PORT ROYAL - The future development of lands in the area of the oldest European settlement in Canada was the topic of discussion at the local community hall recently.
But residents of districts 4 and 5 in Annapolis County will have to wait until November to find out if Annapolis County will start the process of land use planning and zoning in that part of the municipality – and if so, where.
About 130 people packed into the Lower Granville Hall on Oct. 11 to toss the zoning idea around at a meeting hosted by the municipality.
“The process starts as a discussion,” said county CAO John Ferguson who moderated the evening, inviting everybody to have their say in the two-hour meeting. He was quick to point out that while council had to be there, it would do, or not do, what residents wanted. “Councillors still need to be at the meeting so that they get a sense of what’s coming from the community. All feelings you have, or don’t have about this issue are yours – and everybody has a fair and equal voice here tonight.”
Numerous councilors attended the meeting and listened while proponents and opponents of planning spoke up, with some farmers voicing concerns that zoning would shut them down or stifle their livelihoods in some way or other.
Resident Nancy Smith spoke in favour of zoning and said industry isn’t appropriate along Granville Road. She also suggested minimum lot sizes of two acres to void it from turning into what she called a ‘chicken coop’ area. Small businesses are very appropriate, she said, as well as agriculture.
And she suggested different zoning for the more rural part of the road as compared to Granville Ferry, which is a small village. “But I think it’s very important that the industrial uses be dealt with for the whole road at the same time,” Smith said. “If we’re going to deal with industrial uses we need a specific list of those uses and characteristics of what is an industrial use.”
“Please don’t zone up to the lighthouse and not the rest of it,” she said, in reference to the Granville Road Ratepayers Association’s wish to have a 15-kilometre stretch zoned.
She would be opposed to uses that used a lot of water and that produced a lot of effluent.
Alan Parish of Clarence, said if industrial uses are zoned out of one area they will set up in another area. He suggested an industrial zone for the county located where appropriate.
Carl DeNuke, a seventh generation farmer, listed all the numerous land uses in the area, including farming -- beef, dairy, grain, vineyards, sheep. He said farms change, develop, expand, and diverse.
“I’d like to see that continue,” he said. He has 10 grandchildren and he’d like them to stay in the area. He doesn’t think zoning would allow that. “I don’t care about property assessments. I care about my kids living here. If you want to block an industry ... farming is an industry. We can’t shut everything down. We’ve been here 400 years and I think it’s a pretty good place and I just want to stay here. At this time I would say planning is not a good idea. Maybe later on when people, we can all sit down, have the Granville Road Ratepayers Association disbanded, and people start thinking about the area...”
Most at the meeting agreed that traditional agriculture like that practiced by the DeNukes was fine, and even encouraged. And it was pointed out that current uses would be ‘grandfathered’ in to a land use plan as existing non-conforming uses.
One woman asked if it was true that without zoning somebody could put up and eight-storey building. Ferguson said it was true. Another felt that residents didn’t know enough about the subject and a meeting to inform them of land use planning and zoning would be appropriate.
The meeting was organized by the county after the Granville Road Ratepayers Association attempted to ask council to create a special zone to protect a stretch of road from the causeway at Granville Ferry to Port Royal. They were responding to the prospect of a fish farm locating in the area and possibly ruining that historic road. Without zoning, the fish farm could not be stopped.
The meeting included residents from the more urban area of Granville Ferry and residents of the rural area. But the urban attendance at the meeting outweighed the rural and some thought that weighted any council decision in the urban favour.
Hague Vaughan, a director on the ratepayers association, asked if the focus of land use planning could be narrowed down for just the area his group is concerned about, not the entire two districts. Ferguson said that was possible but was up to council.
Ferguson said if council did start the process of land use planning, an advisory committee of residents would be set up. That group would hold meetings and listen to the public and then make a recommendation to the planning advisory committee that would then start another public hearing process. PAC would then make a recommendation to council who then must also go through a public hearing process.
Warden Timothy Habinski said council’s committee of the whole would discuss the issue in November and it would go to council’s regular meeting the next week.
Resident David Tinker, who lives in an 1850s house, values not just the historic significance of the area, but the natural beauty.
“This is an area we chose to live in because it’s so special,” Tinker said. “And we hope that something can be put in place so the special nature of this road – and the externals that we value so much – can be preserved.”
A previous version of this story had Carl DeNuke's name wrong.