A small Ontario town besieged by illegal truck parking yards is fighting back, but the pandemic has slowed down the legal process adding to the frustration of residents.
“Covid has made things restrictive. Our ability to get them to court, to charge them has lots of challenges,” said Allan Thompson, mayor of the Town of Caledon.
“We are caught up in the courts, it is backlogged. I wish we could do virtual court hearings, so we can get moving. We have been asking our judicial officials to please expedite this,” he said.
Caledon sits atop the Region of Peel – the province’s trucking heartland. The lure of cheaper property prices and big lots has proven attractive to truck and business owners.
Small-scale trucking company owners living in Brampton had to pay a lot of money to park their vehicles in the area and nearby Etobicoke, said Deepak Punj, a radio host and realtor. He said they sold their homes years ago and bought large properties in Caledon. “They are saving on parking costs. Now they are moving to the town of Mono and even beyond that,” he said.
People are buying 100-acre farms and are parking trucks there, Thompson said. “It is allowing these operators to undercut people that have gone through a full process of getting their land zoned. It’s made an unfair playing field.”
Caledon formed the Proactive Land Use Enforcement Task Force earlier this year, with two dedicated bylaw officers, said John DeCourcy, manager of municipal law enforcement.
Undertaking a proactive enforcement approach, officers have identified 180 non-compliant properties through patrols and complaints.
The focus is on education, DeCourcy said. A notice is issued giving the property owner 30 days to comply. This is followed by a two-week notice, and a charge is issued if the property owner still does not comply. He said 18 property owners have complied – a success rate of 10% – and is hopeful the number will increase.
Officers issue tickets, but for a yard with more than 100 trucks, a ticket is not going to have an impact, DeCourcy said. Property owners have been summoned to court, but hearings are yet to be held.
Problem areas are the properties close to Brampton, Thompson said.
Mayfield Road divides Caledon and Brampton. To the south in Brampton, homes and shopping plazas are being constructed at a frenetic pace. To the north, Caledon offers a picture of bucolic calm, a few homes dot farmland that stretches as far as the eye can see.
And this is where trucks are being parked illegally, DeCourcy said. “Truck owners are paying up to $400 a month to park a vehicle. Some properties have more than 100 trucks parked. Those businesses on Mayfield Road are making a lot of money unlawfully,” he said. “A ticket is not going to bring them into compliance. Hopefully the courts will.”
And the residents on the Brampton side of Mayfield Road are not happy with the constant rumble of trucks rolling in from Caledon.
Brampton councillor Gurpreet Dhillon recently filed a motion asking the Region of Peel to replace privately owned noise barriers on affected properties or install them where none are present, a news report said.
Group publication Today’s Trucking contacted Dhillon but did not receive responses to questions at the time of publication.
Nik Mengi is constructing a home on Mayfield Road in Brampton and wants trucks blocked. “I don’t want any heavy traffic. Trucks should be blocked. This a residential area,” he said.
He does not think noise barriers will work. His home will be two storeys high. “The bedrooms are on the second floor. How high will the wall be? The bedrooms will be above that, so what is the point?”
He is also worried that vibration from the constant stream of trucks will affect his home. “Trucks speed on the road. I can hear them all time. Whenever they go past, I can feel the vibration.”
Caledon councillor Johanna Downey said there are illegal truck yards all over her ward. She said the town is not against logistics and trucking but planning and policy is needed to create appropriate places to do business.
“If you have warehousing, you have to consider how many trucks not only that business has on its own, but how many trucks and trips does it generate. And where do those trucks park when they are not running on the road.”
Thompson said the town has had people for years that made their living from trucking. He said they have a truck and park it on their property. “A lot of them have got a variance from the town and they are legal.”
Downey said she has some neighbors who park their tractor in their driveway or in a shop building on their property and keep it very neat and tidy.
Thompson says big truck parking lots come up very quickly. “They bulldoze dirt, bring infill on the weekend and within a week you’ve got a full-size truck lot.”
He said a container depot was set up outside of Bolton, the town’s largest urban center. Within eight days the area was stacked eight containers high. He said, “We tried with enforcement, we’ve even blocked off the access because those were illegal. It is a legal process that we have to follow. If we don’t, we lose in court. A lot of times with neighbors, it is not fast enough.”
Thompson said some roads are not designed for big trucks, especially at the speeds they travel. “A lot of people like to get out and walk, they are finding that a threat.”
He said some real estate agents are part of the problem, telling clients they can park their trucks on the property they buy. When he sees their signs, he calls them and asks them to remove them.
“I’ve had enough of it, the councillors have had enough of it, it is wearing us down.”
Thompson said some long-time residents of the town have had enough, have packed up and left. “It is very unfortunate.”
Councillor Downey echoed the fact that residents are leaving because “they are seeing the scenery changing, and not in a positive way.”
She has started roundtables with the trucking industry, and business that use them. Problems are laid out and solutions are sought. “These are symptoms of a larger systematic problem. If we can get to the root of that and supply solutions, then all the smaller problems will dissipate,” Downey said.
By Leo Barros