Area livestock operators say they fear being squeezed out by a proposed residential development their municipality has approved based on false information and in contravention of local bylaws.
Residents opposed to the project say the developer behind a proposed 96-acre housing development east of Carberry failed to disclose in his rezoning application that there are livestock operations nearby. The land is close to three long-standing livestock feedlots.
“On the subdivision application, Section 5-D asks if there are any of the following within 1.6 kilometres or one mile of the proposed lots — livestock feedlots or waste disposal grounds. The developer neglected to check off livestock operations and waste disposal ground active or inactive,” said local resident, Judy Harder during the bylaw’s second reading, held in Carberry on May 11.
Along with an inactive waste site that has been at the same location for the past 30 years, the proposed subdivision is within a half-mile of a 250-plus-head cattle operation owned by Aaron Holliday, 1.5 miles west of Graham Farms’ 100-head-plus feedlot and within two miles of Peter and Donna Pingert’s 1,500-head feedlot operation.
Yet the RM of North Cypress-Langford and the Cypress District Planning Board are on the verge of amending a zoning bylaw that would see the land east of Carberry, rezoned from Agricultural General Rural District to Rural Residential for the development of 16, five- to six-acre lots.
Even though final approval has not yet been granted, development and sale of the lots has already started, leaving residents to further question the process.
“I am currently running 250-plus-head of cattle and if the development is approved, I won’t be able to expand,” said Holliday, who farms half a mile from the proposed subdivision. “This is a well-designed facility that is capable of handling many more cattle than I am running now. If this subdivision happens, my options will be restricted.”
He was among local residents who have attended public hearings to oppose the development.
Stuart Olmstead, chairman of the Cypress Planning District and Carberry mayor, downplayed the concerns. “Some people get a little caught up on the fact that this may cause a stress on farming in the area. I think that people need to be a little calmer about that. It is just a change to the area that people might not be used to,” Olmstead said.
“We work under the development plan itself so if someone didn’t catch the application error when it happened, I have no real answer for that besides, who knows? A clerical error?” said Olmstead. “If it was unchecked, I don’t believe there was any malicious intent there. This is a simple rezoning change — but some people are just bound and determined not to have new neighbours.”
Property owners and subdivision applicants, Dave and Donna Loewen say they believed the livestock operations were located an acceptable distance away from the property and that it was unnecessary to check the appropriate box.
“Now we find out that we are just on the border of being over that. And that was a surprise to me,” Dave said.
“But, these borders and boundaries are so close to the proper distance, only a few feet away, we don’t believe that this will interfere with the cattle operations at all,” he said.
Harder’s presentation to the May 11 hearing noted the subdivision proposal was submitted to Cypress Planning in February of 2012.
“Upon receipt, it is the development officer’s job to notify the proper government agencies of any conflicting issues,” said Harder. “The planning board failed to notify Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) about these livestock operations.”
A letter between MAFRD and the planning board, dated August 2012, states that MAFRD land use specialists would have no issue with this proposed subdivision as the land was of poor quality for cultivation and cropping — provided there are no livestock operations located within the higher mutual separation distances required for designated rural residential areas.
“No one was given a chance to read this letter other than the planning board members,” said Harold Tolton, councillor with the RM of North Cypress-Langford. “I have come to the conclusion that the planning board has taken upon itself to act as a facilitator for this development, not a governor.”
While local governments are responsible for creating, administering and enforcing their land use policies, MAFRD participates in local land use planning across the province with the goal of protecting agricultural operations from encroachment by incompatible land uses.
“I was under the impression that MAFRD was here to help producers with issues like this, but in my opinion, it has done very little in the way of helping us to secure our operations,” said Holliday.
Sheri Grift, land use specialist with MAFRD said the department’s role is to make local governments aware of potential issues. Grift said the development plan was passed on to her for review from the Community and Regional Planning Department.
“We generally do not do site visits for these kinds of issues. We look at an aerial photo of the area and determine if there is anything of concern,” said Grift.
“I continued to ask council how it was able to pass this through provincial planning and the answer I kept getting was that MAFRD approved it,” said Tolton. “But when speaking with Grift, it turns out it didn’t. All that she had done was look at a map in Winnipeg and said that the land was not suitable for cultivation and had asked if there were any livestock operations in the area that needed to be looked at. The planning district never responded, but rather pushed forward using the aforementioned letter as a form of approval.”
Opposing residents want the planning district to send the development proposal to the provincial planning department for review.
“It is our firm belief that if the application had been truthful and MAFRD had been made aware of the livestock operations at the designation stage, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Harder.
Violating buffer zones
“It is concerning that our municipal government is in fact developing this area that would contradict the RM’s own bylaw by impeding on the buffer zone requirements. It makes no sense to have a buffer zone bylaw and then to approve and build a subdivision within those same boundaries,” said Harder.
Mutual separation distances between livestock operations and residential or recreational uses are established through a municipal zoning bylaw. Minimum requirements are set out by the Provincial Land Use Policy Regulation but can be adjusted by local authorities.
“The Cypress area’s mutual separation distance is actually 25 per cent higher than the provincial standard, which is something that was decided on by the local government a number of years ago,” said Grift.
Derek Alders, who owns 28 acres on the edge of the proposed redesignation area, also presented his objections at the recent hearing, noting that if the development is to proceed, a number of surrounding residents will be seeking legal counsel and will be forwarding their concerns to the attorney general.
“These farmers have lives, they have families and businesses of their own to run. Most do not have the time, nor should they have to, attend meetings and object to subdivision proposals when laws are already put in place to protect these interests for them,“ said Alders.
Moving forward despite opposition
Dave Loewen told the May 11 hearing he was unaware of the opposition the development would receive. But he continues to push forward as he has seen interest from contractors.
“I still think it is a very positive and a good thing for our municipality. I think that there is a need for small acreages,” said Loewen. “This is one of those things that you look at and for us it weighs out in favour of the subdivision as opposed to growing and expanding cattle operations in the area.”
Following the second reading of the rezoning bylaw, the planning district board will make its decision by mid-June.
Cattle producers say they need assurances their future ability to operate and expand won’t be compromised.
“I am hoping to gather reassurance that it will not impact my operation and livelihood but it is not proving to be an easy task,” said Holliday.
“Once this area becomes developed and people are living on these properties, who’s to say the residents won’t seek a ‘no-fly zone’ that would affect area farmers’ spraying options? Maybe once this impacts the potato growers in the region, this community will care but by then it will be too late.”