Boundary adjustment, wood piles come up at Norwich Township town hall meeting
Boundary adjustment along the township's north edge is pending, as staff and council continue negotiations with their counterparts in the City of Woodstock.
Township Mayor Larry Martin brought the subject up at a town hall-style meeting held recently in Oxford Centre. He said boundary talks with the city have reached a high level agreement, but nothing has been signed yet. He called it a “quasi-agreement.”
“Short of losing farm land, it should be a good deal for the township,” Martin told about 25 people who attended. “The land is going to be developed... all we can do is try and make sure we get the best compensation we can get.”
When asked what the agreement entails, Martin said the fine tuning is being done now before it will be presented to the township and city councils in a month or two. If councils approve in principle, the matter will be opened for public consultation.
He further explained that the proposal started with the city looking for 2,500 acres of land on the township's northern edge, but that has since been negotiated to 1,500 acres. If there is going to be a deal approved, it has to be complete before the end of this year, as no land agreements can be made in 2018 due to it being an election year.
In his opening of the meeting, Martin also spoke about the large piles of wood located at a business on Highway 59 just south of Woodstock. He explained orders have been issued by the township relating to the matter, but he couldn't say much else about it except to add the wood piles are allowed under the property zoning.
Later in the meeting, resident Jim Hird, who is a volunteer firefighter out of the station in Oxford Centre, asked if the township had any jurisdiction about how much wood can be piled at the business that recycles wood into other products such as animal bedding and bio-fuel.
Martin said other than the size of the piles as they relate to fire service access, there isn't much the township can do because the business currently meets the zoning requirements. If township council tried to made any changes to the zoning, the business would be grandfathered under the current requirements anyway.
“It's amazing how big they (the piles) are and it scares the hell out of me each time I go by and see them,” said Martin. “It could make Hagersville (tire fire of 1990) look like a wiener roast.”
“It's just an above ground dump, that's what it is,” said Hird.
Hettie Hird asked who is responsible for the costs if the site catches fire or pollutes nearby waterways, to which Martin said it's ultimately taxpayers who cover the costs.
“We're aware of it. We know it's there. We don't like it anymore than you do,” said Martin.
Ward 2 Councillor Lynne DePlancke said any resident can call the Ministry of the Environment to complain about the situation. The response was that it takes too much time to navigate the provincial telephone system, to which she said if the resident feels strongly enough, they will make the time to get through to the correct person.
Ward 4 Councillor Wayne Buchanan said residents can also call the local conservation authority to state their concern about potential water pollution.
While the meeting was just an hour long, residents raised concerns about such things as the wait time for patients at the Norwich Medical Centre.
Diane Boyce said though she appreciates having the medical centre in the township, the wait time of as much as two hours to see a physician for a scheduled appointment is unfair, especially to seniors. Martin said while the township operates the medical centre, he believes it's up to the doctors to dictate how their appointments are scheduled.
Dave Armstrong brought up the issue of the amount of gravel – or lack of it – on township roads. He said it seems that just a year after gravel is added to roads, they become muddy. He asked if the township had ever considered using a different type of gravel.
Martin explained the township has to use a certain grade of gravel, and while he understands the problem with the mud, he hopes that the township's change to a four-year cycle of gravel replacement will eventually improve the condition of these roads. He expects it will take one full cycle of four years before there is any significant change in the condition of the gravel roads.
The town hall style meetings have been held roughly every quarter since 2015 in different areas of the township as a way for residents to ask questions directly of their elected officials. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. at Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Burgessville, followed by Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Springford hall.