By John Miner
Woolwich Township resident Mark Demandt plans to continue his fight against illegal manufacturing operations in his rural area despite losing an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Demandt’s arguments that a paint plant serving the automotive industry on a neighbouring beef farm shouldn’t simply be rezoned to make it legal were rejected by the OMB following a one-day hearing in April.
In the OMB decision released May 12, board member Sharyn Vincent said the rezoning by Woolwich Township represents “good planning.”
The paint booth on the beef farm meets the overarching intent of the province, region and township to protect and enhance the long term economic viability of agricultural activity on prime agricultural lands, the OMB ruled.
With his appeal to the OMB exhausted, Demandt told Farmers Forum he now plans to take his complaint to the ombudsman for the Region of Waterloo. If that fails to bring action, he will talk to the office of the Ontario Ombudsman, he said.
In the OMB decision Vincent noted the province’s planning guidelines allow for secondary manufacturing operations on farms in prime agricultural areas and specifically cite welding or woodworking shops and manufacturing/fabrication.
While Demandt maintains there are many illegal manufacturing operations run by Mennonites in his township, an assertion that wasn’t disputed at the OMB hearing, his complaint focused on a farm owned by Aden Brubacher.
Originally given a municipal permit for a welding operation inside an existing farm shed, Brubacher installed a paint booth that exceeded the square metres allowed in the zoning for the farm.
When the illegal operation was brought to the attention of Woolwich Township, Brubacher applied for a rezoning to bring it within compliance and was allowed to continue the paint operation in the meantime.
In December last year, township council passed a temporary rezoning bylaw for the property for a three-year period with the condition that the paint shop not exceed 435 square metres within the existing farm shed. It was that decision that Demandt appealed to the OMB.
Much of the one-day OMB hearing in April heard arguments on whether the paint shop was secondary to the farm operation.
Woolwich senior planner Jeremy Vink testified that the number of employees and revenue are not a required test in determining if on-farm manufacturing is a secondary operation to the farm.
Instead, a key measure is the area taken up by the manufacturing operation.
In Brubacher’s case, he has a 42-hectare property with a beef feedlot for 150 steers, 12 hectares of forest and 28.5 hectares of tillable land.
The industrial business covers less than 0.5 per cent of the property, well under the two per cent restriction in provincial guidelines, Vink said.
In an interview after the decision was released, Demandt questioned the two per cent provincial guideline, pointing out it would allow a two-acre manufacturing operation on a 100-acre farm.
“That would be massive,” he said.
In his testimony and submissions of the OMB, Demandt argued the income from the manufacturing operation should be a consideration.
He also argued that on-farm manufacturing operations have an unfair competitive advantage over manufacturing operations located in urban areas because they are not paying industrial taxes.
“I find that is a huge issue and no one wants to deal with it,” he told Farmers Forum.