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An Introduction to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014: Rural Ontario

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August 2016
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A cluster of photos including scenes of rural Ontario, farmland, a downtown mainstreet, a lake-front cottage, a wetland, and a house on rural lands.


The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has prepared this document, including the scenarios set out in the appendix, to assist participants in the land use planning process to understand the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  As this document deals in summarized fashion with complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter.  This document should not be construed as legal advice and the user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this document.  Although this document has been carefully prepared, the Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this document or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

Note on Terminology
Where possible within this document, the term “Indigenous” is used in the place of “Aboriginal” to convey ideas/concepts that are inclusive of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, non-status, and urban Aboriginal people, organizations and/or communities.  This does not affect proper names of initiatives or legal concepts (e.g., section 35 Aboriginal rights and rights holders).


Table of Contents

Purpose
Context
The Provincial Policy Statement
Applying the Provincial Policy Statement
What does "shall be consistent with" mean?
Policies that Guide Land Use Planning under the Planning Act

Rural (Policies 1.1.4 and 1.1.5)
Rural Settlement Areas (Policies 1.1.3 and 1.1.4)
Infrastructure: Sewage and Water (Policy 1.6.6)
Climate Change (Policies 1.8, 1.6 and 3.1)
Agriculture (Policy 2.3)
Cultural Heritage and Archaeology (Policy 2.6)
Natural Heritage (Policy 2.1)
Water (Policies 2.2 and 4.13)
Minerals and Petroleum, and Mineral Aggregate Resources (Policies 2.4 and 2.5)
Natural Hazards (Policy 3.1)
Provincial Plans (Policy 4.12)

For More Information

Appendix

Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 - Practical Scenarios

Scenario 1: Permitted Uses in Rural Areas
Scenario 2: Land Needs in Rural Areas
Scenario 3: Limited Residential Development on Rural Lands
Scenario 4: Cottage Development
Scenario 5: Second Units
Scenario 6: Lot Creation
Scenario 7: Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas
Scenario 8: Permitted Uses in Prime Agricultural Areas - Cider Production Facility
Scenario 9: Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae
Scenario 10: Permitted Uses in Prime Agricultural Areas - Pork Production Facility
Scenario 11: Wetland
Scenario 12: Coastal Wetland
Scenario 13: Floodplain
Scenario 14: Wildland Fire

Purpose

This guide is intended to assist readers in understanding some of the policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 that affect planning in rural Ontario, in particular those policies added or revised since the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005. It is also designed to address some misconceptions about the Provincial Policy Statement and its policies.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 applies broadly to all of Ontario and this guide may be helpful when read together with the policies.  Some policies and definitions of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 are referenced in this guide to help the user better understand the application of the policies.

This guide is designed primarily to assist those communities outside of the Greater Golden Horseshoe area, where the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is the primary provincial land use planning document.  Communities located within the Greater Golden Horseshoe area may find this document helpful, but also need to fulfil requirements of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006 and any other relevant provincial plans.

Context

In order to accommodate the realities of rural Ontario, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new rural policies and promotes flexibility in recognizing the differences in rural Ontario’s communities.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides definitions for rural areas and the elements within those areas to assist and clarify policies for the purposes of land use planning.  These definitions are explained later in this document.
The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 has been revised to better reflect, among other things, the needs and unique circumstances of rural Ontario, in both southern and Northern Ontario.  This guide will provide an understanding of the changes in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 affecting rural Ontario and how the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides some flexibility for land use planning.

About 20 per cent of Ontario’s population lives in rural Ontario.  Rural communities are unique and diverse; no two rural communities are the same.  They can be small centres, perhaps next to major cities, or towns and villages, or they can be traditional countryside with small concentrations of people.  Rural communities may face very different planning issues.  Some rural communities located close to large urban centres may be challenged to manage population growth and development pressure, while others may be faced with slow or no growth and even out-migration.
Some general characteristics can be used to describe rural Ontario that identify these areas as different from urban, including: economy, geography, population density, culture and society.

The economic characteristics may be different in rural communities — there may be less economic diversity and higher reliance on one type of industry or business in some rural areas.  As an example, some of Ontario’s rural communities are focused around agriculture, while others may be focused around recreational and tourism-related opportunities or other industries.  Rural communities can also be known as places of innovation and adaptation involving, for example, home-based occupations or cottage-related businesses or industries.  Planning authorities should build on the rural character of their area and look for opportunities to develop the economic base.

Geography is a key consideration in rural planning.  Some rural areas may be close to urban centres, but some may be more remote with longer travel distances to work and services.  This variation is reflected in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  It recognizes that different policies will be applicable to varying geographies in Ontario.

Rural communities typically have less dense populations spread over a large area.  There is likely to be limited, if any, public transportation, and the availability of municipal sewer and water services can be limited or non-existent.  Promoting the efficient use of infrastructure is good planning and a key consideration for directing growth and development to existing rural settlement areas.

