NEW MINAS, NS – It’s a common thread of concern woven throughout the history of municipal politics and land use planning in Kings County.
Agricultural land use was the top area of concern as the County of Kings planning advisory committee hosted a facilitated town hall session on the municipality’s proposed new Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB) at the Louis Millett Community Complex in New Minas on Sept. 13. The documents have been developed as part of the ongoing Kings 2050 regional planning project.
Another hot topic of concern was proposed setback distances for large-scale wind turbine development. These and several other land use issues rounded out the hour-long public consultation session. Some speakers expressed the sentiment that municipal planners or council aren’t hearing their concerns.
Marilyn Cameron of No Farms No Food, a group dedicated to the preservation of agricultural land, said the hope is that planning staff and council will see that the public cares what Kings County is about: agriculture, beautiful vistas, landscapes and wilderness resources “that we need to protect.”
“I feel that this MPS, this new draft, is sort of opening the door. It’s almost like development at any cost,” Cameron said.
Although she feels that improvements have been made in some areas, in other regards it seems like rules are being relaxed.
“Solar farms on farm land? That’s really a terrible idea. It’s not an agricultural use so why allow that on prime agricultural soil,” Cameron said.
She said vague language in the proposed documents and the possibility of allowing more residential development on farmland could lead to land use conflicts. She hopes that council will see that these proposed policies are not acceptable to the residents of Kings County and that “the appropriate changes” will be made.
Representing North Kentville farmers, Karen Robinson requested that farm land within the growth centre be returned to agricultural zoning; that North Kentville land currently zoned agricultural remain that way and that farmland in the North Kentville growth centre be exempt from sewer rates.
TapRoot Farms co-owner and former councillor Patricia Bishop said she would like to see the municipality’s definition of agricultural land broadened; and policy drafted that would allow developers to more easily build vertically to prevent sprawl in order to help preserve farmland.
Farmer Brian Newcombe expressed concern that residential development could be allowed on farm fields with 1,000 feet or more of road frontage. This could lead to the fragmentation of larger fields.
Barry Hennigar said that, “the less agricultural land that we have, the less choice we have to be self-sustaining.”
Speaking on behalf of the New Minas Village Commission, chairman Dave Chaulk said they would like to see the entire village considered a growth centre.
The land south of Highway 101 included within the village boundary by the provincial Utility and Review Board is not zoned agricultural and is “ideal for immediate development.”
“We have proven time and time again that we’re open for business but we ask you not to put out a closed sign,” Chaulk said.
On the topic of wind energy, Warren Peck asked that residents within 5 km be included in the planning process from the beginning if his proposal for the development of a large-scale wind turbine park in the southwest corner of the municipality was deemed appropriate. Setback distances of 3.5 km from neighbouring properties could be achieved.
“If the 1,000-metre separation is deemed appropriate, as described in the existing draft MPS, then all citizens who signed the three petitions in 2012 will require contacting, approximately 1,700 citizens, to obtain social license,” Peck said.
Nancy Denton Peck said she doesn’t know whom the municipality consulted with on proposed 1,000 m setbacks, as those who signed petitions in 2012 wanted greater separation distances.
Betty Lou Brown said there is no other option for large-scale wind turbine development as perfect for the citizens of Kings County as Peck’s proposal for the southwest corner of the municipality.
Brown said she understands that separation distances could be as little as 750 m in certain circumstances under the current draft documents.
Planning manager Laura Mosher said there is draft policy that indicates if the people living within 1,000 m of a proposed wind turbine all agree, the turbine could be sited within less than 1,000 m of a neighbouring property.
A similar public participation meeting on the proposed MPS and LUB was held in Waterville on Sept. 11 and the last is scheduled for Sept. 14 in Kingston.
Did you know?
– The cutoff date for public input on the draft documents is Sept. 17.
– The next steps in the adoption of the draft MPS and LUB include a summary report on public consultations to the planning advisory committee (PAC) in October.
– Following PAC direction, revisions will be made to the draft documents in October and November 2017. Redline versions of the documents will be prepared as part of this process.
– Final public consultations on the redline versions will take place after the revised documents are made public, likely in late November 2017.
– If there are no major changes required after the final public consultations, PAC will recommend that the documents go to council for first reading in December 2017.
– A public hearing and final council consideration would take place in January 2018.
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