LOCAL CABINET MAKER Raywal Kitchens has its next hearing date on Dec. 3 to face charges laid by the Ministry of the Environment. But some of the residents affected by noise and odour issues coming from the industrial operations along Green Lane and John Street said they have already given up on help from the ministry.
Alena Gotz, a member of the Aileen-Willowbrook Ratepayers Association, said that instead of continuing to fight individual companies, they’ve turned to the town and are pressing for a broader plan to revitalize the neighbourhood. With Canac Kitchens gone, they’re hoping to see the area up-zoned to bring in commercial and residential development.
“The associations are talking to each other and we are building umbrella organizations to get the powers that be to listen to us, rather than make decisions about us without us,” said Gotz.
Specifically, residents are interested in the idea of bringing a low-rise retirement village to the former Canac site. But any commercial or residential development that fits in with the character of the neighbourhood would be acceptable, said Gotz.
The town has already undertaken a revitalization study of the area, said outgoing councillor, Erin Shapero.
The current situation stems from decades-old decisions that permitted residential development in close proximity to sites designated for industrial uses, she said.
As a result, residents have encountered noise and environmental pollution over the years. After the biggest industrial presence, Canac Kitchens, was shuttered more than two years ago, attention shifted to Raywal Kitchens.
Kate Jordan, a ministry spokesperson, said that the cabinet maker’s alleged offence dates back to 2008. The charges have to do with failing to guarantee that the facility was in compliance with the province’s odour requirements. In the interim, complaints have decreased, she said.
“We have been working with the company and the community for several years to make sure that odours from Raywal’s facilities are not causing an adverse impact to the neighbourhood,” said Jordan.
The ministry has only received three complaints regarding the cabinet maker this year, compared to 13 last year and 39 in 2007.
Bevan May, Raywal’s CEO, said his company plans to defend itself in court.
“We have every expectation that the matter will be dealt with and we’ll essentially succeed in our defence,” he said.
May pointed to the change Raywal has made in the formulation of its finishes as one of the most significant strides it’s made in the last few years.
“We simply are not facing the number of complaints that we had before,” he said.
Gotz said she believes the odour isn’t as noticeable lately due to a decrease in shifts at the facility. Also, residents have cut off communication with the company and the ministry, she said.
“It’s not because there is no smell. There is smell,” she said.
After ten years of dealing with these issues, Shapero said that at this stage, the province needs to step up.
“The MOE [Ministry of the Environment] has not been very strict with them, so I would say it’s definitely a problem of enforcement,” she said.