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Bradford council determines Sarjeant has concrete case for MZO

‘Anytime we can create opportunities for people to work in their own communities, that’s what it’s all about for me,’ says mayor

Sarjeant Co. is staring down a hard deadline to move its Bradford facility, but it could have help.

Council voted to support Sarjeant’s request for a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) during the regular meeting of council on Dec. 19, to help relocate the company’s concrete batching plant, which has been located at 3111 Sideroad 10 since 2004.

Then in 2022, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) provided notice of their intent to expropriate the property at the northeast corner of Sideroad 10 and Line 8 to make way for the Highway 400-404 Link (Bradford Bypass) and associated interchange at Sideroad 10.

As a result, Sarjeant’s current operations must be relocated by the second quarter of 2024, and given that tight deadline, council also agreed to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, to expedite the MZO process.

Steven Ferri of Loopstra Nixon LLP was present on behalf of Sarjeant and explained the company wants to keep its 20 jobs in Bradford and is also planning to expand its facilities to add more jobs and continue servicing other local employers including Toromont, MiTek Canada, Inc., Modular Precast Systems, and in future, Highlight Motor Group.

The latter two businesses also sent letters in support of Sarjeant’s request.

Both Mayor James Leduc and Deputy Mayor Raj Sandhu agreed with the importance of keeping jobs in town, with Leduc explaining that he had left his hometown of Sudbury about 40 years ago in search of work, and didn’t want people to leave Bradford for the same reasons.

“Anytime we can create opportunities for people to work in their own communities, that’s what it’s all about for me,” he said.

According to Sarjeant, only one site in Bradford will meet their needs for expansion, while also providing quick access to the highway, keeping trucks out of town — 1934 Sideroad 5, on the corner with Line 4.

However, that site is currently zoned agricultural, and would need multiple approvals under the Planning Act to facilitate that relocation, all of which take time.

As a result, Sarjeant is looking for the minister to grant an MZO to expedite the process by removing the requirements for public consultation to rezone the lands or the ability to appeal the rezoning.

That concerned Ward 3 Coun. Ben Verkaik, who said the MZO would take away residents’ rights and noted that staff did not recommend whether council should support the request.

Having run on a platform of preserving agricultural land, Verkaik felt the plant should instead be placed in available employment lands, emphasizing that the new location has part of a protected river flowing through it, making it a particularly inappropriate spot.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “We have hundreds and hundreds of acres in our employment lands. Truly they could have found a spot that was more appropriate for a concrete batching plant.”

Ward 1 Coun. Cheraldean Duhaney acknowledged the town would eventually need to expand out into agricultural land but agreed this was “too soon in the game,” and asked “why not use what we have?”

Debra Walker, of planning firm MHBC, said Sarjeant and town staff looked at different locations, but found none that offered enough space for future expansion.

In addition to relocating the batching plant, first with something temporary and then a more permanent plant, Sarjeant also intends to eventually add:

  • An electric vehicle charging station facility
  • A fuel storage facility
  • A truck fuel dispensing facility
  • An accessory use building

“As of today, there’s actually no other sites that are available in the employment area on the 400 that would accommodate the operational needs,” Walker said, adding that the town’s official plan doesn’t permit concrete batching plants in the employment lands along Hwy. 400.

The MZO would at least establish the permitted use so Sarjeant could purchase the property and begin the necessary studies as well as consider mitigation measures to protect the environment, she said.

According to a report from Alan Wiebe, manager of community planning, the MZO would result in a development agreement under Section 47 of the Planning Act which would still require plans, assessments, studies and reports before the site can be developed.

Other councillors were supportive of the idea, with Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Scott saying “the Ministry of Transportation has created a situation that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing could solve,” and while he expressed caution about MZOs in general, “it seems to me you have a case where we actually should be using an MZO.”

Ward 4 Coun. Joseph Giordano called MZOs “a blunt tool,” but agreed that in this case, “it makes perfect sense.”

Verkaik requested a recorded vote, with all members of council present supporting the MZO except himself and Duhaney.

Ward 5 Coun. Peter Ferragine was absent.

Once the minister issues a decision about the MZO, notice should be provided with 30 days.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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