Mono Council, residents slam Provincial Policy Statement

April 23, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Tabitha Wells – A special public meeting hosted Tuesday night by Mono Council got incredibly heated, with residents and council members voicing their disagreement with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), which would reclassify sections of protected farmland within the Town of Mono.

The PPS, which would supplant current policies set in place by the town for regulating the usage and classification of prime farmland, would severely affect many of the farms in the area as well that have only Class 4 to 7 farmland.

The provincial government has asked the town to complete a Land Evaluation Area Review (LEAR). There are two portions to the study, the first being Land Evaluation, and the second an Area Review, both of which are supposed to be conducted in a 50/50 weighting on the outcome.

The final results in Mono however, are based on a 30/70 outcome in favour of the Area Review, as it appeases the government by protecting more land. Councillor Bob Mitchell was quick to request an explanation as to the manipulation of the results in order to provide results the government wanted.

“One of the things that has bothered me from the first on this is that when we started out on the LEAR we have a land evaluation calculation and an area review calculation,” said Councillor Mitchell. “When we started we said we would do it on a 50/50 basis. When we did that not much land fell out. The way this is written out it seems like we kept playing with the ration and threw the science out to come up with the numbers to satisfy Queen’s Park.”

Sean Colville from Colville Consulting, who participated in the LEAR study, said manipulating the results to get a higher number is quite normal and encouraged by the Government.

“They allow each municipality to do it how they want to based on their unique situation,” said Mr. Colville. “We didn’t come up with it ourselves. Other municipalities use 70/30 and very few use 50/50. It’s always in favour of the agricultural capabilities so your soil has the higher purpose. If we had listed the 50/50 and found it preserved no additional land it would have been sent right back.”

A representative from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Mark Christy, echoed that statement, saying that if the Minister and team were not satisfied with the amount of land included as protected areas, it would be sent back to be re-evaluated and find more land.

“In the greenbelt the area of rep was much greater, and when they reviewed the submission from the town they were uncomfortable with how much smaller it was,” said Mr. Christy.

“It’s not an exact science, it’s a flexible science to help us be more comfortable with the outcome.”

Mayor Laura Ryan asked whether the town could choose to stick with the 50/50 despite the concerns of the government and was told that the 30/70 result would be imposed if the town would not choose to take it on.

The biggest problem seen with the government’s attempt to force their agenda in this situation is not that they want to protect prime farmland, but rather that the new policy will no longer recognize specific lots and instead increases the protection to areas. This means that if a class 7 farm fell within the protected area, the restrictions placed on farming capabilities on prime farmland would apply to that farm – even if their soil is not farmable for crops.

Several Mono farmers voiced their concerns about this, and Council stood by them, pointing out that these changes aren’t just something that affects paperwork – they are affecting the lives and livelihoods of many residents in the town.

“There is no benefit to a landowner to have no restriction based on their land,” said Corrinne Pollard, a landowner whose property falls in the middle of one of the affected areas. “The province currently has and controls over 87 percent of Ontario’s land usage. Quite frankly, they can leave the last remaining private 13 percent to those of us who have it to deal with.”

She added that the change in designation devalues the property, which going forward would affect anyone looking to sell their property.

“There is no legal jurisdiction for the province to amend property designation,” said Ms. Pollard. “If you don’t own it, you can’t control it. I own my own property and I believe I should be able to control my own property.”

John Laver, another Mono resident, was equally angry about the regulations and the effect it will have on the local farmers, and voiced his concerns that everyone involved in the final decision-making process are not farmers, but rather sit behind desks and read reports.

“Nobody talks to the farmer out there – I talk to the farmers out there when I’m having coffee with them, and they think this is a ,joke,” said Mr. Laver. “This, if anything, is only going to hurt agriculture. There are going to be a lot of regulations in there, which are a further headache to the farmers. Nobody is concerned about the farmer here, they’re concerned about the farmland. Well, who’s going to farm the land when you’ve driven all the farmers out?”

He also pointed out that years ago, there was a lot of prime farmland in the area that wasn’t protected by the government and was turned into developments, and nothing was said or done then.

“Queen’s Park has all the cards, and we already can see what they’ve done with prime farmland over the years,” he said. “The only real prime agricultural land has houses on it – the best agriculture and the government did absolutely nothing to stop that. Now they come up here and tell us this marginal land is prime agriculture and put all the restrictions on us. Why weren’t they doing this when the real prime agriculture was being stripped away?”

In order to try to shed some light on the concerns of the people in the town, Councillor Elaine Capes asked Mr. Christy to identify the benefits to the farmers who would have regulations enforced on land that previously wasn’t classified as prime agricultural.

Mr. Christy dodged the question by talking about how protecting the land is important. He was then asked three more times by Councillor Capes to identify the benefit to those who would be losing their livelihood, and dodged the question another three times, making it clear the government had either not considered or put no merit to the lives that would be affected.

Mayor Ryan concluded the meeting by deciding against the introduction of any amendments or new bylaws at this time. She thanked Mr. Christy for his time and for listening to the concerns of the residents and what these new policies would to do them if imposed.

“I think there has been a lot of information and a lot of preparation to resolve this, but as you can tell we are being dictated to and we need to figure out how we want to respond,” she said. “These are our neighbours and these are people who have worked this land for generations, and I am not prepared to be the one to let that go and cause them to relinquish their rights.”


Share Button

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.