London-area deputy mayor wins appeal to protect farmland

A London-area deputy mayor who took his own council to Ontario’s municipal appeal board over a land use dispute is celebrating a decisive victory.

A London-area deputy mayor who took his own council to Ontario’s municipal appeal board over a land use dispute is celebrating a decisive victory – not only for the case but also for responsible rural planning provincewide, he says.

Thames Centre deputy mayor Marcel Meyer filed a complaint with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board) after council voted to allow his neighbour to run a trucking terminal on land zoned for agricultural purposes.

Council for the municipality east of London approved the zoning bylaw amendment in November against the recommendation of staff.

“I feel vindicated with the OMB tribunal decision,” Meyer wrote in an email Thursday. “When the council made a decision that went against the municipality’s own planner’s recommendation . . . I felt I had to act as a responsible citizen and appeal the decision.”

Meyer’s neighbour was running a trucking business from her rural property west of Belmont, parking dump trucks on the lot when they’re not on the road. That land use ran contrary to current bylaw, so the owner applied to the municipality to rezone the land.

Thames Centre staff recommended against the rezoning, arguing Ontario policy places importance on protecting agricultural land.

In November, council rejected staff advice and voted 3-1 to let dump trucks remain on the rural property.

Meyer, who didn’t participate in the vote citing a conflict of interest, appealed the decision to the provincial tribunal.

The appeal was heard in June in Dorchester and a decision was handed down last month.

Calls and messages left for the property owner, Lucia De Fatima Lopes, were unreturned Thursday.

Meyer said the appeal win was “swift and absolute” and sets an important benchmark for preserving agriculture property.

“Despite the opposition, it was important for me to maintain my principles and support the protection of prime agricultural land in our community,” he said in an email. “I am confident that this decision has set strong precedent both in Thames Centre and throughout Ontario that protects agricultural property.”
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