The small Ontario town of Caledon has set up a task force to address the illegal occupation of its land by nearly 100 trucking businesses.
The town council acted last week after a staff report proposed a three-phase Work Plan to tackle squatting.
The Proactive Land Use Enforcement Task Force will cost the town $477,000 this year, and $620,000 annually after that.
The implementation of the plan is expected to begin in spring, but the town has acknowledged that it will take years of proactive enforcement to make an impact.
“Our land is under serious threat from illegal parking, storage and operations related to commercial trucking,” Mayor Allan Thompson lamented in a letter to Caledon Enterprise ahead of the council debate.
“These illegal users have set up shop here to take advantage of our proximity to the Greater Toronto Area.”
Caledon, with a population of just under 75,000, is part of the Regional Municipality of Peel, the trucking hub of Ontario.
“They are difficult to prosecute… For many operators, a fine is just cost of doing business. They pay the fine and keep on trucking,” the mayor wrote.
Phase 1 of the Work Plan will focus on the development and implementation of a communication strategy.
“This approach may foster voluntary compliance, and supports prosecution efforts where compliance is not achieved,” the staff report said.
Phase 2 calls for the hiring of a solicitor, zoning administrator and two enforcement officers.
And, Phase 3 will involve the monitoring of the program. The task force will track key statistics and update the council periodically.
In his letter, Mayor Thompson expressed frustration over the issue.
“Contrary to popular belief, the town cannot simply storm these offending properties and tow everything away,” he said.
“Unlike the offenders, Caledon must act responsibly and follow the rule of law.”
He extended an olive branch to those who want to work with the town, saying Caledon will give them the opportunity to comply.
“If they don’t, we will go after them, again and again, until they get the message that it’s not business as usual in Caledon.”
The town is about 40 miles (60 km) northwest of Toronto.
Report by Abdul Latheef