Plans to operate a sawmill near the village have some Linwood residents worried about the impact on their quality of life. From noise and dust to potential environmental issues, they aired their concerns last week at Wellesley council.
Wayne Sauder has applied for a zoning change to allow for a sawmill on a 93-acre agricultural property at 5055 Ament Line, adjacent to the Linwood settlement area. As Sauder rents the land, and neither owns nor farms it, the bylaw amendment is necessary to allow the sawmill to continue as a secondary use by someone other than the landowner.
Neighbours, however, are concerned about the operation’s impact on nearby residences.
Paul Norris, a Linwood resident whose property line is some 120 metres away from the sawmill, raised concerns about noise.
“When the sawmill went in last summer, it was a game-changer for us,” said Norris. “We’ve really enjoyed our backyard, but last summer was the first summer in 23 years we were not able to enjoy our property.
“Several times when the sawmill was running, we couldn’t sit out back. It wasn’t necessarily the sound of high decibels, it was the pitch.”
A noise impact study was conducted earlier last month to measure noise levels, finding it does meet standards set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, but Norris said that the noise test did not take the pitch into account.
Sauder maintained that he has tried to address every concern neighbours have had regarding the sawmill – efforts were made to reduce the sound emissions, including putting up walls, which one neighbour said did improve the issue.
“All last year, in our instance, we had never been chased away from noise, dust, anything sawmill-related,” said David Cressman, who lives directly across from the sawmill.
The sawmill could be permitted to operate between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday and all day Saturday under Wellesley noise bylaws, though it’s currently operated on a part-time basis.
While the proposed zoning amendment would allow council to regulate the land use and the number of sawmills, it could not restrict the number of days per year that the sawmill operates.
Several residents brought up their concern about the precedent that would be set if the township permits non-owners to set up commercial businesses relatively close to residential properties.
“Once it’s established its foothold, it’s quite possible that you’ll see this kind of establishment popping up everywhere around all the small settlements in our township,” said neighbour Don Mitchell. “And I’m here to protect our township from all this stuff happening.”
Other issues brought up by several other residents included inadequate setbacks between residential properties and the sawmill, the potential for a vermin infestation, the possibility of growth, and the effect it could have on surrounding property values.
“The distance from the sawmill to the neighbour’s property is around twice the buffer distance than is allowed between the sawmill and the town,” said resident Ron Leis. “Where there’s going to be a lot more interactions, by the sheer numbers of it. If there is a concern with rats coming in, you might have 50 neighbours affected as opposed to just one farm property. They’re migrating into the town and will find suitable habitat there.”
Sauder said he did not intend to expand the operation, noting that it is a portable sawmill and that he would keep the area tidy, as has been the case in the past.
“Our intentions are to keep a very clean environment, clean up the sawdust when we’re done cutting. Not always, but normally the lumber we cut is green – there will never be dry wood,” said Sauder. “Green lumber gets cut and delivered out on a flatbed trailer. So there are no big lumber trucks coming in and out there.”
Councillors listened to the presentations but made no decision on the request. Planner Geoff Vaanderbaren will draft a report for consideration at a future meeting.