BY TANYA NICOLLE MACCALLUM
If you’ve been following community news, you may have heard about the potential annexation of large parcels of land in Marshfield, to be appropriated by the City of Charlottetown. What you may not have heard, are the detrimental impacts that this development will have on rural residents, natural habitat and wildlife, agricultural land usage, and farmers’ livelihoods.
Landowner Scott Lewis, along with another (silent) party - who remains unnamed - wish to have their parcels of land - adjacent to, and behind Jewel’s Country Market – annexed, and subdivided for commercial business and residential land usage.
You may be thinking, what’s the big deal? But let me assure you, it's not so simple.
Municipalities like to draw clear boundaries across roads, and properties. Where will that leave residents on the opposite side of the road, to the proposed annex? The pressure will be tenfold for them to amalgamate, opening a door to a large-scale rural annexation. Once such a process starts, so does the loss of agricultural land; and, the destruction of natural habitats, and wildlife.
It’s going to cost rural residents a lot of money, and it’s going to affect farmers’ livelihoods. Marshfield is considered a “special planning area,” as it doesn’t have its own municipality; but, if land is annexed into Charlottetown, those areas will then operate under the municipality of Charlottetown’s bylaws - something that will have drastic impacts on farmers and their farming practices.
This includes being grandfathered as a farm into an urban area, but only with the allowance of what farming practices you're currently utilizing at the time of amalgamation. Farmers will need to report to the City's Planning Committee, for approval, to change farming practices, such as land use, crop rotation, the amount of land being cultivated, or expanding livestock numbers, even if only by a few. We haven't even touched on the astronomical increase in land taxes, or potential water usage consequences.
Alongside an increase in land taxes, there will be city fees for water and sewer - services that some residents won’t even have access to, because of where their properties are situated. Can you imagine paying thousands of dollars for something you're not receiving? Just ask the residents of Three Rivers, who've recently been amalgamated. Many are paying for services they will never receive. How is this not considered fraudulent?
The Provincial Planning Council - which has a mandate to protect agricultural land - has hierarchy over municipalities, such as Charlottetown. The council supervises “special planning areas” that are being annexed. They have authority to oversee, or null bylaws. Whether the council will actually offer protection to Marshfield residents, if an annexation does go through, remains unclear. Looking at the Three Rivers tragic amalgamation, we can see the council doesn't always go out of its way to advocate for residents of special planning areas. Often, the process has appeared to serve as more of a formality, rather than a support.
Peter Kelly, the CAO of the City of Charlottetown, facilitated a public meeting this past Tuesday. He presented a map to residents, which proposed the entire area of Lower Marshfield be annexed.
People from 65 households held an informal vote, concluding that the majority – over 95 per cent of people in attendance – voted no to the proposed annexation. Many voiced concerns about how forcing an amalgamation, or splitting Marshfield in two via annexation, is unfair to the farming community, and those who wish to live rural lifestyles. Despite residents’ protests, all were informed that there would likely be a third meeting.
Only four weeks earlier, Kelly had said, “We (the city) didn’t come looking for you (Marshfield). We were approached by two landowners to have their parcel of lands annexed. We are just curious as to what you think about such a development.”
And yet, only four weeks later, here we are.
- Tanya Nicolle MacCallum is an award-winning writer, based out of Marshfield. Visit www.marshfieldmaiden.com to follow her online country newspaper.