A long-established fencing and concrete business is relocating out of Langford after years of friction with the City and complaints from neighbours.
Tower Fencing Products is selling its five land parcels in the 1000-block of Goldstream Avenue, and moving its company headquarters, chain-link fence and concrete plant operations, said owner Denis Madsen. The total asking price for the properties is about $16 million.
Madsen wouldn’t say where his company is relocating, although it has offices in Nanaimo and Courtenay. As of now, the fencing and ready-mix concrete operations remain on the property, while pre-cast manufacturing – concrete fencing, slabs and stones – have been moved out of the city. Further, about 10 of 20 concrete trucks normally seen rumbling along Goldstream Avenue have relocated to a property in Shawnigan, he said.
“I have an interested buyer and I’m moving the company. If the stars align, by this fall I’ll be out,” said Madsen, who started Tower as a fence company in 1976. “It would speed up if I sold (the land). But it’s not a fire sale.”
Madsen said he is tired of butting heads with Langford over an ongoing dispute linked to the cement manufacturing operations, and the failure to find an industrial site outside of what has become a residential area.
When the land sells and operations cease, Langford will lose a $20-million business and 150 high-paying jobs, Madsen said, jobs the municipality could have retained.
“Has Langford helped us find anything? Absolutely not. Would I like to stay in Langford? Absolutely,” he said. “With no help from them, I am selling.
“One of the biggest reasons I’m moving is I don’t want to cause people aggravation,” he added. “I don’t want the aggravation to continue.”
Tower’s property was zoned for concrete operations in 1983 by the Capital Regional District, before Langford incorporated and long before the area was a residential neighbourhood. Madsen said he bought the land in 1989 and has grown the business substantially in the past 20 years.
In 2007, the expansion of concrete manufacturing – which ramped up the volume of cement trucks and concrete dust – drew the ire of neighbours and the City. In early 2008, Langford stripped concrete manufacturing from the zoning as a permitted use.
Later in 2008, Langford filed a court action against Tower Fencing, alleging the use of one of the properties to manufacture concrete and concrete products was unlawful. The City also alleged Tower failed to get permits to install a tall concrete batch plant. At the same time, Langford council said it would help the company find a more suitable location within the city.
“Having 15 to 16 loads of concrete going offsite every day is significant and certainly contrary to what the bylaw allows,” said senior Langford bylaw enforcement officer Lorne Fletcher. “Here we have a business that through its own success has moved beyond what is allowable in the zoning bylaws.”
Fletcher noted that the court action has moved slowly and Tower changed lawyers several times in 2010. The case remains in the discovery phase and has no court dates set.
Over the years Langford’s bylaw office has fielded a steady stream of complaints about noise and dust from the concrete operation, Fletcher said. “We try to be fair to the complainants and the business,” he said. “The complaints as of late have dropped off, but I don’t contribute that to complacency of residents. I attribute that to sheer frustration.”
Madsen flatly denies he is contravening zoning bylaws – the property was zoned to manufacture concrete, he said, and the City can’t put an arbitrary cap on operations.
“If it’s got concrete zoning it’s got concrete zoning,” he said. “The zoning doesn’t limit the size we can grow.
“Have we outgrown the site? Absolutely. We could go three times as big. It’s inspired me to move so we can get bigger.”
Although Langford promised to work with Tower to help the business relocate, Madsen’s relationship with mayor and council has remained dismal. He vented frustration during the 2008 municipal election by endorsing the opposition slate of candidates. Both sides have suggested the other is failing to act in good faith, and these days much of the communication is between lawyers.
Langford chief administrator Jim Bowden said in past years, planning staff had found a few alternate properties for Madsen, which “obviously were not satisfactory to Tower.”
“We didn’t proactively find a spot and rezone it to fit his use,” Bowden said. “The planning department said here is land with zoning appropriate to that type of use, nothing more than that.”