Task force says provincial aggregate policy needs clarity

 

NDACT 26d33   ContentPhoto by Alexandra Heck
Tom Eisenhauer, CEO and President of Bonnefield Financial gave a presentation on his company's progress rehabilitating the farms which would have been home to the Melancthon Mega Quarry.

The North Dufferin Agricultural Task force stopped the Mega Quarry nearly four years ago and the group hopes to ensure they never have to protest against an aggregate application again.

During NDACT’s annual general meeting on July 28, members and local residents spoke about their next steps in the ongoing aggregate battle, which include submitting public comments to the provincial government.

Presentations were made at the meeting by Janet Horner, Mulmur Councillor and Niagara Escarpment Commission representative; Victor Doyle, a planner with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing; and Tom Eisenhauer, chief executive officer of Bonnefield Financial Group.

Last spring, NDACT submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as well as the Ministry of Natural Resources, outlining the changes they would like to see in the provincial environmental protection plans.

This was in response to a Coordinated Land Use Planning Review to make changes to protected land in the Greenbelt, Golden Horseshoe, Oak Ridges Moraine, as well as the Niagara Escarpment.

“NDACT supports tighter protections for agricultural lands within all four provincial plans,” the group wrote in their submission to the provincial government.

They requested that “aggregate extraction should not be allowed on any Class 1 farmland within the provincial plans.”

They also suggested that where aggregate extraction is taking place, it should not go below the water table.

“The proposed Highland Mega Quarry would have plunged 200 feet below the water table, devastating a massive aquifer and impacting water for up to 1,000,000 people downstream,” they wrote.

Now, the government is accepting feedback from the public in response to the planning review.

NDACT hopes to rally support for greater protection of local farmland by encouraging residents to submit their comments.

Since the Stop the Quarry movement in 2012, municipalities in Dufferin have continuously faced applications for aggregate extraction.

Currently, residents in East Garafraxa are concerned about a proposed aggregate operation in their area, while a group called Protect Mono is protesting plans for a quarry in their region.

“This highlights to me the need for a set of guidelines,” said Shirley Boxem, chairperson of NDACT.

She wants to see a provincial policy that clearly states where you can and can’t take aggregate.

“One of the absolute crimes,” she said, “is that a small group of citizens have to get together and raise tens of thousands of dollars to battle what is usually, lets say often to be on the safe side, an inappropriate application. That is plain wrong,” she said.

By Alexandra  Heck
Published in the Orangeville Banner, Aug 4, 2016

Rezoning application in Melancthon raises concern

Farming investment firm Bonnefield Financial has applied for zoning by-law amendments on parcels of its land holdings in Melancthon Township. The land, previously owned by The Highland Companies, was the battleground for which residents fought long and hard to protect farmland and source water from aggregate extraction. It is not surprising that re-zoning applications by Bonnefield, that contain the clause “prohibiting any new dwelling on the retained lands,” are raising eye brows and concerns among residents still feeling the loss of thirty homesteads wiped out by The Highland Companies as they cleared the way for their mega mine proposal.

 

Melancthon Mayor Darren White told the Free Press, “There are three applications, but only one large one.” In layman’s terms, White says, “From my point of view, Bonnefield is asking to join a number of individual farms with building lots into one large parcel and remove the ability to put a house on the property.” White says he is not sure of their motivation, but notes that “farmland is taxed differently than the building parcel, so costs could be a factor by way of reducing the taxes.”


Questions in Melancthon Council Chambers at the May 21st public meeting, expressed concern for the loss of small family owned farms, potential growth, and community. As far as development concerns go, White says the Township has “no indication that Bonnefield is interested in anything other than industrial farming opportunities on that one contiguous parcel.”


Bonnefield, which holds tens of thousands of acres of farmland across Canada, acquired over 6000 acres of prime vegetable land in Melancthon in July 2013 under the motto “preserving farmland for farming.” Since then, the Mayor reports, “Bonnefield has sold some of the individual properties, as well as some of the residential lots they had acquired. They also have worked with local landowners on some other land deals that will benefit local farming.”


As a result of questions from Council and comments from the public, the company agreed to put their applications on hold, giving the Township time to look into options for retaining additional building lots. Bonnefield representatives stated that they understood the public concern and would work with the Township to be a good corporate neighbour.


Karren Wallace, whose family has farmed in Melancthon for decades, and was present at the meeting as an agent for her mother, Doris Wallace, said she “was really encouraged that Council and Bonnefield were on top of the issue before the meeting.” Wallace submitted concerns that included: affordable housing, fiscal sustainability, strengthening community, Township representation at County Council and growth allocation mandates for Melancthon in Dufferin County’s Official Plan.


North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce (NDACT) Chair, Shirley Boxem says the organization’s interest in the rezoning issue centers on rebuilding “the homes destroyed by Highland Companies in Melancthon.” NDACT is concerned the application would “deny construction of homes that had been there in the first place.” Boxem says she agrees with Wallace’s point that the “Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing works to promote a housing market that serves the full range of housing needs, protects tenants and encourages private sector building – therefore, permitting residential dwellings on the retained lands would support this initiative.”


