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Erin trailer business permanently parked following zoning dispute

The company is located on what's considered prime agricultural land

ERIN – Council has decided to permanently allow a Keith’s Trailer Sales to continue operating on agricultural land despite recommendations from planning staff.

In a three-to-one vote during their regular council meeting earlier this month, council directed staff to return with a bylaw making the zoning amendment permanent. 

Currently used for trailer sales, service, and propane exchange, Keith’s Trailer Sales Inc. was temporarily allowed to remain on what’s considered prime agricultural land for the last seven years, contrary to local and provincial land-use policy. 

“There's a lot of people that are employed here, a lot of local families that rely on this place,” said owner Keith Barrick, in a previous statement. “Not just for their livelihoods, and employment, but for the service and the products they purchase from us.”

Recommending council refuse the application, Jack Krubnik, director of planning and development, reiterated planning staff concerns that the application is “inconsistent with provincial policy and does not conform to the Greenbelt Plan, the Growth Plan, and the County and Town Official Plans.” 

“The intent of the previous temporary use by-law was to allow the owner time to find a new site while continuing to operate the existing business,” said Krubnik, in the report. “Planning staff are of the opinion that there are other properties intended for this type of use located within the settlement areas and do not support the proposed amendment.” 

But, standing by his previous statement that they “do have some authority to do something different if we choose to,” Coun. John Brennan made the motion for staff to bring forward a bylaw allowing the business permanent zoning. 

“I think that at a time where we are looking to expand our industrial lands, our employment lands, it does not make sense to me to move this into what is already considered a scarce resource,” said Brennan. “If we had all those lands already added, then it might be a different situation but that’s not the case that’s before us now.”

He also asked that the bylaw remain site-specific to “safeguard the property” in case it exchanges hands.  

“I don’t want to open the door for somebody if the property changes hands, to come in and put it to another use,” said Brennan. “Hopefully, it’ll always be a successful trailer sales business but I think it's prudent…that we have some protection going into the future.”

Coun. Cathy Aylard agreed with Brennan, addressing Krubnik directly. 

“I understand and I respect your dedication to providing and walking us through these reports,” said Aylard. “But in this specific case, my commitment to the economic health of our community and supporting those people that exhibit entrepreneurship and moving our community along outweighs supporting the staff report.” 

Coun. Jamie Cheyne maintained that the zoning be site-specific but sided with Brennan and Aylard, contrary to his statements during the March meeting. 

“For many reasons (the business has) been a commercial operation…and it has a small footprint,” said Cheyne. “The economic problems are there due to the fact that we don’t have a commercial or industrial zone anywhere in Erin at the moment.” 

But Coun. Bridget Ryan maintained the land's primary use should remain agricultural. 

“I do support the family and their principles. I think they’re very hardworking, they’re employing a lot of local people, that’s all really great,” said Ryan. “(But) I am very concerned that we’re setting a precedent where we now open ourselves to creep onto another zoning that doesn’t exist.” 

Questioning how the land would "ever be repurposed to full agricultural use," Ryan was unsure about the business's “extensive” parking area, made up of ground asphalt and home to 400 trucks. 

“Activities such as that are one of the reasons we want to have a site plan agreement in place,” said Krubnik. “We do take securities for some of these items and those should be sufficient enough so that we can return the lands to agricultural purposes, in this case, (if) the temporary zoning that is in place has expired. 

Keith’s Trailer Sales is located on the east side of Trafalgar Road, south of Erin-Garafraxa Townline. The lands are approximately 2.55 hectares and have a lot frontage of approximately 127 metres along Trafalgar Road.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

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About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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