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No Farms No Food hoping for positive changes for farmland protection following public consultations

['The town hall meeting in New Minas on the proposed new Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw for the County of Kings was well attended.']
['The town hall meeting in New Minas on the proposed new Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw for the County of Kings was well attended.']

KENTVILLE, NS - A spokeswoman for a community coalition that aims to preserve agricultural land for future farmers says they remain hopeful following public consultations on the County of Kings’ draft land use planning documents.

Public consultations on the proposed Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB) were held Sept. 11, 13 and 14. Marilyn Cameron of No Farms No Food said planners would now make changes to the proposed land use regulations as directed by the planning advisory committee and council.

She said there is a lot in the documents regarding agricultural land use that members of the public who spoke at the consultations don’t agree with but she is hopeful for positive changes.

A recent independent assessment found the proposed MPS contains a weaker farmland protection framework than the present version.

The author of the study, Dr. David Connell, is professor in the department of Ecosystem Science and Management at the University of Northern British Columbia. As project lead for the Agricultural Land Use Planning in Canada Project, Connell connects with a team from six universities assessing the state of farmland protection in Canada.

He studies whether laws protecting farmland measure up using four criteria: maximizing stability, integrating across jurisdictions, minimizing uncertainty and accommodating flexibility.

A year ago, Kings County’s current MPS earned a “somewhat strong” overall rating for the protection it provided for farmland. Connell has determined that the proposed MPS weakens the overall farmland protection framework. Compared to the MPS now in place, he has downgraded his evaluation of each of the four criteria.

Connell has found in the proposed MPS “what appears to be a stronger desire to minimize barriers to urban development and accommodate more non-farm development in rural areas.”

Cameron said No Farms No Food doesn’t see why the municipality would intentionally make this policy change. The draft MPS doesn’t offer any justification for allowing expansion of urban and non-farm rural development onto farmland.

“Agriculture and agritourism are critical to the future prosperity of Nova Scotia, and to Kings in particular,” Cameron stated in a recent news release. “Most of the province’s best farmland and increasing farm receipts are in Kings.”

The study shows “little or no population growth in the county” while the agricultural sector is thriving. Cameron said that, unlike other activities, farming can’t be re-directed to non-agricultural land and that weighs heaviest in the land use policy balance.

The recommendations of Connell’s report include treating all agricultural land equally with regard to protection; completing a comprehensive agricultural land use inventory, using the information to inform land use planning decisions; providing population and housing projections that substantiate the demand for rural dwellings and future expansion of growth centre boundaries; and eliminating vague terms in the draft MPS by deleting or clearly explaining them.

Did you know?

-       The next steps in the adoption of the draft MPS and LUB include a summary report on public consultations to the County of Kings 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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