Whitewater Region denies zoning change for one kennel

Cobden --Whitewater Region council has denied one zoning by-law amendment that would have permitted the owner of the subject property to apply for a kennel licence but has approved another similar application.

Both applications were the subject of a January 18 meeting called to garner public input into both proposals that had been denounced by two dozen or so passionate citizens in attendance.

Prior to that meeting, council had received about 150 comments, as well as a petition with more than 100 signatures, opposing the zoning changes. Concerns raised referenced animal welfare and living conditions, inadequate municipal by-laws to regulate kennels, insufficient monitoring and accountability, risks to health and safety, impact on property values and more.

At its February 15 regular meeting, the rejected application was the one made by Tim Hubert for a property on Foresters Falls Road containing a single detached dwelling, a kennel, and other accessory structures. The existing kennel on this property is situated at a distance of 62 metres from the front property lot line, 89 metres from the centreline of road, 313 metres from the rear lot line and 36/398 metres from the side lot line. The property is zoned Rural (RU) which permits a variety of residential and other uses including a farm, a farm produce sales outlet, forestry, etc. but, a kennel is not specifically permitted.

The amendment sought by Mr. Hubert would have approved a kennel at that location and reduced the minimum separation distance between the kennel and centre line of the road from 90 to 86 metres. It also would have reduced the minimum separation distance between the kennel and the nearest property line from 60 to 35 metres.

In a report to council based on a review of the application, municipal staff concluded the proposed use would not be compatible with the surrounding residential uses. The report cited two Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) specialists who stated “dogs can bark at an average sound level of 80 – 90 dB at 1m from the dog, although some breeds can get up to 100 dB.

“The impact of noise is dependent on distance,” the report continued. “In the open air, under still conditions, the effect of sound on the hearer decreases by, on average, 6 dB as the distance from the noise doubles.”

According to this formula, the anticipated noise level at the adjacent dwelling located at +/- 65 metres away, and the sound level can range from 44 dB to 64 dB, exceeding the provincial guideline for sound level limits which establishes that, in rural areas, daytime noise limits should not exceed 45 dB and evening/nighttime limits should not exceed 40 dB.

“With the above calculation ranging near or above these limits, and compounded by the possibility of numerous dogs, it is our opinion that the noise level is not compatible with the surrounding residential uses,” said the report signed by Whitewater CAO Ivan Burton and planner Alex Benzie. “Based on the above assessment, the proposed use of a kennel will alter the existing character of the area. Additionally, the zoning by-law provides specific provisions to restrict the location of kennels in close proximity to adjacent dwellings, and the present operation will not comply with these requirements.”

Councillor Connie Tabbert asked if it’s known whether there are animals on that property now.

“I understand that there are dogs there and that the operation will have to cease if council refuses this application,” Mr. Burton said. “That would be communicated to him and he would be given sufficient time (to wind down the operation) given the nature of his business.”

He added some members of the public have indicated they are willing to re-home the animals if necessary.

Second Application Approved

The other kennel-related zoning by-law (ZB) amendment application at the February 15 meeting of council, also to accommodate a kennel, had been submitted by James Hubert. It was approved. This property is located on Highway 17 just east of Cobden. The stated purpose of the amendment was to allow for the additional use of a kennel, subject to the completion of an environmental impact assessment.

This property also contains a single detached dwelling and also a 1,200-foot tarp barn and several other outbuildings. It is surrounded by Highway 17 to the south and west and environmental protection areas to the north and east. The nearest dwelling to the building housing the kennel is located +/- 240 metres away and across Highway 17.

The subject lands and kennel structure are also located within a Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW) This PSW is an extension of the Cobden Marsh that borders Muskrat Lake. Development and site alteration are permitted on adjacent lands if it has been demonstrated by way of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that it will not negatively impact the natural features or ecological functions. The property is currently located within the RU zone which allows for uses including farm, farm produce sales outlet, and forestry; however, not kennels.

The property is currently used for agricultural purposes including the harvesting of crops. The proposed kennel would be located on an existing farm having a total area of 54 acres which is currently used for growing agricultural crops and could be viewed as secondary to the principal agricultural use of the property. While it is uncertain that the lands are cultivated by the owner, an area of about 35 acres is cultivated. The kennel is proposed to be located within a portion of one already existing accessory structure located near other accessory structures.

The report states the proposed use may be viewed as a home industry since the primary use of the subject lands can be viewed as agricultural or residential. The kennel will be compatible with surrounding agricultural operations and residential uses.

“In this case, the proposed kennel will be able to comply with the minimum separations distance of 60 and 90 metres,” says the report signed by the CAO and the planner. “Applying the same calculation offered by OMAFRA, the sound level at the nearest dwelling located at 240 metres across Highway 17, would range from 32 dB to 52dB, being potentially only slightly above the daytime level of 45 dB. This sound level would be further reduced by the neighbouring Highway 17 which sees an annual average daily traffic (AADT) of 9,000. Based on the above assessment, the proposed use of a kennel will not alter the existing character of the area.

The present application has been circulated in accordance with the Planning Act to adjacent landowners, internal and external agencies and the placing of a sign at the concerned parcel.

Related to the recent discussion around kennels, council passed a motion to direct staff to review the township’s existing animal control by-law with a view to incorporating regulations specifically for kennels. This action was proposed by Coun. Tabbert.

“Our township has a by-law that has no teeth when it comes to the operation of kennels,” she said. “It doesn’t allow for anything more than a minor fine. I am asking council to support a by-law with more power so that unlicenced kennels can be abolished from within our boundaries.”

Mayor Neil Nicholson noted that Jim McBain, who works for the township under contract as by-law enforcement officer, has already presented the township with recommended changes to the animal control by-law. Modifications are being recommended in relation to (among others) definitions and kennel- specific policies which are outlined in the Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations (Third Edition).

“He will forward his proposals to staff, who will add it to their own input and file a report to council,” the mayor said.

Councillor Mike Moore asked how long the process is expected to take.

“I expect the process will include a draft by-law for council to see and review,” Mr. Burton stated. “I expect council will direct staff to put this out for public consultation. The earliest draft would probably be for March 1 or more likely March 15 with final adoption by mid to late April.”

“I like that timeframe,” Coun. Moore said. “I wouldn’t want it to take much longer. We can’t let this one get away on us.”

Councillor Chris Olmstead asked about possible penalties for non-compliance; not specifically to the animal control by-law but applicable to all township by-laws.

“If someone walks away from a situation and won’t deal with it and moves on, council hasn’t really rectified the problem,” he said. “I would like to look at this as a separate issue.”

“We have to start adhering to our by-laws and enforcing them,” said Deputy-Mayor Cathy Regier. “I know it will be a tremendous job, but if we do it, we have to do it right.”

Mayor Nicholson reminded council there will be a cost to implementing the proposed by-law.

“I expect this will be a line in (the) operations (budget),” he said.

Coun. Olmstead had declared a conflict and left the table and the room at the outset of the discussion of the two kennel amendments, citing potential pecuniary interests, but had rejoined the proceedings when the two Hubert zoning amendment applications had been dealt with.

Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader