No Farms No Food hop­ing for pos­i­tive changes for farm­land pro­tec­tion

Annapolis Valley Register - - EVENTS - BY KIRK STARRATT KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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 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.

FILE PHOTO

Agri­cul­tural land pro­tec­tion was one of the main con­cerns at a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion on the County of Kings’ pro­posed new Mu­nic­i­pal Plan­ning Strat­egy and Land Use By­law in New Minas that drew about 100 con­cerned cit­i­zens.

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