storage once the new facility is operational.

A new building is required to allow the business enough space to conform to new provincial directives about a work flow that avoids the possibility of cross-contamination of products, with the design of the building subject to approval from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Councillors also compromised on the amount of retail space to be included in the new facility, bumping up to 60 sq. m. the 45 pushed by staff. Martin had requested 92 sq. m. in his original zone-change application, up from the 30 sq. m. in place today.

“It’s a crowded shopping experience, there’s no doubt about that,” said Coun. Mark Bauman of the existing retail store on the site.

Bob Black of RBA Planning Consultants said the current store is “cramped and crowded,” with staff stocking shelves getting in the way of customers who have trouble passing in the narrow aisles. His client wants to avoid the same problems in the new building.

Likewise, the current store has only enough room to display about half of the available meat products, while a retail area of at least 60 sq. m. would provide needed space.

“It’s not practical … to do all the work and not solve the problems.”

Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, argued in favour of the restrictions in keeping with guidelines that require the expansion to be minor in nature.

While the new building will be more than three times bigger, there isn’t a corresponding increase in production. Rather, space is needed to meet regulations regarding production lines and separation of various meat products, he said.

The “minor” factor also means the old building should be torn down, he added, noting concerns about letting the retail outlet get too big.

Coun. Scott Hahn balked at the call to tear down the existing building, noting that future regulatory changes may again require Martin to revamp his operation.

Bauman, too, chafed at tearing down the existing building.

While the property is agricultural, its small size precludes farming. The meat-processing operation makes good use of the land without removing any perfectly good buildings.

“Why are we trying to discourage business owners from being successful?” he asked.

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