Huron East passes amendments to official plan
By Justin Prince
Note: This story was originally published in the Seaforth Huron Expositor.
Huron East municipal council has passed a large amendment to its official plan after more than a year of discussions and debates.
The changes will affect areas such as agriculture and development in urban settlements, as well as how properties can be divided for use in all wards. The updates were adopted by the municipality through Official Plan Amendment No. 8 during a public meeting at council May 17. Overall, 14 different areas had changes or revisions made in the plan. Council’s adoption of the updated plan is the second-last step needed to complete, what has been a 15-month process so far.
The revisions were made to the official plan to make it consistent with the policies of both the Ontario government and the county. Prior to the amendments, the strategic plan had not had “a good cover-to-cover update” since its creation in 2003 according to Huron County senior planner, Claire Dodds.
“The Planning Act directs municipalities every five years to look and see if (its policies) need to be updated or not,” said Dodds after the public meeting. “We decided that because of the changes to the provincial and county policies that we needed a pretty significant update.”
Dodds explained the most significant changes are being driven by the province by both the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement – which sets guidelines and requirements for the decisions made by communities across Ontario – and updates to its Planning Act. They were also made to keep up with the county’s official plan as well as the municipality’s land requirements for its 20-year arrangement.
One of the more significant changes to the plan includes the removal of the minimum distance required between a surplus house severed off of a farm property and a barn capable of holding livestock on a neigbouring lot. Dodds explained that before the change, one of the decision-making factors to approving the creation of a new lot was how close the house was to any barns as well as how big it was. It will still apply if a barn is on any retained land that is not going with the severed lot.
“Depending on the size of the livestock barn and the livestock type, those distances can often be quite large,” said Dodds. “Now on a going forward basis, when we permit surplus dwelling severances, we don’t have to run that calculation with that house being severed and the lot being created … that makes it easier to sever surplus dwellings from farms.”
The amendments also set new regulations for development within its hamlets. Some of those changes include setting new standards for developing subdivisions and condominiums, allowing homeowners to have a rental unit inside their house and removing a separation distance rule for group homes to correspond with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Huron East will also now have the option to split 150-acre farm lots into 50 and 100-acre properties community wide. As well, it will have the ability to recreate 75-acre lots on Canada Company Road in McKillop Ward.
“The blocks north and south on Canada Company Road in the ward are only one mile through as compared to most being 1 1/4 miles. This made it difficult to meet the 94-acre retained parcels of land requirement for Huron East’s policies for severances in the area,” said McKillop Ward Coun. Brenda Dalton, who noted the size of the lots are unique compared to other townships in an emailed response. “This change will go back to recognizing the original 75-acre parcels to comply with the severance policy.”
Another significant amendment made to the plan includes allowing a variety of new uses for agricultural land. The updates will allow for agriculture-industrial-commercial operations and other on-farm diversified uses. It also has added framework to allow secondary uses for wineries, such as allowing them to add a restaurant on-site. The amendment also adds recognition to agritourism – tourism generated by farms or ranches – as being a growing industry in the province.
“I think we’re well positioned to have growth in our on-farm diversified uses,” said Dodds to council. “There’s a lot of impressive innovation happening in our agricultural community. Having these policies where we can let some of these uses grow and develop on ourfarms I think is going to really position Huron East well economically in the future.”
Dodds said the adopted plan will be going to Huron County’s Committee of the Whole for review. The plan will then be voted on for approval by county council sometime in June.
Anyone interested in reading the full list of amendments can go tohttp://www.huroneast.com/index.php?sltb=plan.