Municipalities have a little over half a year left to review their policy on how big a new hog barn has to be before it sparks a conditional use hearing.
The province rolled back its own conditional use requirements in June, part of a list of changes made to the Planning Act around large-scale livestock operations. Prior to the changes, the province required a conditional use hearing for any proposed hog barn with 300 animal units or over.
Municipalities are now expected to set their own size limits on conditional use, and any existing conditional use bylaws had to be reviewed within a year of the, now passed, Bill 19 coming into effect. The province argued the changes would give municipalities greater control over hog barn development in their region.
The same bill did away with mandatory conditional use hearings or technical reviews for hog barn expansions, as long as the expansion increased capacity by 15 per cent or less.
Merv Starzyk, mayor of the RM of Yellowhead, says his council has not reviewed conditional use bylaws yet. The item appeared briefly during one council meeting, he said, although no decisions were made.
“We will review it — see how the new council as a group feels and we’ll deal with it as such,” the newly elected mayor said.
Starzyk jumped from a regular council seat to the head of the table after municipal elections this October.
Hog barn expansions and, by extension, the municipality’s conditional use policy, came into the limelight this fall after advocacy group Hog Watch raised concerns about a recently expanded hog operation.
The group is arguing that the hog barn should not have been approved without a conditional use hearing, exceeds the 300 animal unit threshold, and was approved prior to the changes to the Planning Act, when provincial rules on conditional use hearings were still in force.
Hog Watch was vocally critical of the Planning Act changes in early 2018. The group argued that removing conditional use hearings, along with new rules that would require 25 voters or half of those with neighbouring properties to object before a project needed additional approval proceedings, would curb local feedback.
“Bill 19 will silence the public,” the group argued in a published statement in April. “It will allow municipal leaders to get rid of conditional use hearings and provincial technical reviews for factory hog barns. If local politicians take this route, the province will have the only and final say on where hog factories can be built. The Government of Manitoba is and has been both a promoter and regulator of the hog industry.”
The Manitoba Pork Council expects most municipalities will stick with the 300 animal unit threshold.
“Just because they review it doesn’t mean they’ll change it; some may even lower it,” Michael Teillet saidfrom the Manitoba Pork Council. “However, we anticipate most RMs will follow the path of least resistance and keep the threshold at the currently required 300 (animal units).”
The Pork Council is preparing a series of public information sheets and pamphlets in light of recent policy changes around hog barns.
At the same time, Teillet said, they have been in contact with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, “to discuss any issues related to the sector.”
The AMM does not track how many RMs have already reviewed their bylaws since June.
“Although AMM doesn’t comment on individual applications regarding hog barn expansions, we are aware of the recent changes made to the review and approval process for large-scale livestock operations included in Bill 19. We have not heard of any concerns from our members about the issue and we are working with Manitoba Municipal Relations on communicating this information to our membership,” Denys Volkov, communications manager with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said.