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Agricultural Severances and Uses
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Dr. Michelle Myszko, ND

Agricultural severances and additional uses on agricultural land raised some interesting issues at the Central Elgin Council meeting of March 17, 2014. While they may often seem straight forward and in keeping with similar uses in the proposed area, they can also be in direct conflict with the municipality's Official Plan and/or the Provincial Policy Statement.

Delegations

1. Proposed Severance - 10343 Yarmouth Centre Road: Steve Coad, 10343 Yarmouth Centre Road, will be in attendance to discuss surplus dwelling severance at 10343 Yarmouth Centre Road.

"Since the Planning Meeting that I attended on November 18th, 2013 when we were seeking council member's support and approval of a land severance, we have made an investment in another farm located in the Municipality of Central Elgin. We feel that since conditions have now changed, this should meet the requirements of a farm consolidation allowing us to move forward with a severance application as a surplus dwelling," Steve Coad argued. "We are once again seeking support and approval from council and the planning department so that we may be able to move forward with a land severance application."

Report CEP 20-14 Municipality of Central Elgin Official Plan - Agricultural Consent Policies of the Official Plan, prepared by Jim McCoomb and submitted to Council by Sally Martyn on behalf of the Official Plan Steering Committee, spoke directly to this issue.

Recent applications for the purposes of severing surplus farm dwellings have raised interest in the community with respect to agricultural severances. It has been brought to Council's attention that there exist examples of properties with farm dwellings surplus to the farm operation, but not necessarily as a result of a farm consolidation.

In the Coad case it was suggested by Council that staff review the Official Plan severance policies to see if a severance might be supportable for heritage preservation purposes. Staff confirmed that there was no provisions in the agricultural severance policies or otherwise in the Official Plan to support this.

... the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) has suggested that an option might be a site specific amendment to the Official Plan for an exception to the agricultural severance policies so that the house in question could be severed. ...

It is noted that the Agricultural Consent Policies as found in Subsection 4.1.4 of the Official Plan are based on, and consistent with, Provincial interest as articulated within Subsection 2.3.4 of the Provincial Policy Statement. They are also generally consistent with the policies for lot creation on lands in the Agricultural Area found in Subsection E1.2.3.4 of the County of Elgin Official Plan. These policies, as well as the Agricultural designation land use policies, serve to protect the primacy of agriculture as a predominant economic activity within Central Elgin. This is one of the stated goals of the Plan.

The Plan also recognizes that the policies contained within each Section are meant to be read together with, and be complimentary to, the other policies of the Plan. They are not intended to be applied in isolation of the balance of the policies. Policies are meant to guide consistent decision making, not prevent Council from making decisions that may otherwise be in the best public interest.

The suggestion from MMAH staff for an exception to the Agricultural Severance policies is an option that has always been open to Council. However, it is an option that should be used with a high degree of discretion and only when there are extenuating circumstances that warrant its consideration. Doing otherwise places Council at risk of being inconsistent in application of its severance policies, or being pressured into considering proposals it might not otherwise support because they are similar to scenarios supported through an exception.

The Official Plan Steering Committee therefore recommends that Council maintain its commitment to the severance policies of the Official Plan as approved and continue to apply them consistent with its previous decision making. Applicants who believe that they have a particular scenario that would warrant Council's consideration of an exception to those policies would be expected to make that case to Council as part of an application for an amendment for a site specific exception. A complete application in that regard would be expected to include the specific rationale and justification for the request, which should be founded largely in respect of the other policy areas of the Plan. This would ensure that proposals aren't brought forward for exceptions solely on the basis that they don't meet the Plan's severance policies and the applicants are looking for a way around them.

Subsection 2.3.4 of the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement received under the Correspondence section of the meeting says that lot creation in prime agricultural areas is discouraged and may only be permitted for: agricultural uses; agricultural-related uses; or a residence surplus to a farming operation as a result of farm consolidation, provided that the new lot will be limited to a minimum size needed to accommodate the use and appropriate sewage and water services; and the planning authority ensures that new residential dwellings are prohibited on any remnant parcel of farmland created by the severance.

Subsection 4.1 of Central Elgin's New Official Plan says that agriculture is the single most predominant land use in Central Elgin. Due to the importance of agriculture, the Municipality has developed Official Plan policies aimed at protecting its' agricultural attributes. To achieve this objective the majority of the Township has been placed in an Agricultural designation, and has as a stated goal "to discourage the fragmentation of land within prime agricultural areas". Subsection 4.1.4 (c) allows for the creation of a lot containing a residence surplus to a farm operation, defining a residence surplus to a farm operation dwelling as an existing farm residence that is rendered surplus as a result of a farm consolidation. Farm consolidation means the acquisition of additional farm parcels to be operated as one farm operation - and inherently implies the residence desired to be declared surplus and severed is originally on either the original farm parcel or on the new parcel acquired for farm consolidation purposes. As well, the farm parcel being consolidated shall be rezoned to prohibit any new residential dwelling unit.

Council stated they now have no objection to Coad's application for severance of the farm residence as surplus and will support his application should he submit one to Land Division. Mayor Walters noted that Coad's severance application may still not work and McCoomb noted it requires a consolidation of farm operations.

2. Proposed Change of Use - 44892 Talbot Line: Michelle Myszko, will be in attendance to discuss a proposed change of use at 44892 Talbot Line (Winery)
This application is requesting permission to change the zoning of 44892 Talbot Line R.R.#3, St. Thomas from Agricultural Commercial (Meadow Lane Winery operations which closed down in 2011) to allow a professional office space for a Naturopathic Medicine and Wellness Clinic (Trillium Health Clinic owned and operated by Dr. Michelle Myszko, ND, the daughter of the land owner), using the existing building. The north end of the property will remain in agricultural use, as will part of the manufacturing facility. The showroom building for the former winery and part of the manufacturing facility will be converted to offices, treatment and training rooms. Parking, access and egress to Hwy 3 will remain the same as they were for the winery. The effect is no change in the farm configuration, only a change in the non-agricultural use of those areas that were already not in agricultural use, and which would in no negative way impact on the continued agricultural use of the property.

Dr. Michelle Myszko presented an impressive business plan to council, noting the other non-agricultural-related uses of other properties in the area (by the St. Thomas Municipal Airport). Council explained that one was an agricultural-related use and one, being across the road, was in an industrial/commercial designated area of the Official Plan.

Subsection 4.1.1 of the Official Plan defines a farm operation as an agricultural operation that is engaged in the growing, producing or raising of livestock, the production of agricultural crops, including greenhouse crops, and includes the processing and sale, by the operator of the farm operation, of anything grown or produced. It also permits small scale agriculture‐related commercial or industrial uses which are directly related to the farm operation and are required in close proximity to the farm operation (e.g. grain drying operations); and agri‐tourism initiatives which are secondary to the principle agricultural use, such as bed & breakfasts or spas. Under the spa concept, McCoomb suggested Dr. Myszko's proposal might be made to conform to the Official Plan if she were also to live on the property.

Subsection 4.1.1 (e) says that proposals for new, or the expansion of existing non‐residential uses in the Agricultural areas will require an amendment to this Plan and will only be supported if the proponent can demonstrate to the Municipality and the approval authority that:
1. The land does not comprise a specialty crop area;
2. There is a demonstrated need for additional land to be designated for the use;
3. There are no reasonable alternative locations that avoid prime agricultural areas; and
4. There are no reasonable alternative locations in prime agricultural areas with lower priority agricultural lands.
This is consistent with Subsection 2.3.6 of the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement regarding non-agricultural uses in prime agricultural areas.

Council also informed her she would need to produce permission from the Ministry of Transportation that they will allow her enterprise access to and egress from Hwy 3 before Council would consider her application. Council would like to see this type of business located there and advised her to work with the Planning Department to see if the application can be made to conform with the Official Plan.