Board Member Carl Cosack says: “NDACT has a very constructive relationship with both Tom Eisenhauer (President of the company) and Bonnefield….As always, we will do our due diligence, but I trust that a resolution will be found that we can support and will be beneficial to all involved, including to the Township of Melancthon. Minister McMeekin (Municipal Affairs and Housing) is acutely aware of the special housing requirements in Melancthon and we look forward to his support for rebuilding houses that were removed by The Highland Companies.”
After the public meeting with Bonnefield on May 21st, Wallace reported, “All parties were attempting to work toward a resolution that would be in the interest of both Bonnefield and the community.” She said, “More companies should look to Bonnefield as a corporation that is a model example of true public consultation and community involvement.”
“Other landowners in and outside the Township have done these types of re-zonings,” said Mayor Darren White, “so, in general terms, it’s not that uncommon in the age of large farming operations.” He made the point, “In the future, if Bonnefield sold all or some of the parcel it could be returned to smaller farms without much effort.” He said, “The fact that the company was willing to put things on hold, so we could gather some further information, does help to put my mind at ease a little.”

By Marni Walsh
Published in the Shelburne Free Press, May 28, 2015

Mobile signs spread the seeds of change

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The North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) harvests growing awareness by spreading the seeds of change with simple lawn signs. In recent years, the familiar red and white NDACT signs have sprung up from lawns across the country with a clear and vital message to put “Food and Water First.” This spring, the organization that stopped the mega quarry is taking that message on the road with mobile signs designed to attach to the back of fleet vehicles.


NDACT continues to stress the need for an ongoing, united front on the Food and Water First mandate to protect prime farmland and source water, and now roving signs will give that message even greater visibility. When STOP the MEGA QUARRY SIGNS began appearing throughout the province, citizens and politicians paid attention. Recently, Shirley Boxem, Vice Chair voiced concerns about “keeping this issue at the forefront, as the legislative rules have not changed and the very same mega quarry application could be applied for today.”


The organization reminds supporters that although “Melancthon fields may be secure, Ontario’s prime farmland and source water regions remain vulnerable” to development and corporate exploitation. The current Provincial Policy Statement still mandates the allowance of aggregate extraction on prime agricultural and source water lands putting food and water at risk. According to Stats Canada, between 2001 and 2011, nearly 29 per cent of the most productive farmland between Windsor and Quebec City, almost one million hectares, went out of food production.


Some of the roving signs are already out and moving across the province and country on fleet vehicles, including those of Lennox Farms and Peace Valley Ranch. Former NDACT Chair and owner of Peace Valley Ranch, Carl Cosack says, their trailer will travel all over southern and central Ontario. “The sign is a great way to share our message that class 1 farmland must be protected for future generations to decide if they indeed want to grow their own food or rely on other jurisdictions to feed them. We have the responsibility to afford them that choice. “
Cosack reports that NDACT’s board and the “Food & Water First” campaign hope that other companies, farmers, and their suppliers will carry the 22 by 27 inch signs on their trucks “to show decision makers that we have learned from the mega quarry application and need policy change. “The more signs we get travelling, the more the public will be engaged and support that all important policy change.”


“It is really a no brainer,” says Cosack, “you can hardly pick up a paper these days and not read about water shortages, and loss of soil and farmland. With an ever increasing population globally, as well as right here in Ontario, the job creating economy of agriculture and food is fundamental to our life and prosperity. It is simply rooted in the availability of soil, and we, here in Ontario, are the envy of all of North America for our soil and water riches. It takes nothing to destroy it, and only a little foresight to protect it.”


If you would like to show your support by applying one of NDACT’s roving billboards to a fleet vehicle, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details and tweet a photo if you see a roving @FoodWaterFirst at #FoodAndWaterFirst. Food & Water First Lawn signs are free and available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can drive by 429 First Avenue East, in Shelburne and grab a sign off the lawn, with no appointment necessary.

By Marni Walsh
Published in the Shelburne Free Press May 28, 2015

Water worries prompt Official Plan appeal in Melancthon

Melancthon Township is appealing changes to its Official Plan, after the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing removed items intended as water protection safeguards.

In late March, the municipality learned of numerous changes made to its Official Plan by the ministry and has since filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

While many sections of the town’s plan were tweaked, the area tackling aggregate resource policies returned to Melancthon with numerous alterations.

“We knew going in we were going to have a bit of a fight for some of this stuff,” said Melancthon Mayor Darren White. “Every time we made suggestions our planner told us that wasn’t going to fly. The Provincial Policy Statement basically says aggregate is king.”

Read more...

There's a downside to feeling special

There is a co-ordinated land review process going on right now with four key land use plans that are simultaneously being reviewed: the Greenbelt, Oak Ridged Moraine Conservation Plan, Greater Horseshoe Growth Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan.

The future of land use in Ontario hinges on the recommendations of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) which will be guided - or at least impacted by feedback from the public. Therein lays the key to how much political will is put behind drafting good land use policy: does it matter to people / voters / consumers?

Read more.

By Shirley Boxem
Published in the Orangeville Banner, April 16, 2015