J.J. Hilsinger was at Monday night's city council meeting, deeply alarmed by the prospect of pneumatic tools and other industrial noise immediately outside the windows of his Water Tower Inn.
KAL Tire is planning to move next to Hilsinger's inn from its current location in the industrial park on Drive In Road.
Work is being done at the new location on Great Northern Road under a site plan agreement with the city, Malcolm White, the city's chief administrative officer, told Monday's meeting.
"Everything is being done properly," White said. "I don't see that there's any tool or method that staff would have to stop what's being developed."
Speaking for the Water Tower Inn, lawyer Hugh MacDonald said Sault College and the Cara Community apartments nearby have also expressed concern about KAL Tire's intentions.
"Large piles of industrial tires and rims spread out over their current location and the heavy vehicles on site show their business is primarily the sales and service of tires and wheels for heavy diesel tractor-trailers, loaders, dump trucks and other such heavy equipment, both on and off premises," MacDonald says.
Heavy equipment is not allowed in the commercial area around the Water Tower Inn, but MacDonald says the city's zoning bylaw contains no definition for heavy equipment.
"Our commercial C-4 zone excludes repairs of heavy equipment and sale of heavy equipment parts. City council enacted that zoning restriction because these uses were deemed industrial for a number of valid reasons – noise, odours, vibration, unsightly locations and heavy machines affecting traffic and damaging roads."
"Unfortunately, council did not expressly define in the bylaw what 'heavy equipment' means. City staff have no definition. But they have indicated that they do not believe that transport trucks are heavy equipment."
"The proposed new KAL Tire site is not on a legal truck route. The city's traffic bylaw currently bans transports as 'heavy trucks' from Old Garden River Road. It is not designated for such use," MacDonald said in a written report submitted to Mayor Provenzano and councillors.
"If transports are too heavy for Old Garden River Road how can they not be 'heavy equipment' in the eyes of the city? They are in fact far heavier and larger than many other examples such as dump trucks, backhoes, loaders and things that staff concede are not permitted at the new KAL Tire site."
"KAL Tire's draft site plan for their new location shows they intend to repair transport tractor-trailers and other large trucks. All repairs are planned to be exclusively performed on a wide-open concrete-reinforced area outside, immediately adjacent to the 176 rooms and suites at the Water Tower Inn, a stone's throw away."
"These heavy units are too large to work on indoors. The use of pneumatic tools, hammering, staff activities, heavy equipment dieseling and other repair apparatus all day, all year, will be very disruptive to the inn and other neighbours. Some 75,000 to 100,000 guests sleep at the Water Tower Inn each year including air crews, night workers and others who will be impacted by these activities," MacDonald said.
Councillors voted last night to ask city staff to suggest a definition of heavy equipment in time for their next council meeting on Sept. 9.
"We're going to have to make a decision," Mayor Provenzano said. "We're going to have to make a decision whether or not we agree that it's being applied properly. And if we do, things will continue as they are. If our estimation after we've received all the information is that we don't agree with it, then we'll have to deal with that at that time. There will likely be legal consequences to that, or some kind of consequences, because the development has proceeded to date."
"But we didn't think those were good reasons not to hear the position. It's not a comfortable position.... we're in a awkward position. But you can't avoid an awkward position just because it might create a problem. We'll have to deal with it head-on and we'll see what comes out at our next meeting," the mayor said.
Ward 3 Coun. Donna Hilsinger is J.J.'s daughter.
She didn't participate in the discussion or vote on the KAL resolution because of her connection to the family business.
Her wardmate Matthew Shoemaker also declared a pecuniary interest and didn't vote because a number of the parties involved in the KAL Tire dispute are clients of his law firm.