By Kirk Starratt
The province is proposing significant changes to their statement of interest regarding agricultural land, and that’s left Kings County council concerned.
However, council won’t be going to the public for input after informally asking for thoughts from those in the gallery at a recent meeting.
Planning manager Ben Sivak said most concern for staff centres around the fourth provision, which states, “up to four contiguous building lots, with a maximum of one acre each, may be subdivided from an active farm within the protected area and used for residential purposes, in accordance with municipal regulation.”
“It seems to be out in left field,” Sivak said during a recent presentation to the committee of the whole. “It doesn’t seem consistent with the intent of the statement of interest.”
The revised statement would apply to all Canada Land Inventory Class 2 and 3 soils found in the province and active Class 4 soils found in active farming areas. Active farmland is land that is managed annually for the production of food or fibre.
Sivak said that if the government wants to know where the active land is, it would have to be mapped every year - and there is a cost involved. The application of the statement seems to be taken from the County of Kings Municipal Planning Strategy, he added.
A number of councillors expressed dismay over the tight timeline for municipalities to provide input, which originally closed the end of February. However, following a request by Sivak to the province for an extension, the deadline was moved to the end of March.
During debate at the Feb. 26 committee of the whole session, councillors decided to hold a workshop, which would be open to any interested members of the public, to discuss the proposed statement. Coun. Pauline Raven said she would like to see the public given the opportunity to give input.
Sivak said council could hold a public input session, but pointed out that this is provincial legislation. Councillors decided to allow citizens in the gallery to speak on the matter.
County watchdog Nancy Denton-Peck told councillors they had just spent a half hour discussing the issue and got nothing done. She told councillors they represent the people. If councillors have farmers in their districts, she suggested the onus is on the councillor to find out how the farmer feels about the proposed statement of provincial interest.
“I just think you’re wasting a whole bunch of time,” she said. “Ask us in your districts. That’s what you were voted in for.”
Chris Cann told councillors that if they don’t know how to advocate on the part of citizens, ask them. Another observer, Andrew Steeves, said he doesn’t think the scope of the request from the province requires public input.
Coun. Wayne Atwater said he wouldn’t be at the workshop because the discussion should take place at the committee of the whole, as suggested by Steeves. Atwater said maybe the county should do away with its agricultural policy and let the province handle it.
“The province has the final say, so why not give them the first say,” Atwater said.
Council has passed a motion to forward the municipality’s position to the province. Sivak said he would make a presentation at the March committee of the whole session after combining staff and councillor comments on the proposed changes to the provincial statement of interest.