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Napanee Council says unanimous ‘No’ to Tomlinson asphalt plant rezoning

Napanee Town Council has voted unanimously to deny Tomlinson Group’s request for a rezoning of their property to allow for a permanent asphalt plant to be installed. The vote took place at their regular Council meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2022 (full video of the meeting can be viewed here).

This image shows the Tomlinson quarry property outlined in blue dashed lines, the area Tomlinson wanted to be rezoned highlighted in red, and the approximate location of asphalt plant shown by a blue star. Screen captured image from a report by Land Use Planner Mark Touw of IBI Group Planning, on behalf of the town.

At the beginning of the meeting, Neal DeRuyter, a planner for MacNaughton, Hermsen, Britton, Clarkson Planning Limited (MHBC), and Rob Pierce, Senior Vice President of the Tomlinson Group of Companies, made a deputation to the council. R. W. Tomlinson Ltd. acquired the Don Hart Quarry and the lands immediately south of it in 2018, and Tomlinson V.P. Rob Pierce first brought the project to the Greater Napanee council December 2019. Current zoning permits a portable asphalt plant and Pierce was proposing a zoning amendment to allow for a permanent plant.

DeRuyter explained the proposal, with Pierce acknowledging that, “There have been some local residents opposed to the application, I am also aware that there are many will remain silent, and that there are also local businesses who are supportive and recognize the importance of these types of uses and construction materials to the local community.”

Pierce concluded, “I strongly feel that our application stands on its own merits and complies with the Official Plan of Napanee.”

After more official business took place, Council received for information a report by Land Use Planner Mark Touw of IBI Group Planning, on behalf of the town, which provided an overview of the subject property and its context, the proposed development and enabling Planning Act application, a review of the application against applicable planning policy and regulations, results of municipal technical review and agency comments, public comments and how they are addressed, and a professional recommendation on the application. 

The report concluded, “It is our professional opinion that the proposal is consistent with the intent of the PPS (Provincial Policy Statement) and conforms to the policies of the County and local Official Plans and constitutes good land use planning.” 

Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser pointed out that Touw had, “just alluded to [the fact that] the applicable Conservation Authority found the location acceptable, but also felt that there was a possibility of certain measures or certain considerations to be made to mitigate risks in the future.”

This concerned the Deputy Mayor, “I just heard… that ‘they’re okay with it, but they’re probably going to need more later,’ and… from my perspective and looking forward… we’re sitting here as councillors, and we rely on those authorities to provide us with the best guidance possible… it falls short of providing us with the necessary knowledge that we need to make a fully informed decision… we rely on these authorities and I felt that that one fell short of meeting the needs of serving this Council and its decision-making process.”

Touw agreed that this was an “excellent question,” and said, “I’m sure it’s a question that isn’t limited to just this one item… there’s always a bit of a balancing act between what level of detail is required at certain stages where you have a multi-step approval process.”

He said that a certain level of detail gets provided at ‘step one,’ and then more information is forthcoming in the subsequent steps. ‘Step one,’ in this case, Touw said, is the Zoning Bylaw Amendment being discussed, and more information would be provided if that is passed and the project moves forward.

With this point clarified, Councillor Ellen Johnson shared her thoughts on the proposal at hand.

“What I do question is if the minimum standards are good enough, in particular, as this asphalt plant is asking to be added to a residential community. Has an impact on the neighbourhood and quality of life been adequately considered?” she posed.

Johnson said she did “understand [Town] staff recommendation to accept the Zoning Bylaw change, as it meets all the minimum requirements.” However, “the challenge is the quality of life and the health of residents who have lived and continue to live in the immediate area… minimum standards are not good enough for the people who live in this neighbourhood, or in the community at large. We can ask for better, and we should set the bar higher. I will not support this.”

Greater Napanee Council convened by Zoom Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Screen captured image.

Councillor Terry Richardson echoed Johnson’s sentiments.

“This lengthy report addresses many legal ramifications that are required by law to be addressed in order that this Zoning Bylaw change ‘could’ occur, but what the report doesn’t really address is whether we ‘should’ allow this change to occur… a question that we, as Council, should be addressing,” he said.

“The very first line of section 224 of the Ontario Municipal Act clearly states, and I quote, ‘It is the role of council to a) represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality.’ Further along in the section of the Act, it states, ‘In other words, the key responsibilities as a councillor are to support the municipality and its operations, while ensuring that the public and municipality’s well-being and interest are maintained.’ These are very important words.”

Richardson said that, in addressing the question of ‘should Council approve the rezoning,’ there are many factors to consider that are not addressed in the report, such as how the proposed plant will impact the well-being — real or perceived — of those in the community currently, and those who will live here in the future.

“And don’t get me wrong,” he acknowledged, “There are pluses and minuses on both sides of this discussion. Well-being can be interpreted in a number of different ways, fiscal-financial health or physical health, just to name two. But the question remains: what is the best interest of our community both today and moving forward in the future?”

The councillor concluded, “In very simple words, I do not believe the location of this plant is in the best interest of the community either today or in the future. Thus, I do not believe supporting the zoning bylaw amendment is the right decision as a whole… I will not be supporting the bylaw amendment application.” 

With all other councillors voicing their agreement with the thoughts expressed by Johnson and Richardson, the proposed amendment to the zoning was unanimously quashed.

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