Valley farmland stays, Supreme Court rules
Annapolis Valley farmers are prohibited from turning some of their farm land into commercial property development, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Kings County council originally approved the development. However, that was overturned by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Affairs Minister John MacDonell.
In a decision, Justice Arthur Pickup said MacDonell was within his rights to stop the development.
The farmers, led by Greenwich farmer Peter Elderkin, had received a municipal land amendment rezoning 153 hectares of land in the Coldbrook - Wolfville corridor.
Elderkin and four other farmers applied in September 2009 to have some of their farmland re-zoned for residential and commercial use.
Elderkin argued the number of farmers willing to try to make a living off the valley’s fertile agricultural land is dwindling.
Service Nova Scotia and MacDonell refused to allow the rezoning in March 2011 on the grounds the need to remove the land from agricultural use had not been sufficiently demonstrated.
In making that decision, MacDonell was upholding a long-held Nova Scotia government policy that maintaining land in agriculture is in the provincial interest.
In response, the farmers asked for a judicial review of the Minister’s decision to reject the land amendments.
In addition to challenging the decision on its merits, the applicants claimed the decision-making process employed by the Minister did not accord with the duty of fairness.
Pickup ruled that MacDonell had the authority and acted reasonably in denying the land zoning change granted to the farmers.
"This was a minister’s discretionary decision being delivered to a municipal council as required by statute after meeting with municipal officials, and after the Director of Planning had advised the municipality of the issues arising during the staff review," Pickup wrote in his decision.