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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Empty barn not enough to trigger MDS to prevent neighbours' severance

Landowners had applied to their municipality to sever a 0.84 acre parcel from their existing 30-acre lot.  County planning staff determined that the proposed severance complied with MDS requirements and that the County had no objection to the proposal.  However, a neighbour did object to the severance, suggesting that the new lot would breach MDS provisions because it would come too close to his 1860-era barn.  Although the barn was vacant, the neighbour was considering returning the barn to livestock use.  He asked that the proposed severed parcel be moved to a different location on the applicants' property.

The municipality went ahead and approved the severance, so the neighbour appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board ("OMB").  The only issue on the appeal was the application of MDS to the severance, and the OMB ruled that MDS did not apply.  Although the OMB took issue with some aspects of the municipality's methodology for considering required setbacks, the OMB concluded that the neighbour's barn did not correspond to the definition of a "livestock facility" within the governing Provincial documents.  MDS had no application in this case.

As the OMB noted:

The fundamental problem with this appeal, however, pertains to the barn itself, and whether it even constitutes a "livestock facility", as understood in the Provincial documents. The Board was not persuaded for the following reasons.
The Provincial documents are unequivocal: to qualify as a "livestock facility", it is not enough for a building to be "structurally sound"; it must also be "reasonably capable of housing livestock." The two criteria are not synonymous. Although the neighbour insisted that the structure would not actually fall over, he offered essentially no evidence it could meet any other expectations.
Indeed, the Board was not shown how the existing structure could be much more than a "shade shelter" (which is specifically excluded from consideration as a "livestock facility"). Although there was no "comprehensive building analysis", it did not take a comprehensive analysis to discern that the structure had no insulation, electricity, ventilation, stalls, hay storage, manure storage, or livestock equipment. It also had planks visibly missing from its siding in various places. None of the observations by the CBO were contradicted. The structure is a shell, and not even one that is impervious to the elements.
Whether or not the structure was considered appropriate for livestock by 1860 standards, the Province would not have published its detailed instructions for "determining when a barn is a livestock facility", if such a primitive structure could qualify. The Board is satisfied that if this structure were subjected to even the most elementary agricultural standards today, substantial remodeling would be essential.
That is where the neighbour encounters a second problem. The Guidelines specify that MDS II also applies to "remodeled livestock facilities.”
The CBO apparently concluded that no remodeling under MDS II would be feasible – not because the barn was too close to the proposed severed parcel, but rather because it was too close to Ms. [S]'s existing dwelling across the road. The Board heard no evidence to contradict that position.
Therefore, notwithstanding the eloquence of the [O] brothers and their expert, the Board was not shown how the barn could now trigger the MDS process – or that it ever could.
Read the decision at: O’Brien v Laronde.

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