Joseph Morin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WINCHESTER – The North Dundas Council decided to defer a final decision on adopting a bylaw that would restrict property owners in the municipality to having to own 8 hectares or 20 acres of land before they could have livestock or small farming operations on it.

The former Mountain Township used 2 hectares or 5 acres as its rule for allowing residents to have livestock on their property. The Mountain Township bylaw stretches back to 1979 while Winchester Village’s bylaw about the same issue dates back to 1993.

The amendment to the bylaw was up for discussion at the April 13 meeting. The meeting, because of Covid was conducted using Zoom and was very accessible.

At one point there were 84 people watching and listening to the discussion as well as many who were able to express their concerns through Zoom about their feelings about the 5 to 20-acre switch. The council’s decision to Zoom the meeting was applauded by all participants.

Amalgamation of the two municipalities dates back to 1998 and there have been many differences in bylaws that have had to be harmonized.

Calvin Pol the director of planning building and enforcement made the presentation at the meeting. The change in bylaws was included in a bylaw housekeeping package that covered many issues.

Pol was the first to suggest that the amendment to the bylaw be put off until councilors were able to have a face-to-face public meeting with concerned residents and after all options had been considered.

He read letters to the council expressing concern about the bylaw change.

Councillors, after hearing from those watching the meeting also felt more research was necessary and excluding that particular amendment from the by-law was a reasonable approach to take.

Councillors had a great deal to say about the proposed bylaw changes.

Mayor Fraser said, “Further to Director Pol’s comments I am recommending that we have a second open house when in-person meetings are possible to fully discuss and consider this issue.”

He asked the council to consider all of the options.

“I would like to have ministry and county staff experts invited to the open house to be available to provide additional information,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Armstrong said, “It was always my intention to defer this and discuss this, and make recommendations such has been tabled now.”

Councillor Thompson agreed that the right course of action was a public meeting. “I think if we bring the proper bodies into it and have a meeting; we can discuss what the number should be.”

Councillor Annabel said, this was a learning experience for himself as well as the council and the public.

“It would be nice for them to see what we have to do to make things work and it would be nice for us to see what has to be done to make it work for them.”

Councillor Hoy said, “I am glad we are gong to defer it and look at it and hopefully get the proper numbers to make everything work.”

Most if not all of the opposition to the change came from residents who were anxious to see more information provided about options available. One option is to do nothing and allow the bylaw to have different rules for Winchester and Mountain. Another was to use nutrient units as the deciding factor as opposed to an actual number of acres. That could mean the amount of waste created by an animal would represent one allowable nutrient unit and the acreage allowed would be expressed as nutrient units. For example so many chickens would equal so many horses and whatever the total of nutrients produced would determine the size of the property needed to allow animals.

Even though the by-law would grandfather in residents who have animals but do not own 20 acres, residents watching the meeting felt that could affect future residents who could not afford to buy 20 acres.

Pol noted that currently the former Mountain Township does not have a separate designation for rural or agricultural land. It is designated as agricultural. Winchester has both designations.

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