Planners error on MDS causing big headaches near Camlachie

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An error by Plympton-Wyoming planning staff is causing big concerns in Camlachie where a poultry barn is under construction.

But the project will move ahead as planned after the town’s committee of adjustment decided the location of the barn as planned would be better for the neighbourhood.

Saul Farms has begun excavating the site for a new poultry barn at 3913 Aberarder Line in May. They’d been issued a building permit for the property, but neighbours questioned how close the building would be to 15 townhouses, 15 apartments and single family homes around Queen Street. The planning staff took another look at the calculations under the province’s minimum distance standards and found that the barns and the manure pit which will be built should be double the distance from the nearest home.

“It must be stressed that the Saul’s followed proper process and made their application in good faith,” said Ken Melanson, Lambton’s manager of planning and development services. “The planning team acknowledges the error that occurred …The Saul’s are working in good faith with team to move forward with a proposal,” he told the Committee of Adjustment members Tuesday. But the neighbours are worried.

“Why is someone allowed to move in so close to residential properties and a school district…This will lessen the value of our properties here,” said Tom McLaughlin in a letter to the committee.

“Considering the amount of residential neighbourhoods Plympton-Wyoming has invested in the Camlachie area – I’m surprised that this farm has even got the green light to go this far,” wrote Ryan Smith.

Kelly Saul, who is building the barn with his father, said they chose the site because it was the “ideal candidate to build” with natural gas, municipal water, three phase hydro, access to their woodlot and good drainage.

Saul says when Plympton-Wyoming Planner Sarah Baldwin gave the okay for the development, the family moved forward. But on May 23, Saul got a call from Baldwin saying she made an error in calculating the minimum distance standards. The province requires farm buildings be 320 m from the nearest home. The nearest home is about 200m.

The county recommended the family apply for a minor variance to move forward in the spot. Jim Saul said he felt “coerced” to apply.

Kelly Saul told the committee he’s a seventh generation farmer who is putting down roots and starting a family. “We do not want a fight in our community.
“We would never have started building here…had planning done its job.”

The land the Saul family is using is zoned for agriculture. Melanson says normally, they would just need the approval of planners and a building permit.
But with the mistake in calculating how far the barn can be from homes, the county suggested to bring an outside planning agency to look at the issue and see if the building should move ahead.

NPG Planning said, basically, no.

“The general intent and purpose of this (MDS) requirement is to….address and minimize impact from the livestock facilities and support livestock facilities in a manner that minimizes the potential for complaints. The requested variance creates a reduction in the distance to the existing residential homes that is almost a 50 per cent reduction. The extent of the reduction is such that the potential for impact and complaints has increased,” the planners wrote.
Because of the minor variance request, the public had an opportunity to comment and some people living in the area are concerned a poultry barn would be moving in next door.

Joanne Wise lives in the nearby apartment complex. “I have been surprised and troubled by the lack of transparency about plans to construct two 22,000 plus square-foot poultry barns with adjacent manure storage in close proximity to more than 30 family homes,” she wrote adding it was difficult to get the information she needed to understand the new development.

And she worried the family would still be able to build the barn in the area anyway meeting the requirements, likely across the road from her townhouse.
Melanson says that could happen. “There is a very real area that is compliant to MDS – the property owners can apply for a permit in the area and would receive it without a public process,” he told the committee. Melanson added the official plan recognizes the importance of agriculture and when housing and farming clash in planning issues, the plan states “priority will be given to agricultural uses.”

Jim Saul confirmed they planned to move forward with a poultry barn in another location on the property and “that location will be less desirable to you than where we currently are,” he told the roomful of residents at the meeting. “This project will continue to completion.”

At least some members of the committee felt the variance should not be granted. Jennifer Turks said the committee has no choice under provincial rules to follow the MDS standards. “It’s not just a provincial policy, it is there to protect the residents and the applicants,” she said noting she had “lost confidence in some of the planning staff” because of the issue.

But the majority of the committee felt the alternative location – across the road from the housing complex – would not be any better, and the fact the manure pit would be covered to reduce odour, were good reasons to over ride the MDS standards.

Deputy Mayor Netty McEwen noted that while some members of the committee felt the standards were set in stone, many municipalities have overridden the guidelines through committee of adjustment decisions in the past.

1 COMMENT

  1. Please allow me to clarify my concern. I was not arguing against the construction of the poultry barns. I was asking for openness and accountability in the approval process. One small point: Your article says the nearest home is about 200 metres from the proposed barns; the site plan measures the nearest home at 167 metres. The 18% difference between these two measurements was accepted off the cuff without question at the meeting. In other respects, you’ve done an admirable job of summarizing a complex situation. Hats off to you.

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