Minimum Distance Separation for Building or Renovating a Farm Structure

Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Document Formulae and Guidelines for Livestock Facility and Anaerobic Digester Odour Setbacks

Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae

The Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae is a land use planning tool that determines a recommended separation distance between a livestock barn or manure storage and another land use.

Minimum Distance Separation II (MDS II) is the minimum separation distance required between new or expanding livestock facilities and/or manure storages and property boundaries, houses, recreational areas and other land uses.

The separation distances calculated by MDS II will vary according to a number of variables, including:

  • type and number of livestock
  • type of manure system
  • livestock management (i.e., tie stall barn vs. free stall barn)
  • expansion factor (any building permits issued for expansion in the previous 3 years)

Minimum setback distances will be calculated from:

  • nearest neighbour's dwelling
  • Type A land uses (lower density of human occupancy, habitation or activity)
  • Type B land uses (higher density of human occupancy, habitation or activity)
  • nearest lot line (side or rear)
  • nearest road allowance

If a proposed facility is to be expanded or the operation will have barns or manure storages added to it in the future, MDS II will apply to these additions or to new buildings. Consequently, locate new facilities where MDS II will not be a problem for future expansions to the operation.

MDS II distances need to be calculated early in the planning process to determine if a structure can be built in its proposed location.

What is the Role of the Municipality and the Applicant in Regards to Minimum Distance Separation (MDS)?

Generally, municipalities are responsible for ensuring that MDS setbacks are met when reviewing land use planning applications (e.g. lot creation applications) or building permits. If you are proposing to construct a new livestock facility or other building, or you are pursuing a land use planning application, such as an official plan amendment, zoning by-law amendment, or an application to create a new lot, you should contact your local municipality for questions regarding the implementation of the MDS Formulae in your area.

While municipalities are responsible for ensuring that the requirements of the MDS Formulae are met when reviewing land use planning applications or building permits, municipalities may implement this requirement in different ways. Some municipalities will ask an applicant to provide the information necessary for the municipality to complete the calculation of MDS. In other cases, a municipality may request that an applicant provide a calculated MDS setback for their review. In this instance, it may be advantageous for an applicant to engage the services of a land use planning consultant or a nutrient management consultant to undertake the MDS calculation.

MDS II is the municipality's responsibility to verify and enforce. If the actual setback distances are close to those calculated by MDS II, the building official may require verification of actual distances by a legal survey.

If your proposed project cannot meet the MDS II setback distances, applying to your local municipality for a minor variance may be an option. However, obtaining a minor variance can be time consuming, and fees may be required. In addition, there are no guarantees that a minor variance will be granted by the local Committee of Adjustment.

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