Farm organizations are concerned about the effects of municipal boundary adjustments on producers
By Jackie Clark
Some producers in Perth and Oxford counties of Ontario are concerned about farmland development and taxation as a result of boundary adjustments.
In both counties, plans are moving ahead to annex farmland from the Township of Perth South and the Township of South West Oxford to the City of Stratford and the Town of Ingersoll, respectively.
The Perth County Federation of Agriculture (PCFA) objected to the proposed annexation in the Township of Perth South, as well as the short notice given to the community. Tim Halliday, president of the local federation, detailed those objections and several questions about the plans in a letter. PCFA sent it in January to the City of Stratford, County of Perth, and municipalities of Perth South, Perth East, West Perth, and North Perth.
Officials “just had one public meeting,” Halliday told Farms.com. “We know that the municipalities had known about this for a number of months.”
Perth County officials gave notice in late December for the meeting, which occurred on Jan. 16. After the meeting, officials extended the public consultation period to Jan. 31 because of the high number of comments and questions. However, the councils of the City of Stratford, Perth County, and the Township of South Perth all voted to approve the boundary adjustment in the first week of February.
The decision now awaits approval from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Halliday said.
He was not satisfied with the discussion leading up to this decision, wanting more communication and transparency from the officials.
PCFA received “an extremely vague response to our concerns we put in writing. We’re very disappointed in the process,” he said. “Decisions (were) made behind closed doors without input from the community.”
On behalf of farmers in the area, the federation is concerned about industrial development and traffic flow.
The annexation “really changes the dynamic of that community,” Halliday said. “Some farmers will sell and neighbours are left to deal with the consequences.”
The municipal councils did not adequately respond to his questions about other land available for development, he added.
“It’s really tough in a county like Perth. We want the economy to grow and employment to be strong, but most of the land in Perth County is some of the best farmland you’ll find anywhere in Canada. There’s always that balancing act.”
In Oxford County, the South West Oxford Boundary Discussion Committee has met since 2016 to finalize the details of a boundary adjustment that would annex 1,550 acres of the Township of South West Oxford to the Town of Ingersoll.
In the current proposal, the Town of Ingersoll will phase these residential and farm properties into the town tax rate over ten years.
In the most recent meeting on June 9, members from the committee discussed a request from the Oxford Federation of Agriculture (OCFA). The local federation requested that the Town of Ingersoll continue to tax the affected farmland at the township rate until the current landowners sell the property.
The committee denied the OCFA’s request.
Fred Freeman was unsure if the Municipal Act allows for this grandfathering in, and thought it would be unfair to the rest of the taxpayers in Ingersoll, he said in the meeting. Freeman is the deputy mayor of Ingersoll and chair of the boundary discussion committee.
Ted Comiskey, mayor of Ingersoll, agreed.
“The funds that are required by taxation of properties within the boundary of the Town of Ingersoll go for the services that we provide. We need all those dollars to be able to do what the town has to do to supply the services,” he said in the meeting.
The South West Oxford council members were unsurprised by the Town of Ingersoll’s response, they said. They thought it was their responsibility to ask the question, however, and will have to consider the response in their decision on the proposal.
“I can understand their request. The farmland itself doesn’t get very much service, but it does get some service and will cost some money. I can appreciate Ingersoll’s position,” David Mayberry, the mayor of the Township of South West Oxford, said in the meeting.
The Town of Ingersoll and Township of South West Oxford municipal councils will vote on the proposal. Then, the upper-tier municipality, the County of Oxford, will need to also provide support before the proposal can go to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Farms.com has reached out to the OCFA for comment.
jimfeng\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo