Caledon does not tolerate illegal truck parking, and in the past six months the Ontario municipality has secured no fewer than three legal victories against companies and property owners for illegal land use — leading to substantial fines.
“Caledon is absolutely not anti-trucking. We support the industry as long as they follow the rules,” Mark Sraga, the town’s director of building and municipal law enforcement, told TruckNews.com. “We have a lot of logistics facilities with proximity to 400 Series highways. Trucking is a component of Caledon’s economic engine, and we support the legal operations.”
The town that includes home-dotted farmland sits atop the Region of Peel – the province’s trucking heartland. And the lure of relatively cheaper property prices and big lots has proven attractive to truck and business owners alike.
There are several properties with a truck or two, but the municipality is focusing on the biggest contraveners who are benefitting financially.
“We are spending all our energy and resources on large trucking yards for compliance,” Sraga said.
Courts have responded by awarding fines that are close to, if not at, the maximum allowable amounts. Recent rulings have resulted in fines of $30,000, $45,000 and $75,000.
“It is one thing for someone to say, ‘I didn’t know I couldn’t park my truck here’. But when you are renting out property, bringing in illegal fill, filling acres of land, letting people park trucks there despite us telling you that you can’t, and doing it continually, we are coming after you.” Sraga said.
There are about 160 illegal truck yards of various sizes operating in the town, added John DeCourcy, manager of municipal law enforcement. And he has two enforcement officers, a coordinator and a lawyer dedicated to tackling the problem.
“If we have more officers, there could be a domino effect, leading to more charges and the need for additional lawyers,” Sraga said.
The process itself costs money, but the town is making the investment.
“What is the cost if we didn’t do anything? How do you measure the environmental impacts as they bring in illegal fill, repair vehicles, do oil changes and contaminate those properties?” Sraga asked. “You cannot put a dollar value on that.”
Then there is the issue of traffic safety. Sraga offered an example of a truck that was recently stuck while trying to enter an illegal yard without a proper entrance on Mayfield Road, bordering Brampton. Traffic was logjammed in both directions for an extended period.
“The cost of not doing anything far exceeds enforcement costs.”
Mark Sraga, Caledon’s director of building and municipal law enforcement
There’s also the cost of repairing and rebuilding roads not designed for trucks that are being used by heavy vehicles. Taxpayers must bear that burden, too. “The cost of not doing anything far exceeds enforcement costs,” Sraga said.
Town officials note that illegal operators even face fines — up to $50,000 for a corporation and $25,000 for an individual — when convicted of a first offence. For subsequent offences, corporations can be fined up to $100,000 and individuals $50,000. And those who continue to operate after being convicted of a second offence could face fines as high as $10,000 per day.
Some of those who have been convicted continue to operate, DeCourcy acknowledged. “We are collecting evidence against them.”
“These operators might think this is a small cost of doing business but there is a much bigger cost of doing business coming,” Sraga added.
Education will always be part of the process, especially for those thinking about buying property in the town and using it to park trucks. But if that does not work, enforcement is the next step, and it is ramping up.
“We are not going to allow you to continue to what you are doing. We are going to come after you. We have court injunctions – our ultimate enforcement tool. If they don’t abide by the injunctions, they face jail time,” Sraga said.
Town council is now looking to lobby the province for more enforcement tools like the ability to barricade and block off properties where there is illegal use. “We have done it in a couple of instances where there was town land access. But if they have access off a regional road, it is for [Peel Region] to deal with it,” Sraga said. The latter jurisdiction has already removed one illegal yard entrance.
Authorities are still mindful of the impact to people who have stored their vehicles at such a property, he added. “We give them fair warning using signage.”
A coming transportation master plan is also looking to build truck parking capacity into the approval process for new logistics facilities. Those facilities, Sraga said, could charge for parking, meeting a need and securing a revenue stream in the process.
And the town recognizes the limited truck parking available in the Greater Toronto Area.
Said Sraga: “We are dealing with the symptom here in Caledon.”
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