- Published on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 16:09
- Hits: 358
Shirley Boxem, Chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) opened their Annual General Meeting on July 28 to a crowded hall in the Horning’s Mills Community Centre.
Ms. Boxem noted that the crowd was filled with “friends and supporters” and thanked them for being there. She introduced board members and once the minutes and agenda were adopted and financial statement reviewed the meeting adjourned to focus on the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review Draft.
This review only occurs every ten years, and Ms. Boxem stressed, “As we go through policy changes, public opinion does matter.”
She encouraged continued submissions from the community, announcing that 50 per cent of the responses to the review of the Aggregate Resources Act mentioned protection of farm land and water with specific reference to NDACT’s legacy movement “Food and Water First.”
- Published on Monday, 08 August 2016 15:44
- Hits: 366
Shirley Boxem, chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT), reminded the audience at NDACT’s annual general meeting (AGM) last Thursday, July 28, that the Province’s Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review only occurs once every 10 years and the last chance for public comment will be September 30th.
Speaking to a crowded hall in the Horning’s Mills Community Centre, Ms. Boxem said, “As we go through policy changes, public opinion does matter.”
She noted that 50 % of the responses to the recent review of the Aggregate Resources Act mentioned protection of farm land and water, with specific reference to NDACT’s legacy movement Food and Water First.
Keynote speaker Victor Doyle, from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, addressed the Draft and what changes it holds for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including expansion of protected lands and water under the Green Belt and the Niagara Escarpment Commission.
He advised residents that to control urban expansion, they must identify important water function areas when addressing the government.
Ms. Boxem said she believes “we are in the homestretch, and the mandate of NDACT will be fulfilled in the foreseeable future.”
However, the evening was not without concern regarding the proposed Land Use Planning legislation. In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Doyle confirmed that the legislation did not address or change anything about aggregate applications – that remained “status quo.”
Mulmur Councillor Janet Horner, Dufferin’s representative on the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) and Executive Director of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, expressed serious concern about the financial repercussions for Dufferin posed by an increase in protected NEC lands proposed in the Land Use Planning Review Draft.
She said “conservation land tax rebates” to taxpayers living in the Niagara Escarpment protection areas could grow to a $800,000 annual loss to Mulmur Township, making it very difficult for the municipality to fund necessary services for residents without significant land tax increases.
Ms. Horner also predicted financial consequences for areas of Melancthon and said the County of Dufferin could take a financial hit of $1000,000 in tax rebates should the expansion go through.
She said Mulmur already provides high protection for the escarpment and questioned the benefits of the expansion to the citizens.
Dufferin’s lower-tier municipalities needed to “take a close look at this (planned expansion of the Niagara Escarpment) and make sure that compensation is provided.”
Mr. Doyle responded that he was certain this concern would “get the attention of politicians.”
In terms of climate change, Mr. Doyle stressed, “What we do locally effects us globally. … Canada has already paved over one-third of its agricultural land and must start planning hundreds of years into the future.”
He praised NDACT saying, “Food and Water First has sent a resounding message across the province” and the community “should be very proud.”
Public submissions on the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review Draft are due no later than September 30th.
By Marni Walsh
Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Aug. 4, 2016
- Published on Monday, 08 August 2016 15:36
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Photo 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
- Published on Saturday, 30 May 2015 20:42
- Hits: 941
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
- Published on Saturday, 30 May 2015 01:17
- Hits: 994
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.”
By Marni Walsh
Published in the Shelburne Free Press May 28, 2015