Residents of Ramage Road and Dubois Street in Rockland are concerned that recent decisions regarding G&M Auto Sales hint at bias in the City of Clarence-Rockland council.
The issue started in 2018, when G&M purchased a Rural Residential (RR) lot across the street from its dealership along County Road 17 and filed a request to rezone it as Commercial (CU). Clarence-Rockland’s Planning Department recommended the change be approved, but residents were concerned because there was no site plan, no description of the buildings to be erected, and no environmental study done on the impact to the watershed the property is on.
A site plan and building description are not necessary for a zoning change application. As for the watershed, The Vision emailed the South Nation Conservation Authority (SNC) for clarification. SNC officials stated that although they reviewed the zoning by-law amendment applications for 322 Ramage Road, both the original one from 2017 and the current one from 2021, no comments were provided by the SNC to council. The site does not have any municipal source protection areas or other features that SNC would comment on, although G&M Auto Sales did previously receive a septic permit from the SNC.
Two residents that live across Dubois Street from the lot, Gordon Grahame and Roger Cross, were also concerned that their property values would be affected by having a car dealership in front of their homes, and previous Clarence-Rockland mayor Guy Desjardins agreed on a compromise. G&M was granted a temporary permit to park surplus vehicles on the lot for three years, and Grahame and Cross requested that a fence be put up “so they did not have to look at [the] parked cars when they looked out their front windows”. Council agreed with this as well, and a fence was erected on the property along Dubois Street.
On August 7 2021, council denied a request from G&M to rezone the lot as Rural-exception 5 (RU-5), citing residential concerns of visual impact and stormwater management. G&M appealed the decision with some changes to its plan, and council approved the revised request on November 1, 2021.
Due to the recent cyberattack that left Clarence-Rockland’s digital services in disarray, notice of the decision was not delivered to Cross and Grahame until November 9. With the assistance of a lawyer, they were able to get together the necessary documentation and submit their appeal just before the November 29 deadline. Grahame and Cross said that they should have been notified of the mediation session that resulted in the revisiion decision, and in an email to The Vision, Grahame said that according to their lawyer, “G&M Auto Sales never filed a Notice of Appeal. They were granted a mediation meeting, without having to go through the same process that we are doing.”
“The City of Clarence-Rockland’s Planning Department is favouring the business community. The by-laws that were passed to protect residents and their rights apply to other residents but, for some reason, we have no rights.”
The Vision left an email request with city hall for comment on the issue.