Meaford’s council has given approval to a temporary zoning bylaw requested by the owner of Johnny B’s auto repair shop, which was destroyed by fire in May of this year.
After the May 25 fire, John Bulsink began operating his business on a rural agricultural property on Sideroad 22, where he hopes to be located until the auto repair shop on Sykes Street North can be rebuilt.
Though the property on which Bulsink has established the temporary location for his business is currently zoned Special Agriculture and Environmental Protection, which does not allow for the operation of an auto repair shop, council can approve temporary use for up to three years despite the current zoning.
“Following the fire, the operator established an ad-hoc use of their business at the subject location. Shortly thereafter, the Municipality received complaints about the relocated ‘Johnny B’s’ location at 245690 Sideroad 22. Staff reached out to the owner to inform them that a Motor Vehicle Repair Garage is not a permitted use at that location,” staff noted in their November 13 report to council. “After consultation with the owner and his representatives, the Temporary Use Zoning By-law Amendment application was filed with the Municipality, requesting a temporary amendment to Zoning By-law 60-2009. This amendment would permit the operation of a motor vehicle repair facility at the subject property, on a temporary basis while the original location is rebuilt.”
A public meeting held on October 2 filled the council chamber with supporters of Johnny B’s, as well as property owners neighbouring the Sideroad 22 property who expressed concerns about allowing the business to operate on an agricultural property.
Neighbouring property owner Dave Wilcox told council at the October 2 public meeting that he and his wife first expressed concerns about the temporary location on May 30, five days after the fire that destroyed Johnny B’s auto repair shop on Sykes Street. Wilcox and his wife were concerned that the property across the road was being used as a temporary location for the repair shop without having the proper permits to do so. He expressed frustration that the municipality allowed the property to be used as a temporary location for the repair shop prior to having the approvals necessary to do so.
“We are taxpayers as well, we should be entitled to have some say as to what goes on across the road, as this affects our privacy and property value, among other issues,” Wilcox told council in October.
Wilcox also shared that since the property had been used as Johnny B’s temporary location he and his wife have endured excessive noise, increased traffic, as well as speeding vehicles on their previously quiet rural road.
“There’s dangerous driving at the entrance to the business, as vehicles do not come to a complete stop when exiting the driveway, we’ve seen many near collisions,” Wilcox told council. “This business should not be approved for this subject property, there must be many other pre-approved locations within the municipality which would better suit this business.”
The temporary zoning bylaw was approved by council at the November 13 meeting, along with an associated site plan agreement that outlines permitted operating hours, the number of vehicles allowed to be on the property, and other rules to be followed. It will also strive to ensure that the impact on neighbouring property owners is minimal, though staff conceded in their report to council that such a business would not normally be permitted on protected agricultural land. The temporary zoning bylaw is valid for a maximum of three years.
“Staff are not satisfied that the proposal is consistent with intent and direction of the Provincial Policy Statement and companion Guidelines on Permitted Uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas, as well as the County of Grey Official Plan or of Meaford’s Official Plan. Staff agree with the County position that the intention of the policies for Specialty Agricultural areas was to limit these types of uses (motor vehicle repair) which are better located in urban areas. In addition, since the use is not conducted by the owners of the property who farm the lands, the intention of the policies to directly support farm operators is not met,” staff noted in their report to council. “However, as noted by the County of Grey, municipal staff also recognize that this proposal is grounded in extenuating circumstances due to the catastrophic fire at the Johnny B’s original site and that potential negative impacts from the proposed use could be managed through site plan control provisions including time of operation restrictions. Therefore staff have prepared a zoning by-law amendment for consideration of Council, and to further mitigate potential for issues related to the use, staff recommend this proposal be subject to a Site Plan Agreement to ensure the operation proceeds in a manner compatible with the surrounding area by addressing matters relating to hours of operation, scale of operation, waste disposal, fire protection, parking, and storage.”
Members of council supported the temporary zoning bylaw with a unanimous 7-0 vote, though several councillors expressed concerns, and when the question of the potential for an appeal was raised by councillors, neighbours who attended Monday’s meeting indicated with vigorous nods that they plan to appeal council’s decision.
“I want John’s business to continue, and I want it to progress, and I want it to flourish, especially when he gets back to his location on Sykes Street North, ” Councillor Harley Greenfield told council. “The municipality, we’re stretching the limits on this one, so I really encourage Mr. Bulsink; there are rules that have been pointed out, and I really hope that he will do his very best to follow the rules.”
Greenfield also questioned staff about the municipality’s ability to defend their decision to support the temporary zoning bylaw should an appeal be made.
“I don’t know if I can answer that question,” responded Denise McCarl, Meaford’s Manager of Planning Services.
CAO Matt Smith told council that should an appeal be made, council wouldn’t necessarily have to defend their decision.
“If there is an appeal, we will as a council have to consider how we wish to move ahead. In the past, councils have vigorously defended decisions, but have also just let appeals go forward with what’s on paper,” Smith advised council.
Councillor Steve Bartley shared the concerns expressed by other members of council.
“I really feel for the Wilcoxes and the neighbours,” Bartley told council. “But I do have to support this going forward. I hope that the Bulsinks can adhere to bylaw issues, because the County is nervous about this, the Municipality is nervous, Grey Sauble (Conservation Authority) is nervous, but under special circumstances to help Johnny out, we’re moving ahead with this, and I hope he can adhere to the (bylaw) issues.”
Mayor Ross Kentner also spoke directly to auto shop owner John Bulsink on the issue prior to council’s vote on the temporary zoning bylaw.
“Johnny, you’ve been through a whole lot, and it’s been very difficult but the community values your family and your services, and we have an opportunity here to get past a very difficult period, but it is going to take a lot of cooperation and effort on your part, Johnny, to make sure this works for everybody,” noted Kentner prior to council’s 7-0 vote in favour of the temporary zoning bylaw.