Municipal Planning - Elite Agri Solutions

Municipal Planning

Jon Jon|Mar 27, 2023

Elite Agri Solutions strives to provide background information on topics which are hard to research. In cases where no reputable print resources were available for us to reference, we interviewed industry experts, so it is inevitable that the contents of this document will contain inaccuracies and bias. Use this as a resource to help you ask the right questions, not as a source of definitive answers. Elite Agri Solutions and its employee will not be responsible for the consequences of any decision made based on this guide. Where text or data has been copied directly, the sources have been noted, otherwise it can be assumed that all the information in this guide has only been curated by Elite Agri Solutions and is not our original property.

(Information in this document was gathered directly from the acts mentioned and their respective government websites)

Planning Act

The Planning Act is the overarching provincial legislation which regulates land use in Ontario. Each Municipality will have its own official plan and zoning bylaws which stipulate what is permitted in each land use area.

The ‘Farming and Food Production Protection Act’ sets standards for ‘normal farm practices’, which prevents municipalities from passing by-laws that are unreasonably restrictive on agriculture. Mapping and official plans of each municipality are available online and at the municipal office.

Though planning is done at the municipal level, provincial legislation shapes the local policies. The planning tool that will have the largest effect on livestock producers is the Nutrient Management Act and the resulting Minimum Distance Separation Formulas that must be abided by. The services of a Nutrient Management Planner will need to be employed for those falling under the nutrient management act.

For those in the ‘Golden Horseshoe Area’ additional planning tools have been implemented to control the intense urban sprawl experienced in the areas. These are,

  • Greenbelt Act
  • Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act
  • Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act

Greenbelt Act

Who it applies to:

Legislation applies to the green belt area, which includes both the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. Generally, the different layers of legislation complement each other, offering extra protection in important areas. Mapping is available online showing the applicable regions.

What is required:

The Greenbelt Act requires that municipalities mirror their policies to the Greenbelt Act and enforce the policies though their official plan and building permits.

What are the restrictions:

They are aesigned to protect agricultural land.

Agricultural areas are broken into three policy designations:

  • Specialty Crop Area
  • Prime Agricultural Area
  • Rural Area

Each of these areas has different regulations on what is allowable. For the most part, all normal farming practices should be acceptable. OMAFRA has a thorough publication called Guidelines on Permitted uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas that outlines what is permitted in these areas.

The other area where farmland is affected is when severing lots,

“Agricultural uses where the severed and retained lots are intended for agricultural uses and provided the minimum lot size is 40 acres within specialty crop area and 100 acres within prime agricultural areas;

Existing and new agriculture-related uses, provided that any new lot will be limited to the minimum size needed to accommodate the use, including a sewage and water system appropriate for such a use;

The severance of a residence surplus to a farming operation as a result of a farm consolidation , which residence was an existing use as of the date this Plan came into force, provided that the planning authority ensures that a residential dwelling is not permitted in perpetuity on the retained lot of farmland created by this severance.  Approaches to ensuring no new residential dwellings on the retained lot of farmland may be recommended by the Province, or municipal approaches that achieve the same objective should be considered; or

The surplus dwelling policy in 4.6.3 (c) also applies to rural areas as defined by municipal official plans. The severance should be limited to the minimum size needed to accommodate the dwelling, including existing and reserve areas for individual sewage and water services.”

Niagara Escarpment Plan

Who it applies to:

The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act applies to designated areas on the Niagara escarpment which can be found with interactive mapping found online at the ‘Niagara Escarpment Plan’ website. If you are in the designated area this legislation applies to you.

What is required:

A Niagara Escarpment Development Permit is required for any building or landscape alteration,like a municipal building permit. You  can apply for this online, or through the nearest Niagara Escarpment Commission Office.

What are the restrictions:

Generally, agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified uses are permitted.

Where it will affect farmers is if they try to sever land:

“New lots may be created for agricultural uses, provided both the severed and remnant lots are of sufficient size to remain useful for agricultural purposes, and such lots are not less than 16 hectares in a specialty crop area or 40 hectares in any other prime agricultural area. These new lots shall only be permitted in municipalities where the official plan has identified specialty crop areas and/or prime agricultural areas.

New lots may be created for agriculture-related uses, provided that any new lot is limited to the minimum size needed to accommodate the use. A lot created for an agriculture-related use shall not be used for residential purposes.”

Residences that are associated with a lot that have been rendered surplus due to farm consolidation may be severed provided the house is more than 10 years old, was not built as a temporary agricultural dwelling unit, and that the house is determined habitable.

Provisions are made that new agricultural development shall be “compatible” with the site and surrounding landscape.

Existing Agricultural buildings must be used where possible.

Oak Ridges Moraine

Who it applies to:

Legislation applies to designated areas in the Oak Ridges Moraine. Mapping is available online.

What is required:

The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act dictates that Municipalities must align their official planning with the requirements set out in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. In this way the municipalities standard building permit usually enforces the restrictions imposed under the act.

What are the restrictions:

This act is designed to protect farmland and natural areas, so for the most part it is beneficial to farmers using normal practices. Where it might become a concern is when trying to sever land.

“Where the owner and operator of a farming operation acquires land to consolidate into the farming operation, a lot on which is situated a habitable residential dwelling that existed before July 1, 2017 and that after the consolidation has become surplus to the consolidated farming operation may be severed from the lot of the consolidated farming operation but only if,

  1. The new lot will be limited to the minimum size that is needed to accommodate a residential use and the required sewage and water services, and
  2. No new residential dwelling will be constructed on a remnant parcel of farmland created by the severance.

Severance of two or more lots for agricultural use where the lot size of the severed and retained lots is at least 100 acres. “

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