BRISTOL – A public information session was held in the Bristol Council chamber, May 26, regarding a zoning change proposed for an agricultural property on Highway 148 that would allow the owner, Bert Sheppard, to legally conduct his small engine repair business. Sheppard’s business is currently at a standstill after he received two letters from the Quebec government informing him he could not run his business at that location as the zoning was for agricultural purposes only.
“Lots of people have the same problem,” said Sheppard, who didn’t have a lot of hope that the zoning change would be approved. “It’s illegal even to offer boat storage in a barn,” he added.
“This type of zoning change would be a step in the right direction,” said Bill Beveridge, chair of the Bristol Planning Committee. “Not everyone is interested in continuing to farm and we need ways to retain our population. Allowing different uses on small portions of land zoned for agriculture would encourage small businesses and also mean that services provided by those businesses are available locally,” he continued.
Beveridge made it clear that the zoning change would only apply to a little over an acre on the one property and commercial use would be limited to small engine repair.
Pierre Duchesne, MRC Pontiac Land Use Planner, said he was willing to help municipalities clear up inconsistencies between zoning and actual use on a case-by-case basis. “Unfortunately, the public notice published by Bristol referred to the whole of that agricultural zone (115) and the MRC would not support a large scale rezoning of agricultural land,” Duchesne explained. “However, if Bristol passes a bylaw regarding specific commercial use on a small portion of one property, that could be approved by the MRC. The wording must be very clear,” he added.
After Bristol council approves the bylaw for the zoning change, another notice must be published to give rate payers close to the property in question the opportunity to oppose the change through a referendum. If there is no opposition, the proposal can go through to the MRC’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, Land Use Committee and the Council of Mayors before being sent to the provincial Commission for the Protection of Agricultural Land (CPTAQ) for final consideration.