News

Industrial land in Courtland converted to agriculture

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Mike Kloepfer of Titan Trailers

Mike Kloepfer of Titan Trailers

SIMCOE - 

Titan Trailers has secured the land it needs for prolonged growth in Norfolk County.

The rapidly-growing truck-trailer manufacturer has been under a cloud of uncertainty since the Ministry of Municipal Affairs took an interest in a recent zoning change.

Titan Trailers recently rezoned nearly 40 acres of agricultural land next to its manufacturing facility in Courtland to industrial.

After consulting with the Ministry of Agriculture, Municipal Affairs told Norfolk that Titan Trailers could have the zoning change provided the county converted 40 acres of industrial land elsewhere to agriculture.

Titan Trailers was dismayed when industrial land it owns on both sides of Highway 3 in Courtland was included on the short list for conversion. Titan Trailers has plans for this land, which is a key component of its long-range business plan.

“It takes a lot of land to build trailers,” Mike Kloepfer, owner of Titan Trailers, told council Tuesday.

“It takes big buildings to build trailers. If you want to choke Titan Trailers, you can choke it. But I don’t know why you’d want to do that.”

Norfolk council has no intention of taking land away from Titan Trailers, which added 100 new employees in 2017.

Instead, the county has offered up nearly 40 acres of industrial land in the northwest and southwest corners of Courtland to compensate for the loss of agricultural land. Council agreed to the swap reluctantly.

Courtland is located in Ward 2, which is represented by Langton-area Coun. Roger Geysens. Geysens suspects Norfolk is being singled out for special treatment. He says the province approves the designation of industrial land elsewhere all the time without making onerous demands on affected municipalities.

“They can find thousands of acres in London to annex and put factories on and then they turn around and give us a hard time over basically nothing,” Geysens said.

Mayor Charlie Luke also wants to know what’s going on. In his many years as a municipal politician, Luke has never heard of municipalities having to make a tit-for-tat swap to accommodate industrial development.

“I’m baffled,” he said.

Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg said the province is worried about developers drawing down the farmland Ontario needs to feed itself and fuel its export economy. Sonnenberg added these fears are unfounded.

Sonnenberg said farm families that used to produce 40-bushel-per-acre corn are now harvesting 200 bushels to the acre. Similar increases have been seen in recent year in a wide range of commodities, Sonnenberg said, thanks to improved genetics, machinery and growing techniques.

“Let’s not worry about starving to death,” Sonnenberg said. “We are not going to starve to death by taking land out of production.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com