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Neighbours opposed to zone change for Linwood sawmill

The operation having been less troubling than expected over the past few years, neighbours of Linwood sawmill nonetheless have no interest in seeing it become a permanent fixture.

Wayne Sauder has been running the sawmill at 5055 Ament Line since a three-year temporary-use bylaw was approved by Wellesley council in 2019. Now he’s looking to make it permanent, His application for an amendment to the zoning bylaw was discussed at a public planning meeting Tuesday night.

Residents who live near the 93-acre farm property, which sits just adjacent to the Linwood settlement area, oppose the idea. They argued that while Sauder has been a good neighbour, taking steps to mitigate noise complaints, there’s no guarantee a future operator would be so cooperative.

“We feel that granting a permanent bylaw amendment status for the sawmill will allow for other future renters at this location to potentially grow the business by adding more saws, increasing the volume, traffic and noise,” said neighbour Paul Norris, who presented a petition signed by 20 residents representing 13 properties.

The residents recognize that Sauder has been a good neighbour and are not opposed to the extension of the temporary-use bylaw, he added.

Councillors noted that Sauder is not the owner of the property, with some expressing concerns about a permanent zone change.

“We have no real control over when he expands. He can expand and he can roll with this. If we’re having difficulties now on a temporary basis, I’d hate to think what’s going to happen once we approve this on a permanent basis. I’m so concerned that we’ll have less and less control,” said Coun. Herb Neher.

Director of planning Geoff VanderBaaren noted the zoning stays with the property, even if Sauder left and someone else operated a sawmill there.

“The bylaw regulates the use of the property, and that’s what we’re limited to,” he said, noting the bylaw couldn’t specify a user, for instance.

VanderBaaren also noted there has been some concern about Sauder’s operation using more of the farmland parcel than was intended in approving the temporary use as a sawmill.

“In 2019 when we OK’d a temporary permit, was the applicant not well aware of the area that was zoned and what area he was to stay within?” asked Coun. Shelley Wagner.

VanderBaaren responded that there was no area spelled out in the bylaw, but an accompanying map of the site outlined the general area of operation.

Sauder later noted that it was unclear, adding he would work with staff to clarify the desired location on the property.

“He’s willing to work with us to bring the site into compliance, and move around the stacked logs to bring it into closer compliance to what we asked,” said VanderBaaren.

“Can we not make this temporary for one more year until he becomes compliant? I don’t like giving him a permanent status if he’s not compliant,” said Coun. Carl Smit, with VandereBaaren responding that was certainly council’s prerogative.

Tuesday night’s meeting was for information only, with no decisions made. Staff will bring a report back at a later date after reviewing the application, including public input.

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