OMB hears Steer appeal

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An Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing regarding Steer’s relocation to Cashtown Corners began Tuesday at town hall in Stayner.

Three days have been set aside for the proceedings, chaired by Ian Rowe.

The OMB was triggered by an appeal of Clearview Township council’s decision to approve a rezoning that would allow Steer Enterprises to move from its current location in Glen Huron to a larger property at the southeast corner of Cashtown Corners. On day one of the hearing, witnesses were called for Steer, the municipality and the current owners of the property in question.

Appellant John Hillier had an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, representing himself and his wife Marnie Hillier.

Hillier was set to testify and call one expert planner on Wednesday as The Echo went to press, a day ahead of schedule due to the holiday Friday.

Counsel for Steer, Al Burton, said in his opening remarks, “We must carefully consider council’s decision. There is no reason to doubt the correctness of the decision.”

Steer is hoping to expand and consolidate its operations (it came out at the hearing that Steer has leased land on Edward Street, the same street the Hilliers live on).

At the centre of the appeal is the location.

Burton said the proposed location at Cashtown Corners was carefully chosen after two years of searching for a property that was big enough, would be easily accessed by large vehicles, not constrained by overhead hydro lines and was not near a residential area.

The redevelopment of the gasbar at Cashtown, along with the Miller’s Dairy milk bottling plant, Huron Tractor and the medicinal marijuana facility were all put forth as precedent for this type of development in an agricultural zone.

Much of the evidence put forward was to support the claim that Steer’s diesel engine service centre is primarily an agriculturally related business, which would allow it in the agricultural zone.

Steer’s planning consultant Christine Loft testified that agriculture and forestry account for 45 per cent of Steer’s client list.

Steer owner Tim Young later said agriculture and forestry account for 38 per cent of the business’ income.

The soil on the portion of the property proposed for severance, Loft said is Class 3 and 4, while the Class 1 soil is closer to the house and barn, which will be retained within the agricultural parcel.

There was also much discussion about Steerʼs clientele. Loft said Steer services roughly 80 per cent of the agricultural community’s fleet in Simcoe and Grey counties but there is room to grow to the south.

Expert witnesses focused on proving that agriculture is a primary clientele of Steer to justify the rezoning but the question of why Cashtown is the preferred location kept coming to the surface.

“I don’t think anyone questions their service is essential to the agricultural community but why this location?” asked Rowe.

After lunch, Young testified that what it comes down to is that he wants to keep his business routed in Clearview Township, where he grew up, and that he has not been able to find another suitable site in the municipality.

Young said he wishes to retain existing clients as well as expand but he also needs more space for the current workload. The shop, he said, is too small to accommodate some of the vehicles they service and as a result work is done outside in the parking lot, even in the winter when outdoor working conditions are harsh. He hopes to remain in the immediate area so he can be close to home and retain his current workforce of 35 local people, half of which are technicians.

Also in the afternoon, farmers Andrew Tupling and Brian Dunlop testified that they rely on Steer for annual inspections, parts and repairs, emergency service in the shop and on location, to keep their trucks and tractors moving, especially during peak times.

Clearview planner Rossalyn Workman, when called by Clearview Township’s lawyer Harold Elston, reiterated the township’s support for the rezoning and agreed with Loft’s conclusions.

During questioning, Hillier asked questions about other possible locations, how oil spills would be handled and why Steer needs such a large increase in space.

He said at the outset of his cross-examination that it is not the expansion of Steer that is at issue, it is the proposed location.

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