County Council making slow, gradual progress on surplus farmhouse severances

By Dan Rankin

Near the close of Perth South Council’s July 12 meeting, Deputy Mayor Jim Aitcheson gave his fellow councillors an update on the surplus farmhouse severance discussions that have been ongoing at County Council. Since the public gave a resounding ‘thumbs down’ to the criteria County Council proposed for allowing surplus farmhouse severances in April, altering or eliminating those criteria have regularly been coming up at County Council meetings.

While some County representatives, such as Perth East Mayor Bob McMillan, continue to speak against creating more permissive regulations, “we do have other councillors who seem to be more in line with our point of view,” Aitcheson said, regarding a meeting he attended on July 7.

Whereas previously, proposed policy stated that in order to be considered for severance, a surplus piece of property would need to be contiguous with a consolidated farm operation, that has now been eliminated from the discussion, Aitcheson said.

Several new developments he mentioned included that a new criteria included may be that the surplus farmhouse has to be “at least 10 years of age prior to application,” while another rule may limit applicants to Perth County residents. “In other words, if I lived in Huron County and had seven farms in Perth County, I couldn’t sever them off if my biggest operation was in Huron County,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not worried about the farm across 23 Highway… I’m more worried about the lawyer in downtown Toronto going around buying lots of farms. It should eliminate some speculation on his behalf.”

According to Aitcheson, he’s confident terms will be firmed up at the next County Council meeting, so that a public meeting can be planned, at which the new draft will be presented.

“I’m sure if it’s what I think it is, it won’t be an issue,” he said. “The planning department is gearing up for a lot of applications, if this can go through.”

Coun. Melinda Zurbrigg reminded him that they might see a large number of Perth County residents who are against the severances at that meeting.

“There’s a strong possibility,” he said. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

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