Council Column – July

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So what does the 60’s  Television Show “Green Acres”, starring Eddie Albert and Zsa Zsa Gabor, as transplanted city slickers to a rural pastoral setting have  in common with our “Green and Pleasant Land” of Cavan Monaghan?   I suppose both have a real cast of characters, but for me,  the unifying theme is the search by many for a less hectic, good life in a pastoral, rural setting.

Of course it was a clash of cultures on the TV show and made for comedy gold. Naturally, as the GTA grows, many are looking for a less hectic pace, not to mention a more affordable lifestyle and of course they come down the 115, and the rolling hills of Cavan are like a siren song!

For decades, there has been a trickle of citizens who have located to our Township to pursue agricultural activities or find their rural piece of heaven and live quietly.

For many who have come from urban centres the culture clash became apparent, depending on which way the wind was blowing. For most of us who grew up in a rural setting, the requisite farm smells just came with the territory. Complaints came into municipalities and the Provincial Government’s answer was to develop guidelines to try and keep agricultural uses separated from potentially non -compatible uses like homes, residential zones and away from lot lines and roads. They created the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae. It has gone through numerous tweaks and reviews since the early 70’s.

Ask anyone on the street if they know what MDS means and the majority will give you a blank stare. Tell them it means Minimum Distance Separation, and is a land use planning tool that determines a recommended separation distance between a livestock barn or manure storage and surrounding land uses. It is guaranteed to cause most people’s eyes to glaze over, partly because it can get complicated and boring; and is of little interest to most until it affects your family home or business!

The objective of MDS is to prevent land use conflicts and minimize nuisance complaints from odour but does not account for other nuisances such as noise or dust.

The best advice to anyone thinking of setting up a new or expanded farm operation or buying land to build your version of heaven in Cavan Monaghan is to consult with the Planning Department to be sure your plans are compatible with MDS rules and regulations.

MDS is made up of two separate, but related formulae that act reciprocally to site both new development and new or expanding livestock facilities.

MDS I provides the minimum distance separation between proposed new development and any existing livestock barns, manure storages and/or anaerobic digesters.

MDS II provides the minimum distance separation between proposed new ,expanding or remodelled livestock barns, manure storages and/or anaerobic digesters and existing or approved development.

The MDS formulae are based on five factors:

– the type of livestock housed;

– the potential number of livestock housed (based on barn capacity or lot size);

– the percentage increase in the size of the operation;

– the type of manure system and storage; and

– the type of encroaching land use.

The required setback distances will vary according to these five factors, and will result in unique distances for different types of operations in different circumstances and locations. In Council, it is often brought to our attention that as a rural municipality with some prime agricultural land, the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) requires that new land uses, including the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities comply with the MDS Formulae.

Personally, I have found in the past that MDS has been a very blunt instrument that has punished farmers. I look forward to working with Council and the Planner to determine what MDS setbacks for agriculture related uses and on-farm diversified uses are applied at the discretion of our municipality. What this means is it should be reflected in the new set of zoning by-laws.

Presently, the planning department has received new guidelines from the Province for revised MDS guidelines that require an Official Plan Amendment. Council is looking to update our Zoning by-laws which will be completed this fall.

By Tim Belch

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