Frustrated Vaughan residents say illegal land use destroying their community

Several Vaughan residents say they’re concerned over the growing loss of agricultural lands for commercial uses. Officials say they’ve found more than five dozen illegal sites in the city. Nick Westoll reports.

There’s no shortage of serene countryside on the edge of Vaughan, but talk to people in the area and they say that has changed in recent years.

“Our biggest concern is that by doing nothing, it just manifests itself,” resident John Bartella told CityNews standing alongside several residents, pointing to the rise in businesses that have popped up on farm and residential properties at the King-Vaughan border.

“The noise that happens from these industrial ‘machineries,’ they’re continuously (operating) throughout the day and it’s not fair.

“We have residents that have been here in this community for over 50 years. They’re in their golden years, they’re trying to enjoy a summer day in their backyards and they’re unable to.”

Once a picturesque part of Kleinburg in Vaughan, Cold Creek Road near the CP Rail intermodal terminal has a different look these days with trucks and sea containers stacked high, stored up and down the street in an area mostly zoned agricultural. Truck after truck can also be seen on a road where horses and riders can be found.

“Our roads are not built for that,” said Ron Sant, a third-generation partner at George Sant and Sons Greenhouses..

Sant said shipping container and tractor storage operations have been growing. While complaints have been filed, he said he hasn’t seen any change.

“They come out and do violations or ticketing or whatever they got to do but nothing’s been done to stop any of these,” he added.

67 locations operating illegally: Vaughan councillor

Everyone CityNews spoke with as part of this story says they’re frustrated with being bounced between different levels of government.

“I totally agree with them that things have gotten out of control in the rural areas,” Vaughan Ward 1 Coun. Marilyn Iafrate said.

“We’ve identified 67 locations in the north end of Vaughan that are all operating illegally and they just keep coming because in the past we’ve had limited resources and abilities to actually get them to stop.”

Iafrate says if the matter goes to court, they are usually issued fines of $500 to $1,000.

“It’s a very cheap cost of doing business,” she said.

Iafrate and council have appealed to the provincial and federal governments for help. A motion brought forward by Iafrate and adopted by council also called for major corporations to be contacted about trucks and containers to be notified about storage deemed illegal, to contact utility companies about illegal use, for Canada Revenue Agency to be notified companies might be operating illegally, and for more police and government enforcement.

She said there hasn’t been much follow-up since the motion was passed at the end of 2022.

“The province hasn’t been forthcoming, I’m very, very disappointed,” Iafrate said.

An Ontario Ministry of Transportation told CityNews it’s up to the police to try and ticket the trucks. An Ontario Environment, Conservation and Parks ministry said they are working with the City of Vaughan “on how to best address the issues where the unlawful activity” that falls within the ministry’s jurisdiction. An Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson said the Ontario Zoning Act lets municipalities governs the use of land and structures.

Meanwhile, community members said they’re going to keep pushing for action to happen.

“The laws are meant to protect communities, protect individuals. Give us the ability and the right to enjoy our communities,” Bartella said.

With files from Fil Martino

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today