A Georgina couple was shocked to discover the business they’ve been operating for the past eight years is illegal under the town’s zoning bylaws.
“This is crazy,” Penny Closs said after being notified by the town to cease operations of the DC Marine business as well as the U-haul rental and recreational vehicle storage facility she owns and operates with her husband, Doug, on Baseline Road just east of York Regional Police’s 3 district headquarters.
That came on the heels of a site inspection by a bylaw officer after a complaint against the property was lodged with the town.
“We’ve always been a ma and pa business. We’re not the type of people to back down, but it just depends on how far we have to go and how much money we have to dish out to sort through this mess,” Closs said, adding they have retained the services of a planning consultant to help them wade through the complicated process.
“We’re just a little guy here. We’re a little business. There’s only so much we can do before we go bankrupt.”
That involves untangling a complex layer of intergovernmental planning legislation that deems the property as protected agricultural lands under a very protectionism system, the town’s director of development services, Harold Lenters, said.
“That’s essentially the nut that has to crack,” he added.
The property’s current uses are in contravention of the zoning bylaws. The problem now is to legalize it.
While the couple is working with the town’s planning department examining their options, the region’s designation of the property as agricultural lands under the province’s greenbelt legislation prevents rezoning to recognize its current use.
The Closs’ will seek a temporary use of lands to allow business to continue while the region considers some sort of flexibility policy as part of its Official Plan review process, especially in light of the fact that review has been delayed from the fall of 2016, as originally intended, until most likely some time in 2017.
“Everybody’s stunned and we’re more stunned than anybody else,” said Closs, adding a petition to rezone the property has been signed by almost 400 people to date, many of whom are some of the 500+ customers willing to write letters in support of a business they say provides a well needed service to the community.
“It is ridiculous,” Doug Closs said, adding perhaps a comprehensive bylaw review that strikes some old and outdated ones that don’t apply anymore off the books is necessary.
“The province can’t just whitewash an entire area as greenbelt when they haven’t done the research, haven’t seen the property’s use and haven’t stepped foot on the property in at least three decades. We’re six acres. Nobody’s going to farm six acres,” he added.
His wife agreed, especially in light of the fact their neighbours on the one side are the result of exemptions for regional use in the form of a police station and roads department storage yard.
She hopes some resolution is forthcoming that addresses not only their personal situation but also the disconnect between planning policies in theory and in practice.
“This land hasn’t been farmed for decades. So, we’re being told the property is protected agricultural land and we can’t have storage on the property, but permitted uses under the zoning include an aerodrome, among other things. Who’s going to land a plane here? Are you serious? It just doesn’t make sense. It makes no sense to me. It makes no sense to anyone other than the province and the last time they looked at the property was probably in the 1940s,” she said.