In Ontario's rural and agricultural areas, the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement requires that new land uses, such as the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities, comply with the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) formulas. The MDS is used to determine a recommended separation distance between a livestock or permanent manure storage facility and another land use. The objective of the MDS is to prevent land use conflicts and minimize nuisance complaints from odour. The MDS is incorporated into municipal planning documents such as zoning by-laws and official plans.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is revising the MDS formulas to address the advice given to the government by the Agricultural Advisory Team, which was appointed by the ministry to seek input from farmers and technical experts on a variety of land use and planning issues to ensure that the province's greening and growing strategy addresses the concerns of the agriculture industry.
The following changes to the MDS formulas will be in place as of January 1, 2007:
- Clarified implementation guidelines to ensure greater consistency
- Changes to ensure livestock uses and non-farm development are treated equally
- Ministry reviews of MDS every five years
- Additional information to help Committees of Adjustment and municipalities assess requests for minor variances
- Stronger encouragement of municipalities to apply MDS to vacant lots that are adjacent to livestock and manure storage facilities
- Alignment with existing nutrient management tools (e.g. base MDS on Nutrient Units)
- Require MDS for manure storages, where no livestock are present on the property
- Require MDS for anaerobic digester systems located on farms.
Ten regional sessions to provide training and guidance for municipalities and other users of MDS will begin in October, 2006.
The existing MDS includes a computer software program to assist in determining appropriate separation distances. OMAFRA will make revised and improved software available to municipalities and other stakeholders at the time that the new MDS is implemented. OMAFRA is also developing educational materials that will accompany the final new MDS document.
As part of the work to update MDS formulas, OMAFRA held nine formal consultation and briefing sessions with stakeholders, including more than 35 agricultural organizations, commodity groups, municipal organizations, land-use planners, building officials and municipal politicians. In addition, the updated MDS formulas were posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry in December 2005 for public comment and review.