Rural areas may offer some lifestyle advantages, such as access or proximity to cultural heritage and/or natural areas, lack of gridlock, and more open spaces.  These advantages often can be used to attract people to live, visit, work and play in rural Ontario.

Owing to the diverse nature of rural communities in Ontario (based on their population levels, natural features and areas, geographies and physical attributes, and economies), Ontarians have many different names they may use to describe their rural communities based on local characteristics.  For example, terms such as farmland, countryside, cottage country, camp or highlands are commonly used interchangeably to describe diverse rural communities.  Regardless of how we refer to rural areas, the fundamental principles of good land use planning set out in the Provincial Policy Statement remain important for all communities across Ontario.

In order to accommodate the realities of rural Ontario, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new rural policies and promotes flexibility in recognizing the differences in rural Ontario’s communities.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides definitions for rural areas and the elements within those areas to assist and clarify policies for the purposes of land use planning.  These definitions are explained later in this document.

A picture showing a downtown streetscape in a small, rural community. A picture showing a long country road.

The Provincial Policy Statement

Cover of Provincial Policy Statement, 2014The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 sets the policy foundation that leads Ontario’s land use planning system.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides for appropriate development while protecting resources of provincial interest, public health and safety, and the quality of the natural environment.  It recognizes the complex interrelationships between strong communities, a clean and healthy environment and a strong economy, and provides policy direction to achieve an appropriate balance between these interests.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is based on sound planning principles and applies to all of Ontario.  It supports an effective and efficient land use planning system in the province.  While some communities are growing rapidly and are challenged to properly manage that growth and accompanying demands, others face different challenges, such as diversifying their economies or maintaining their population.  While the challenges may differ, the principles of strong communities, a clean and healthy environment, and a strong economy are important to all communities throughout Ontario.

The policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 were designed to respect the differences that exist across the province.  Municipalities play a key role in implementing them through their official plans and zoning by-laws and their decisions on development applications.  Local conditions must be taken into account when applying the policies and when developing official plan policies.  For example, policies encouraging public transit may not be applicable in areas where the current and projected populations are not expected to support public transit service. 

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also recognizes the importance of consulting with Indigenous communities on planning matters that may affect their rights and interests.  Specific policies under “Coordination” (policy 1.2.2) encourage planning authorities to coordinate planning matters with Indigenous communities.  Policy 4.3 acknowledges that the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is to be implemented in a manner consistent with the recognition and affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is designed to be implemented in a local planning context, for instance:

  • The focus on desired outcomes – The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that local circumstances vary. It anticipates there will be different approaches for applying the policies and achieving the desired outcomes.  The policies primarily focus on desired outcomes and may not always prescribe the process that must be followed.  This provides planning authorities with the flexibility to apply the policies in a way that addresses the needs of their particular community.
  • The language of the specific policies – Some policies simply encourage an objective through  enabling or supportive language, such as “should,” “promote” and “encourage”. For example, “recreational, tourism and other economic opportunities should be promoted” in rural lands.  Other policies are more directive, and set out positive directions such as “settlement areas shall be the focus of growth” or limitations and prohibitions, such as “development and site alteration shall not be permitted.”  The choice of language is intended to distinguish between the types of policies and the nature of implementation.  There is some discretion when applying a policy with enabling or supportive language in contrast to a policy with a directive, limitation or prohibition.
  • The geographic scale of the policies – The policies contain a range of geographic scales. Not all policies may be applicable to every site, feature or area.  Some of the policies refer to specific areas or features, such as a provincially significant wetland, or the area around an airport.  These policies are only applicable where these areas or features exist.  Some policies refer to planning objectives that need to be considered in the context of a systems-based approach (e.g., watersheds or natural heritage systems). Other policies refer to planning objectives that would apply to the municipality as a whole (e.g., range and mix of housing types and densities), or a specific area within the municipality, rather than in the context of a specific site or specific development proposal.
  • The minimum standards provided by the policies – The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is not intended to prevent planning authorities from going beyond the minimum standards established in the policies.  Planning authorities are encouraged to build upon these minimum standards to address matters that are important to their community when developing official plan policies and when making decisions on planning matters, unless doing so would conflict with any other policy of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides an implementation framework that recognizes the diversity of communities across Ontario.

What does "shall be consistent with" mean?

Section 3 of the Planning Act requires that all decisions and advice affecting land use planning matters “shall be consistent with” the Provincial Policy Statement.  The “shall be consistent with” standard is not defined in the Planning Act or in the Provincial Policy Statement.  Normally, words that are not defined in legislation are given their common or ordinary meaning.  This is a general principle that applies to all legislation, policies and regulations.

Dictionary meanings are useful for the purpose of establishing the meaning of a term.  Some dictionary definitions of the term “consistent” include:

  • marked by agreement and concord;
  • coexisting and showing no noteworthy opposing, conflicting or contradictory qualities or trends;
  • compatible or in harmony with;
  • not contradictory; and
  • constant to the same principles as.

