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Port Colborne considers zoning change to allow trucking business expansion

A chunk of canalside land with a long, strange history is being eyed for a zoning change to allow a trucking company to expand its operations.

The property is about 350 metres and runs along the edge of the canal on the east side of Port Colborne. The top half of the property is owned by the city, while the bottom half is currently home to a trucking company.

As part of a large series of rezonings in 2018, which aligned numerous properties around the city with its official plan, the entire parcel was changed to a residential designation. That left the trucking company as pre-existing non-conforming use.

The trucking company was permitted to continue operating despite not matching the zoning; however, any expansion of the business requires the property to be zoned correctly as light industrial.

That business, Fontaine’s Moving and Storage, now has plans to expand, which triggered the rezoning process. At a public meeting about the rezoning on April 19, the business owner explained his plans.

According to Larry Fontaine Jr., the plan is to build a 50,000-square-foot building. A row of neighbouring houses on Janet Street are about 60 feet away, and the homeowners collectively wrote to city hall to oppose the rezoning.

Neighbours say the rezoning will result in additional noise and dust, and will reduce the value of their homes.

Fontaine said despite the additional building and expansion, things won’t change that much, since truck trailers currently park along the back of his property anyway.

“As it stands now, approximately six homes on Janet Street look at truck trailers when looking out their backyard. With this addition, instead they will look at this building,” said Fontaine, who noted the building will be about 40 feet high. He also noted that he intends to plant trees between the building and the homeowners’ backyards, in order to present a more pleasant view.

While nearby homeowners are urging the city to keep the property zoned residential to encourage construction of new homes or an apartment building, it turns out there’s little hope of that ever happening.

“The fact of the matter is, we did environmental testing, and it does not support residential development,” explained Fontaine.

Since it sits directly adjacent to the canal, the property was used as a dumping ground for materials dug up from the canal when it was being built.

Although the land is contaminated, the city’s chief administrative officer said it could be used for light industrial, but any plans to build homes would require significant and expensive cleanup, since soil contamination rules are far more strict for residential property than for industrial.

With the public meeting concluded, the rezoning application will come back to city hall for a final decision at a later date.