Not convinced about plans for expanded industrial uses at an Elmira site, Woolwich councillors want more information before making a decision.
The owners of 39 Arthur St. N. are seeking zoning and official plan amendments to permit what is now some 7.7 acres of open space covered with trees and scrub-brush to be converted to a gravel parking lot.
While township planning staff recommended approving the plan to provide additional parking space for transport trailers, councillors meeting Tuesday night voted 3-2 against the idea. Following further discussion, council asked staff to come back with more information, perhaps with another chance for residents to speak to the issue.
Residents of the northeast-Elmira neighbourhood that also abuts Bolender Park have been outspoken in opposition to the plan. The at-times controversial site, formerly home to Paleshi Motors and 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers, is currently rented to Grandridge Carriers, a trucking firm, and Brubacher Roofing Systems.
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Part of the property also sits atop a former municipal landfill site decommissioned decades ago, but with lingering methane issues.
Of the 11.6-acre property, about four acres at the front is zoned for industrial use, with 39A Holdings Ltd. looking to clear out much of the rear portion to provide for parking trucks and trailers. The company also proposes to provide the township with ownership of a small strip where a municipal watermain runs under the site, as well as establishing a formal link between the Kissing Bridge Trail and Bolender Park. There is currently a makeshift pathway along the rear of the property.
Residents of the High Street area have raised concerns about increasing industrial uses in an area already close to many industrial properties. They worry about the loss of tree cover, noise and dust issues.
Neighbours’ worries also include the loss of a buffer space if the trees are cut down and the area turned into a parking lot. Council was presented with a petition bearing more than 1,500 signatures.
Hugh Handy, a planner with the GSP Group representing the applicant, said the residents’ concerns have been addressed, adding that some two acres of land will be conveyed to the township, including land allowing a connection between the park and Kissing Bridge Trail. New plantings will enhance the existing covering foliage between the site and the park.
The property owner has agreed to replace the trees that will be removed on a one-to-one basis, noted manager of planning Jeremy Vink. Some 300 trees are to be replaced.
Many of the existing trees are in poor condition. Moreover, many are not native species but have simply grown there unattended, he added. The new trees will be hardier native varieties, with the landowner responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
One of the bigger stumbling blocks for councillors Tuesday night was the impact of truck traffic.
Coun. Evan Burgess noted a traffic study should look at the worst-case scenario, suggesting some limit on the number of trucks moving to and from the site might be in order.
Mayor Sandy Shantz said while Arthur Street as a regional road is designed for truck traffic, those large vehicles aren’t compatible with efforts to make the downtown Elmira core more pedestrian friendly.
The traffic issue is expected to be addressed as staff looks to provide more information after council voted to defer a decision for a few more weeks.