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Dec. 6, 2019 | Friday
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Town at impasse over noisy, unapproved AC unit
Pat Doyle and Chiara Recine are some of Cannery Park residents who have had issues with the illegally installed air conditioning unit outside the St. David's Cold Storage facility on Four Mile Creek Road. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Cannery Park resident Chiara Recine, who has been dealing with an illegally installed, noisy industrial air conditioning unit outside the St. David’s Cold Storage facility for the past year, says she still “has faith” Niagara-on-the-Lake council will force the company to move the unit.

At the council meeting Oct. 21, town councillors couldn’t come to a consensus and deferred making a decision on the noisy unit to the next council meeting on Nov. 11.

Recine, who lives less than 50 metres away from the cold storage facility, questioned what prompted some town councillors’ vote against an amended staff report which suggested moving the existing AC unit to the south side of the building or up on the roof.

“The council needs to do the right thing,” Recine told The Lake Report. “Either (move the unit) to the south side where the other ones are or on top” of a new wing of the facility that is under construction.

The company, at 365 Four Mile Creek Rd., owned by Alfred Dyck, provides freezer and cold storage services to businesses across Niagara region.

Neighbours said they have been dealing with noise and vibration issues since the cooling unit was installed in 2018. Dyck has attempted to reduce the problems, but sound barriers haven’t helped, residents said.

“We, like many other residents, voted for council members that spoke of change and preserving quality of life in NOTL,” Recine told The Lake Report. “To see some councillors change their mind from supporting the residents to giving grace to a business for ignoring bylaws is disappointing.”

Last week, on Oct. 29, Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Coun. Norm Arsenault toured the cold storage operation.

“I’ll now have to think about what I saw and look at the report again from staff, and we’ll deal with it on Nov. 11 at a public forum,” Disero said in a phone interview.

She said the biggest issue now isn’t so much the noise but the “fact the owner did it without site plan approval.” Moving forward, town councillors need to look at having a policy to deal with people who “build before they get permission,” she said.

“Rather than dealing with this on an individual basis constantly, I think we need a policy going forward on how the staff administration should be dealing with them,” Disero said.

“I want to see what is available through the Municipal Act or through the Planning Act on setting a policy on how to deal with people that are asking for forgiveness rather than permission.”

Arsenault said he visited the site “for information” but didn’t say anything more about the tour. He echoed Disero’s comments, saying there needs to be a full review of how such issues are dealt with.

“When people don’t follow the site plan agreements and they don’t follow the proper zoning rules and they come looking for acceptance after they’ve done something, I think we need to have a second look at that to see how we’re going to deal in the future,” Arsenault told The Lake Report.

Dyck couldn’t be reached for comment.

Coun. Allan Bisback, who has been addressing residents’ complaints, said he was also invited to visit the site but he was away in Ottawa that day.

He said he hasn’t changed his position and he still stands by his motion to force the company to move the unit.

At the committee of the whole meeting Oct. 7, Bisback suggested amending the staff report by asking that the existing AC unit, located on the east side of the facility, be moved to the south side or up on the roof within 60 days, that all noise attenuation acoustics be implemented and any future condensers should be restricted to the south side or the roof.

The issue for him wasn’t the noise, Bisback said, noting he appreciated the owner putting up an acoustic wall and trying to mitigate the noise.

“I’m staying in that position based on principle,” Bisback told The Lake Report. “That unit was placed there without site plan approval … But I don’t appreciate the fact he said he didn’t know he needed a site plan approval because I can’t accept that. Because the other two units on the south side were on the site plan.”

Dyck and his lawyer Sara Premi spoke at the Oct. 21 council meeting addressing some of the issues raised by councillors.

“(The unit) is meeting the guidelines on the exterior of my boundaries,” Dyck said.

“This was an oversight putting this here without coming to staff,” Premi told councillors. “It wasn’t bad behaviour.”

All noise mitigation measures have been done, she said, adding it cost the owner $75,000 to do mitigation work and noise studies.

She said the roof cannot support the existing unit. The decommissioned units on the roof are also not condenser units like the one neighbours are complaining about, Premi said, adding moving the unit also requires time and doing additional studies.

It was an oversight on Dyck’s side as he didn’t know the site plan needed an amendment, Premi said.

Coun. Stuart McCormack was absent from the Oct. 21 council meeting when councillors first defeated the motion to defer the decision to the November council meeting.

Council voted down the amended report, which recommended moving the units to the roof or to the south side within 60 days. Councillors Wendy Cheropita, Gary Burroughs, Erwin Wiens, John Wiens and Clare Cameron voted against the amended report.

The motion to approve the original staff report, which recommended allowing the existing unit to remain outside the facility, was also defeated.

“We’re at an impasse. Sounds like we should be supporting the deferral,” Disero told the councillors.

That’s when the decision was then deferred to the Nov. 11 council meeting. 

Disero also noted the owner can appeal the town’s non-decision in the meantime.

Cheropita originally voted to force the business to move the unit but two weeks later changed her mind. She said she saw Dyck is trying to mitigate the noise and, ideally, she’d like to see businesses and residents working together.

“Since the first vote, Mr. Dyck came forward, made a presentation showing that he had actually done a number of sound barrier improvements. To me, it felt like he was trying to compromise, like he was trying to do something,” Cheropita said. “Whereas before, it just looked like nothing was happening and he was allowing this to take place.”

Cheropita said she hasn’t personally talked to Dyck or his lawyer but, coming home from work one day, she stopped by the facility. It was after hours and nobody was at the site, she said. She said she was left with the impression the sound barriers did their job in mitigating the noise and the sound “wasn’t bad.”

Howver, she added that Dyck “did something that was against the bylaw” and she thinks, “we can’t let businesses get away with that.”

Coun. Gary Burroughs, who also voted against the amended report, said after hearing the cold storage owner speak, he had a better understanding of the issue. Sixty days was also not enough time for the unit to be moved, he said.

“It took them months and months to get (the unit) where it is so I don’t think it’s feasible,” he told the Lake Report.

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