St. Thomas appears to have a bit of a scrap on its hands over, of all things, scrap metal and salvage.
At a public meeting held prior to Monday’s council session, an objection was raised in regard to a zoning bylaw amendment requested by Triple M Metal permitting an end-of-life vehicle waste disposal operation at their industrial metal recycling depot at 245 Edward Street.
At the beginning of February, council authorized staff to prepare a draft amendment which would allow Triple M to ready vehicles for scrapping. All fluids, batteries and freon would be removed under cover and stored for transfer to a licenced waste disposal facility.
The vehicles would then be shipped to Triple M yards in Brampton or Hamilton for scrapping and recycling. The sale of automotive parts would not be permitted under the bylaw amendment.
Representing her client Force Iron and Metal – located literally around the corner on Centennial Avenue – lawyer Valerie M’Garry raised a number of objections including the lack of parking at the facility which has resulted in trucks stopped along Edward Street waiting to enter.
But her main concern involves the city’s official plan, which she argues allows for just one salvage and wrecking facility.
“The St. Thomas official plan has always said only existing salvage and wrecking facilities would be permitted and by creep – taking a baby step here and a baby step there – if this rezoning goes through, it will effectively become a salvage and wrecking facility,” explained M’Garry, who has represented owner David McGee for many years in his protracted dealings with the city over demolition of the Sutherland Press building.
Speaking from her London office Tuesday morning, M’Garry stresses, “How do you argue with the notion they are salvaging the fluids that comes out of cars. Yes, they’re doing it to dispose of them in an environmentally responsible way, but it doesn’t change the fact they are salvaging them and I don’t know how you take a car and truck frame and squash it and say you haven’t wrecked it. So it becomes a salvage and wrecking facility. They are being crushed there and shipped out to be shredded elsewhere.”
M’Garry says her reasoning is based on a previous case in the Barrie area.
“I was speaking from a knowledge base involved with something that happened in Essa Township area a number of years ago that I was involved in. We went into an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on whether or not a paintball facility was permitted in a provincially significant woodland. The proponents got a judge to rule paintball was like a game of golf and that was permitted to operate in that particular municipality.
“And that completely skewed the result of the OMB hearing . . . and I see this being a situation where St. Thomas has always said only existing salvage and wrecking facilities were permitted in their official plan and the OP won’t matter if this rezoning goes through. So I was speaking not just on behalf of a client, but speaking on a principle basis. We need to be careful about these things because the courts can undercut them (the city) in ways they were not anticipating.”
Senior planner Jim McCoomb, who chaired the public meeting, disagrees with M’Garry’s interpretation of the official plan.
“We’ll be following up with a report to council with more details on our position but no, we certainly don’t agree with the position she has taken,” says McCoomb.
“We have to talk to the applicants,” advises McCoomb, “they weren’t represented last night. There were other things that took them away from being there last night. We need to see if they wish to provide anything further in response to the issues that were raised by M’Garry.”
It all comes down to the definition of a scrap yard, explains McCoomb.
“It’s not what the plan says. It permits existing scrap yards and she (M’Garry) is interpreting that as being only one. So it just depends on whether you consider the use they are proposing as being a scrap yard. And that is the crux of the issue here.”
M’Garry understands this is a business decision on the part of Triple M Metal, but she adds this should not be at the expense of the city’s official plan.
“Triple M was originally only permitted to bring in waste from St. Thomas industries,” she points out, “and they’re looking to expand their base of operations and I understand that, that’s a business decision. I’m trying to protect the integrity of the official plan for St. Thomas and my client’s investment.”