Correspondence (Action)

1. 2014 Earth Hour: Correspondence received from WWF Canada seeking participation in 2014 Earth Hour - Saturday, March 29, 2014. Council agreed that Central Elgin will encourage participation in this event.

Correspondence (for Council's Information)

  • Received collectively as information
  • 1. George Street Development: Correspondence received from Jeff Yurek, MPP, Elgin-Middlesex-London regarding Rowena Williams and her concerns respecting drainage issues and new development on George Street in Port Stanley.
  • 2. Craigholme Estates Limited - 34-T-01002: Correspondence received from Ontario Municipal Board advising of approval for draft plan 34-T-01002 is extended for 2 (two) years up to and inclusive of April 21, 2016. Craigholme appeal was successful
  • 3. Notice of Decision - County of Elgin Land Division Committee: Application E 94/13 - Pentecostal Assembles of Canada: Severance allowed.
  • 4. Joint and Several Liability: Correspondence received from Randy Pettapiece, MPP, Perth-Wellington thanking Council for support of his resolution respecting Joint and Several Liability.
  • 5. 2014 Provincial Policy Statement: Copy of 2014 Provincial Policy Statement: Leitch said he saw no significant changes, but the Planning Office will provide Council with a more comprehensive analysis of it.

Reports

CEP 11-14 Application for a Consent No. E5/14 - Gotzmeister Farms Limited - 6174 Pulley Road: Severance application for rural residential purposes. Council had no objections but will prohibit new residential development on the retained agricultural parcel.

CEP 17-14 Application to Amend the Village of Belmont By-law 91-21 - 8655720 Ontario Inc. 143 Borden Avenue: An application to re-zone the three lots as commercial-industrial.
The applicants are currently marketing the subject lands for sale and do not have any specific development plan or use proposed. There is no site plan or background studies prepared that supports any specific development scenario for the subject lands. The application therefore amounts to pre-zoning the land for a fairly broad range of uses with no assessment as to the potential impacts the uses may have on matters such as traffic, services and compatibility with nearby existing uses. Council viewed the application incomplete and directed staff to consult with the applicant.

CEP 18-14 Application for a Consent No. E10/14 - Walter Hayhoe, 6569 Sunset Road: A severance application to sever the house for rural residential and retain the parcel with the barn for continued agricultural purposes. Council had no objections to this severance application.

CEP 19-14 Application for a Consent No. E11/14 - A.F. Kosynski Farms Ltd. - Frank Hough, 43746 Dexter Line: A severance application to sever the house for rural residential and retain the parcel containing another house, 3 barns and a greenhouse for continued agricultural purposes. Council had no objections to this severance application.

CEP 21-14 Application to Amend the Municipality of Central Elgin Official Plan and the Township of Yarmouth By-law 1998: Peter North, 117 St. George Street
Since the December 16, 2013 public meeting the applicant's engineering consultant has provided updated drawings to confirm the limits of the building envelopes as per the recommendations of the geotechnical consultant. Basically, the report describes the engineering scenarios that would allow the building to proceed, with the recommendation of a holding zone restriction being placed on it to ensure all engineering recommendations are carried out. Council decided the changes were minor in nature and did not require another public meeting on the proposal, passing By-laws 1673 and 1674 a few minutes later.

By-laws
Taken and passed collectively
By-law 1673: Official Plan Amendment: 117 St. George Street
By-law 1674: Zoning By-law Amendment: 117 St. George Street
By-law 1701: Confirmatory By-law

New Business: Councillor McFarlan said he received a request for Central Elgin to enter a team in the YMCA's upcoming Fitness Challenge on April 5th, 2014.

The Open Session of this Council meeting started at 7:30 p.m. and was completed by 8:00 p.m.

Closed Session
CS1: Litigation or Potential Litigation (s.239(2)(e)): Estate of Joseph William Corner - severance (verbal report)
CS2: Personal Matters About an Identifiable Individual (s.239(2)(b)): (verbal report)


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