Enniskillen farmer wants township to wade into Petrolia development plans

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File Photo Enniskillen farmer Greg Racher has filed appeals after Petrolia changed the zoning on two woodlots to allow housing to be built in the area.

Heather Wright/The Independent

A Petrolia area farmer wants Enniskillen Township to step into a dispute with the Town of Petrolia and a local developer.

Greg Racher is concerned about the next phase of Countryview Estates in Petrolia. Developer Bob Leaper plans to remove about 17 acres of trees to build new homes. Some trees will be left behind on the property line between the Racher’s farm and the new development.

Another development on Oozloffsky by Floyd Vanderwal also borders on Racher’s land.
Ross White, who speaks for Racher, told Enniskillen council recently that ratepayers in Petrolia who live on the edge of town see Racher’s land as their own and plant trees or build firepits on his property. He believes this shouldn’t be Racher’s problem alone.
White says Enniskillen should be stepping in to stop the development to prevent urban sprawl which Racher is concerned will affect his cattle farm.

“The Town of Petrolia obviously does not respect Enniskillen,” White says. “It obviously doesn’t respect the individual landowner. And so you’re put in a position where the viability of Greg’s business, that’s been established for 85 years now, comes into question because as this subdivision moves forward, the standoff distance between his livestock operation and these new subdivisions diminishes as the houses get built.

“Within our own township, we would have minor variance issues with houses being built that close to a livestock operation, but apparently because the Town of Petrolia believes that it’s omnipotent to do whatever it wants, it doesn’t respect Enniskillen’s position and so it will very strictly limit Greg’s potential to expand.”

White says the town has not listened to Racher’s concerns and he believes Enniskillen needs to come to the table to explain how it would not allow homes that close to livestock.

“The biggest issue Greg has is the fact that the town won’t recognize Enniskillen’s sovereignty, and he should not as a landowner, be subject to incur all the costs it’s going to take to guarantee that there’s a buffer zone put between a town and a township,” says White. He adds Racher wants among other things, a six foot chain link fence built by the developer.

“That buffer will consist of several things, but not the least of which will be a six foot high chain link fence. And that’s going to stop the urban creep and the cost is basically negligible,” says White.

He says without that buffer, the residents will continue to encroach on Racher land and he will end up paying to deal with the trespassers. “That is simply unacceptable because you can’t allow people that trespass on to your viable business, and have no repercussion.”

Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott sympathizes with the position Racher is in but says their best advice from lawyers is this is not an issue the township should be involved in.

“A lot of this problem was created by disrespectful people…So going back to who it affects, it really only affects the Rachers whether it’s the encroachment they’ve had on their crops or the inability to expand their cattle operation…You could say that is detrimental to Enniskillen but it’s isolated to one farmer. So that’s where it’s hard for the township to step in.”

Enniskillen has said it will look at the Rachers six requests.

Meantime, Petrolia will hold a public meeting on the development Thursday night via teleconference.