by SUSAN MANN
The Perth County Federation of Agriculture remains opposed to surplus farmhouse severances, however Perth County Council plans to continue discussing a change to its Official Plan, permitting them under certain conditions.
Perth federation president Joanne Foster says with the eight restrictive criteria in place, many properties won’t qualify for the severances. The federation is still opposed to the county allowing them, however, unless provincial legislation protecting farmers from nuisance complaints is strengthened first.
Although the federation’s official position is to oppose the severances, some members of the organization are in favour of them. Foster says after a recent vote at the federation’s board, the side opposing severances came out ahead by a whisker.
The biggest concern of federation members in who oppose the proposal is that farmers will face nuisance complaints even though they’re using normal farm practices, Foster says, in the federation’s written submission to the county.
“This concern needs to be recognized by county council and those who support these severances,” she notes.
Allan Rothwell, Perth County planning director, says the draft amendment to the county’s Official Plan allowing the severances, if certain conditions are met, is on the agenda for the May 19 council meeting.
At that meeting, Rothwell says he will present a report summarizing the comments received at the April 14 public meeting in Monkton along with letters the county has received in connection with the severance policy change. The county has prohibited the severances since 1997.
“Council’s going to be discussing it further and then they’re going to give direction,” Rothwell says. Depending on what council decides to do, and if councilors go in the direction of wanting to change the policy, they may need to inform attendees who were at the public meeting April 14 and the general public, that they’re considering making changes. Another public meeting may need to be held if there are significant changes to the draft proposal.
“This has been a long discussion for county council,” Rothwell says “There are definitely those people in favour of seeing change.”
About 100 people attended the Monkton meeting and the county received approximately 30 letters.
Rothwell says the proposed conditions that must be met prior to approval for a surplus farmhouse severance, if the policy is changed, are fairly strict.
Three of the proposed restrictive criteria include:
- the surplus farmhouse must abut the property it’s being severed from,
- it has to be on the same side of the road as the retained property, and
- the properties have to be in the same name and be owned for a minimum of five years.
Some people were very vocal at the April 14 public meeting in their opposition to the restrictive criteria, he says.
Rothwell says in general, the county’s livestock farmers don’t favour allowing the severances, while the cash crop producers “have no problem with it.”
Perth County Warden Mert Schneider says some of the restrictive criteria are open for discussion, including that the surplus farmhouse must abut the retained property and that the proposed severed lot and retained property must be in the same name and be owned for a minimum of five years.
“Nobody seemed to like any of the conditions,” he says. “There are some people that want the severance policy opened up so they can have anything, but that’s not going to happen. There will always be some conditions.”
Schneider says one of the conditions that will likely stay is the farmhouse being severed must be “surplus to your needs. If you want to sell your farmhouse off and build a new one beside it, that’s likely not going to happen.”
Another rule likely to stay is the proposed surplus farm dwelling lot can’t include any barns or structures for livestock housing, he notes. BF