Admaston-Bromley land designation.
Annette Louis, at right, walks township council and members of the public through a presentation on land designations. At left, a property owner discusses his property.
Some agricultural lands in Admaston-Bromley may be changing from agriculture to rural designation.
The latest recommendations arising from a County of Renfrew Official Plan Five-Year Review dated February 2013 were considered by council Thursday night.
A public meeting on a revised Official Plan will he advertised and held at a later date, but a handful of property owners attended township council to hear a preliminary Power Point presentation on the recommendations.
Eleven different areas of the township are being considered for redesignation.
It was stressed that rezoning from agriculture to rural status in the Official Plan would have no impact whatsoever on a person’s ability to farm a specific parcel of land, not their eligibility for farm tax credits.
It would, however, allow greater flexibility for development of marginal agricultural land that could help support the municipality’s tax base.
Admaston-Bromley Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe gave a brief history of her personal experience with the Official Plan process.
The previous Admaston Township had an Official Plan while Bromley Township did not.
Briscoe said there were pieces and parts and large tracts of land that never quite fit and didn’t make sense. The latest review hopes to bring some logic to future development.
The mayor said it never made sense that one side of Highway 60, just outside Renfrew in Horton Township, was allowed to develop while, across the road, growth in Admaston was restricted.
“Right here where we are is rural residential; across the road is agricultural,” is another case she noted as inconsistent.
County of Renfrew planner Charles Cheesman and township staff did a road tour and had “indepth discussion” about 11 areas and he returned to Pembroke with notes to prepare the recommendations that were received Thursday night.
The final plan must be approved by County Council and the Province, but public meetings must first be held across the county.
Mayor Briscoe said the review and potential redesignations are important for a number of reasons.
“It has nothing to do with your ability to farm; anybody can farm wherever they want to farm,” she said.
Coun. Michael Donohue underscored the point, stressing that the farm property tax rate is independent of designation.
“A person with land zoned rural has more options available to them,” he said.
The point is, the township needs to secure as much land as it can for economic development in terms of residential growth.
Mayor Briscoe said Admaston-Bromley is never going to be a big commercial centre. Residential growth, however, is critical in building a strong municipal tax base.
“These are things that we’ve got to straighten out,” she said. “If we don’t try, we ain’t getting anywhere.”
The actual percentage being considered for change is small - just 4.4 per cent of the total amount of land designated agriculture in the township (19,044 hectares).
Clerk Louis walked Thursday’s gathering through a Power Point presentation of maps and policy statements
Among the areas proposed for change are lands south of the K&P Trail, at South McNaughton/Culhane Road area, and some heavily-treed areas.
The properties all along the Bonnechere River will remain agriculture.
At the end of the day, less than five per cent of current agriculture designation would be transferred to rural if council got everything it wished.
It was noted how much has changed over the years, from aerial photography for land review to agriculture itself.
Resident Kevin Dick spoke briefly about the potential advantage of rezoning some rough Bonnechere River waterfront property for such growth as seasonal cabins or cottages, or agri-tourism.
With so many people distanced from their farming heritage, he said projects such as a 4-H camp where young people could vacation and learn about agriculture could prove important.
“Agriculture has evolved a lot,” he added. “A lot of city people have been removed, by several generations, from the farm. Farmers have to take responsibility for re-educating them,” he said.
Dick said re-introducing people to that past could come in the form of everything from weddings in barns to offering farm experiences at harvest time.
“I think there might be some potential there,” he said.
Mayor Briscoe agreed the farm community must make an effort to reconnect with their urban neighbours.
“It’s not their job to learn. It’s our job to sell,” the mayor said.