A controversial zoning by-law application submitted by a Whitewater Region resident accused of allegedly operating an unlicensed puppy mill, was rejected by the township’s elected council citing excessive noise caused by the sound of barking dogs.
Although Tim Hubert’s application on Foresters Falls Road was rejected, a similar application for a change in the zoning criteria on Highway 17 submitted by his brother, James Hubert, was accepted.
The applications were the subject of a very contentious meeting held on Jan. 18 with the intent to garner public input into both proposals. That meeting was held in front of about 50 individuals, with the overwhelming majority opposed to the changes.
On more than three occasions during that meeting, Mayor Neil Richardson had to intervene and call for order to settle down some members of the gallery, including one of the applicants. He reminded them of decorum and procedures in order to hear comments related specifically to the actual zoning applications, and not the condition of the dogs.
Prior to that meeting, town council had received about 150 comments, as well as a petition with more than 100 signatures, opposing the zoning changes. Concerns raised referenced animal welfare and living conditions, inadequate municipal bylaws to regulate kennels, insufficient monitoring and accountability, risks to health and safety, impact on property values, and more.
At its Feb. 15 regular meeting, which drew less than 20 visitors to the gallery, Ivan Burton, Whitewater Region's chief administrative officer (CAO) presented a written report based on external research related to land use under provincial legislation and information received from the January meeting.
Among many concerns and allegations received from various presenters over the course of the January meeting, Burton said the Foresters Falls Road application was rejected because the proposed use would not be compatible with the surrounding residential uses.
Hubert’s amendment, if approved, would have approved a kennel at that location and reduced the minimum separation distance between the kennel and the main road. If successful, it would also reduce the distance between the kennels and other residences.
The property is zoned rural (RU) which permits a variety of residential and other uses including a farm, a farm produce sales outlet, forestry and others. However, a kennel is not specifically permitted.
Ivan said municipal staff were tasked with researching applicable uses of land as opposed to researching the state of cleanliness or care of the animals since it was a land use issue.
“The report cited two Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) specialists who stated “dogs can bark at an average sound level of 80 – 90 decibels (dB) at one metre from the dog, although some breeds can get up to 100 dB,” Ivan told council. “The impact of noise is dependent on distance.”
“What this means is the sound level can range from 44 dB to 64 dB, exceeding the provincial guideline for sound level limits which establishes that, in rural areas. It is our opinion that the noise level is not compatible with the surrounding residential uses and based on the above assessment, the proposed use of a kennel will alter the existing character of the area.”
He said in addition to the noise concerns, the zoning by-law provides specific provisions to restrict the location of kennels in close proximity to adjacent dwellings and the current operation on Foresters Falls Road will not comply with these requirements.
Coun. Connie Tabbert asked Burton if there are currently any dogs located on the property, and if so, what is the next step.
“I understand that there are dogs there, and that the operation will have to cease if council refuses this application,” Burton told her. “That would be communicated to him and he would be given sufficient to (to wind down the operation) given the nature of his business.”
The second application submitted by James Hubert for property located on Highway 17 near Cobden was approved.
“In this case, the proposed kennel will be able to comply with the minimum separations distance of 60 and 90 metres,” Burton read to council. “Applying the same calculation offered by OMAFRA, the sound level at the nearest dwelling located at 240 metres across Highway 17, would be only slightly above the daytime level of 45 dB. The proposed use of a kennel will not alter the existing character of the area.
As the two submissions were judged only on current applicable land designations, Coun. Tabbert’s motion directing staff to review the township’s existing animal control bylaw with a view to incorporating regulations specifically for kennels.
“Our township has a bylaw that has no teeth when it comes to the operation of kennels,” she said. “It doesn’t allow for anything more than a minor fine. I am asking Council to support a bylaw with more power so that unlicensed kennels can be abolished from within our boundaries.”
Mayor Nicholson said some of this had already been completed by the township’s bylaw enforcement contractor and those issues will be part of the report. He is hopeful the report comes back to council in April.