Councillors with the City of Kenora have denied a request from the community to build a sawmill on Whitehead Road, just off of Highway 17 East, due to the location.
The Application for Temporary Use bylaw asked the city to permit a 25-acre portion of the property to be used for the processing of products from raw sawmill materials, as well as the outdoor storage of these products for a three-year period.
The applicant notes it’s been difficult finding a properly zoned property with access to three-phase power and the highway, and they have made arrangements with the property owners to operate the small, portable sawmill operation.
The remainder of the property is mostly a scrap yard with four residential properties nearby. Ultimately on May 18, councillors voted against and defeated the motion.
“To be clear, I am not opposed to the sawmill, but not in this location,” said Councillor Rory McMillan. “I do not feel that this is an appropriate site for a sawmill,” noting he recently visited the location.
“I won’t be supporting this. While I support business development, I don’t think this is the correct or proper place to do this,” echoed Councillor Mort Goss.
A virtual meeting on the proposal was held on May 11 with members of the public. Neighbouring property owners raised a number of concerns, which the city asked staff members to address.
Kenora’s Roads and Engineering staff said Whitehead Road is in no condition to stand any kind of heavy truck traffic going in and out of the area, which would be a significant repair project for the city. They also shared concerns with the road’s hilly and slick entranceway in the winter.
Kenora’s By-law Enforcement staff added there may be concerns related to noise, noting there are a few homes within 500 metres of the proposed location.
“I always try to evaluate files on what I as a resident in this community would be prepared to tolerate and live with, said Councillor Sharon Smith.
“As much as we can’t pick our neighbours, we can certainly pick our neighbourhood to determine the quality of lifestyle [we] would choose to live in. The impact on the neighbourhood would not be acceptable to me, so it’s certainly not acceptable for that neighbourhood. I will not be supporting this,” added Smith.
Kenora’s Planning Advisory Committee has also denied the proposal. However, City Planner Kevan Sumner recommended councillors accept the proposal, based on a number of conditions being met by the developer.
The city had been asking the developer to restrict operating hours to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., require that all mill operations be located at least 30 metres away from the high-water mark of the nearby wetlands, to restrict heavy truck traffic and to obtain a permit for a new private road entrance.
Councillor Chris Van Welleghem was the lone councillor in support of the proposed sawmill, with the conditions laid out by the city.
“I am in favour of this sawmill going down this road,” said Van Welleghem. “Our City Planner came up with conditions we feel we can live with. We’ve always been about creating employment, and it also increases our tax-base. They’re saying the noise will be noticeable, but with conditions, I am in favour of this.”
The city had previously said the short-term accommodation could be used to allow the applicant to establish their business, while they continued to search for a more suitable long-term location. It’s now unclear if the proposed sawmill could be established elsewhere.