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Thursday, October 6, 2022
Letter: Grape growers’ rights should not trump neighbours’ rights

Dear editor:

We live on York Road, east of Concession 2, on the Escarpment bench. There are about 125 residential properties on the bench, between Queenston and St. Davids.

We have lived on our property for 40 years and contrary to the hateful messages coming our way on Facebook, have not just moved in from the GTA and are now complaining of the “banger” noise.

We helped my wife’s parents operate their tree fruit farm for many years, before they sold the property and retired. Today, that property has been planted in vineyards, and operates under the name of Baker Estate Vineyards. The Bakers are using two propane-fired cannons north of the north slope of the Escarpment, and one cannon in a vineyard they rent on Sheppard Crescent, very close to the Bruce Trail, and the south slope of the Escarpment.

The explosive noise being generated all day long since Aug. 18 and the negative impact it potentially can have on our hearing health, and our psychological and physical health, forms the basis for this letter.

It is interesting, that our town could have passed a noise control bylaw under provisions of the Municipal Act, Section 129, in 2001, but finally got around to it in October 2012. It would be interesting to know why it was delayed for so long.

The preamble of the town’s bylaw states that a municipality may prohibit and regulate with respect to public nuisances. It further states that people expect and have a right to an environment free from unusual, unnecessary, or excessive sound. It also says it is in the public interest to reduce the noise level in the town, so as to preserve, protect, and promote public health, safety, welfare, and the peace and quiet of the inhabitants of the town.

In the spirit of the intent of the document, we propose the following:

1. To provide fairness to all citizens, and to allow input from non-farming residents of Escarpment bench and rural areas, we suggest that the review of the municipal noise control bylaw be expanded to include a review of Schedule A, Permitted Sound. This schedule description should also be changed to Permitted Noise.

2.  With reference to Schedule A, I further suggest, that the use of sonic devices (propane-fired cannons and other devices, be removed from Schedule A, and an amendment be proposed and discussed, to ban the use of these devices in the entire greater town area. This could be done at the municipal level, regardless of the current sanction by the so-called Normal Farm Practices Protection Board, and provincial agriculture ministry, that views the use of these explosive devices as “normal farm practices.” What the board and the bown should really be focused on is are they “ethical farm practices?”

3.  If a restrictive amendment is passed with reference to the use of sonic devices, any grower wanting to use propane cannons, would have to apply to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board for a hearing to override the restrictive municipal bylaw. When this is done, the process is opened up to residents within 120 metres of the grower’s property, to participate in the hearing. Citizens could object to the request or support it at the hearing, but at the very least they would be given the opportunity to participate, something that doesn’t happen at the present time. Now, the explosive noise is simply imposed upon us.

4.  If the board determines that the practice restricted by the bylaw is a normal farm practice, for that location, in a site-specific manner it can overrule the bylaw.

Under the authority of the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, the board can rule that the bylaw does not apply to that practice at that location. The board, however, does not have the authority to strike down the bylaw. During this process, the board would have had an opportunity to hear both objections and/or support from the neighbours who will be affected by their decision to allow the grower to use sonic devices in that location.

In our view, no one, should be allowed to do anything on their property (regardless of what they are growing) that either violates the human rights and/or the property rights of their neighbours.

Why should the rights of a grower prevail over the rights of their neighbours?

Jim and Irene Fisher