Bruce County approves severance in Huron-Kinloss

BRUCE COUNTY – The Feb. 16 meeting of the county’s planning and development committee was one of the rare occasions when the committee voted against a staff recommendation.

A report prepared by senior planner Monica Walker-Bolton, included the recommendation that a severance application by Doug and Anne Eadie be denied.

The purpose of the severance was to recreate two lots, which have merged, to be conveyed to each of two sons. The lots have been, and will continue to be, used for agriculture.

The reason for the recommendation to deny the severance, as stated in the planning report, was it would promote the creation of undersized farm parcels.

The Bruce County Official Plan requires a minimum of 40 hectares (100 acres) with the intent of retaining large farming areas. The historic settlement pattern was generally based on each concession being divided into 100-acre lots. In this case, though, the lots were settled as 62.5-acre parcels.

The history of the property indicated there had been two lots, until they were held under the same ownership and merged on title. There are provisions in the Official Plan to recreate the original township lots.

Another factor in the recommendation to deny the application was a previous severance of a two-acre retirement lot, which presently contains a residence, from one of the parcels, meaning it’s no longer an original lot.

The report quotes the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as stating that having “large, continuous areas for agriculture is essential for normal farm practices to occur.”

The planning report stated that overall, “the lots merged unintentionally,” but the application “doesn’t meet requirements.”

County Coun. Kenneth Craig, Kincardine, asked about the specific size of farm lots, and was told there is some flexibility. However, in general, they should be “of a size appropriate to the type of agriculture common in the area.” In other words, there are provisions for smaller-sized lots, but there has to be justification.

Craig further said that while he appreciates the guidance provided by staff, he has concerns about the future of farming if policies result in reducing the number of people involved in farming – “large farms that keep getting larger and larger,” and fewer opportunities for families that might want to get started in farming.

County Coun. Don Murray, Huron-Kinloss, noted his municipality disagrees with the recommendation.

“These have always been 62.5-acre lots,” he said, “and have always been cash cropped. Nothing is going to change on these two parcels.”

What the applicant is trying to do, he said, is make provisions for both sons.

Murray further noted, “Any township all around us has all kinds of different sizes of farms and lots… maybe smaller lots are something we should be looking at more, to stop erosion and different things.”

The committee chair, County Coun. Steve Hammell, Arran-Elderslie, referenced his own farm to put things in context.

“It’s a 100-acre farm, 70 acres workable,” he said, noting these parcels are undersized, “but not by a lot.”

When the matter was put to the vote, the committee approved the application.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times