By Connor Lynch
THAMES CENTRE — A farmer and deputy mayor of a Western Ontario township took his own council to court and cleaned house.
Ontario’s local planning tribunal shut down a municipality’s ag land rezoning decision and vindicated the farmer and municipal councillor who battled it out with his own council.
Farmer and Thames Centre deputy mayor Marcel Meyer took his own council to the local planning appeal tribunal, the tribunal formerly known as the Ontario Municipal Board, over a decision council made last year.
The problem began with the deputy mayor’s neighbour, Lucia de Fatima Lopes, who had been running a trucking operation on her property, storing dump trucks in a large warehouse-type building. In September 2017, the township sent her a notice telling her that the terminal was illegal, since it was on prime agricultural land. So she applied for rezoning.
A county land use planner recommended rejecting the rezoning application for the obvious reason that storing dump trucks is not quite like storing grain and is not an agricultural use. But the local council did not act on the planner’s recommendation. Instead, council dithered over it, deferred it, then ignored the planner’s recommendation and approved the application in November 2017.
Meyer had no say. He’d already declared a conflict of interest, since his property would be affected, and recused himself from council’s vote. Shortly after council approved the rezoning, Meyer appealed. “It was a rubber-stamp approval and it just wasn’t acceptable,” he said, citing concerns about noise, traffic, and washwater runoff to his crops, and the loss of prime agricultural land.
Over six months later, the tribunal heard Meyer’s appeal. That same day, June 27, the tribunal made its decision, ruling in Meyer’s favour and denying the rezoning. Said Meyer: “I am extremely pleased with how swift and absolute this victory was for rural and agricultural Ontario.”