September 19, 2023

Agricultural Land Use Limits Discussion at Launch of Official Plan Update

The Southwest Middlesex Official Plan shapes the future of what can be built and where. It is the most important policy that affects everything, including housing, recreation and the local economy.

The launch of an official plan review at a public meeting on April 27 is an opportunity to change the direction that Southwest Middlesex has taken for the first time since the municipality’s original official plan was adopted in December 2007. According to the law, it is reviewed every five years, and was last consolidated in June 2019.

The timeline for this work with consultants Monteith Brown has the next special board meeting with recommendations for changes on June 20, a chance to make more changes after a public meeting on August 24, and adoption to be determined. Middlesex County must then approve any changes.

Municipal elections are scheduled for October 24. As of last week, only current councilors Mike Sholdice and Christa Cowell were nominated for deputy mayor.

Monteith Brown consultant Dan Smith said affordable housing will be considered for residential developments, as will additional housing on properties, growth projections and intensification targets.

These growth projections will take into account new census data which counted 5,893 South West Middlesex residents in 2021.

Agriculture is important to the region. Diversified uses will be considered, but will remain secondary to the primary agricultural land use, according to Smith. He said the province wants farmers to have more flexibility in how they use their land, with the size of those different uses generally being limited to around two acres.

“It is not the intention that full fledged industrial or commercial uses will be permitted under this,” Smith said.

Mayor Allan Mayhew referred to the practice of what he described as “vertical farming”.

“There is a reduction in population in rural areas, especially since large farms are in fashion today. There’s just a lack of life sometimes, and I think there are social consequences to that,” Mayhew said.

“We can see it in the population of our schools, in the children who travel on the buses. We can see it in organizations that resemble women’s institutes, rural places of worship. And another could even be that agricultural societies are challenged.

The mayor talked about finding a balance.

“We have to protect this agricultural industry, but we will come to a point where factory farming will replace rural living, and that worries me,” Mayhew said, adding that it was difficult to talk about it at the county level. Middlesex.

“I find that my opinion is certainly not shared by others,” he said.

Severance issues have been raised several times during this municipal term, and Smith said the criteria for severance of surplus farm housing and minor adjustments to lot boundaries will be reviewed.

Policies to combat climate change and protect natural areas should be considered. The Thompson Wetland is considered a provincially significant area, according to Smith.

The Krista Lane housing estate built in the 1970s before the current rules will be reviewed, especially the undeveloped lots.

Com. Amy Choi asked for details on additional accommodations.

Smith said municipalities have amended official plans to allow them primarily in settlement areas, either as a suite in a house or by constructing another building on the property. Mayor Mayhew described this topic of discussion as fluid at the county level.

Com. Martin Vink said he wanted the policy to look at an example he had heard of a local farming family wanting to set up a second home on their 150-acre farm property, with a daughter joining the operation.

Smith explained how things have tightened up around farmland separations since he started in that area.

“We had…farm-related allowances for a son or daughter who was actively involved in farming, you could create land to build on. You could create a building plot for a retiring farmer. You can create a building plot for an infill situation, or you can create a building plot for an oversized residential lot. With the exception of surplus farm separations, all of these other types of lots have basically been forfeited by the province for whatever reason, and I think that’s really dramatically reduced opportunities for the farming community,” Smith said.

He acknowledged that the province was trying to address examples of abuse like rolling over new batches created for retirement.

“So it ended up in the hands of someone who had no association with the farming community,” Smith explained.

He added that it will be a general policy review and will not delve too deeply into specific land use or boundary changes, saying there will be an appropriate time to do so later. . Any South West Middlesex plan must also follow the official county plan.

That being said, Smith said settlement areas for communities in the municipality will see policy discussion of “minor adjustments to area boundaries.” He described when the Southwest Middlesex Official Plan Review with the Middlesex County Official Plan Review was a good idea.