The “shall be consistent with” standard is a strong implementation standard that focuses on achieving policy outcomes. At the same time, it retains some flexibility to apply the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 in practical and innovative ways to a variety of local circumstances.

Policies that Guide Land Use Planning under the Planning Act

1.0 Building Strong Healthy Communities

  • Managing and Directing Land Use
    • Settlement Areas
    • Rural Areas in Municipalities
    • Rural Lands in Municipalities
    • Territory Without Municipal Organization
  • Coordination
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Public Spaces, Recreation, Parks, Trails and Open Space
  • Infrastructure and Public Service Facilities
  • Long‐Term Economic Prosperity
  • Energy Conservation, Air Quality and Climate Change

2.0 Wise Use and Management of Resources

  • Natural Heritage
  • Water
  • Agriculture
  • Minerals and Petroleum
  • Mineral Aggregate Resources
  • Cultural Heritage and Archaeology

3.0 Protecting Public Health and Safety

  • Natural Hazards
  • Human-Made Hazards

4.0 Implementation and Interpretation

  • Implementation and Interpretation

The following pages provide an outline of the concepts, rationale and principles of some of the key policy directions in each of these sections to assist in understanding the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 as it relates to rural Ontario.

Italicized terms in policies have their specific meanings set out in the Definitions section (Section 6.0).

Rural (Policies 1.1.4 and 1.1.5)

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes revised policies that further recognize and support rural Ontario, including but not limited to:

  • a new policy section to support healthy, integrated and viable rural areas (policy 1.1.4);
  • recognition of the diversity of rural Ontario’s communities and their importance to the provincial economy and overall quality of life (policy 1.1.4);
  • enhanced policies that clarify the types of uses that may occur on rural lands (policy 1.1.5); and
  • expanded support and economic opportunities for agricultural uses in rural areas (policy 1.1.5.8).
Picture of a canoe resting on the shoreline of a lake. Picture of a large barn. Picture of a bulldozer driving at an aggregate extraction site. Picture of trees and their reflection in the water along a riverbank.

The Difference between Rural Areas and Rural Lands

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 uses two different concepts to capture what is rural from a land use planning perspective.  Both of these terms are defined in the definitions section:

  1. The rural areas definition is broad and describes an integrated system of the various land use elements, outside of larger settlement areas, that form our rural areas.  These include rural settlement areas, rural lands, prime agricultural areas, natural heritage features and areas, and resource areas.  This inclusive definition fits with what many people understand to be rural Ontario.
  2. The rural lands definition is focused on the lands outside prime agricultural areas and settlement areas.  It is a subset of the “rural areas” described above.

These concepts and their interrelated nature are illustrated in Figure 1:

  • rural areas include all land outside of urban settlement areas (everything outside of areas shown in white);
  • rural lands are areas found outside of rural settlement areas and prime agricultural areas (shown in beige); and
  • natural heritage features and resource areas work like an overlay and can be found on rural lands, in settlement areas or prime agricultural areas.

Figure 1 – Rural Areas

A diagram illustrating the concepts of rural areas and rural lands as defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

The example provided in Figure 1 is similar to how a rural area might look in a community with lands in proximity to the Canadian Shield.  However, rural areas will look different from one part of the province to the next, with variations in the amount of each type of land.  For example, southwestern Ontario has a greater distribution of prime agricultural areas, while Northern Ontario has a lesser amount.

Policy Highlights for Rural Areas (policy 1.1.4)

The policies for rural areas identify overarching strategic actions that should be undertaken to support healthy, integrated and viable rural areas.  For example, planning authorities should:

  • build upon rural character;
  • leverage rural amenities and assets;
  • protect natural features and areas;
  • promote diversification of the economic base; and
  • provide opportunities for sustainable and diversified tourism. 

In rural areas, rural settlement areas shall be the focus of growth and development (policy 1.1.4.2).  Rural settlement areas are to provide an appropriate range and mix of housing that takes into account the needs of current and future residents.  Having growth and development focussed on existing settlement areas helps support the efficient use of infrastructure and services which, is a good land use planning practice.

The rural areas policies also recognize that not all municipalities will have an identified settlement area (policy 1.1.4.4).  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 allows appropriate growth and development to occur on rural lands, even where a community does not have a settlement area.

The land uses in rural areas are subject to all other policy areas of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  For example, policies in Section 1.0 provide specific direction on permitted uses and land use planning criteria, such as settlement areas (policy 1.1.3), rural lands (policy 1.1.5) and infrastructure (policy 1.6).  The relevant policies in Section 2.0, regarding the wise use and management of resources, also apply to these areas, such as prime agricultural areas (policy 2.3) and water (policy 2.2), as well as the policies of Section 3.0 that protect public health and safety.

The need to effectively manage development on rural lands is an important issue for rural municipalities.  Scattered areas of residential development outside rural settlement areas can cause significant problems, including servicing and environmental issues, and difficulty in providing residents with efficient and cost-effective access to services such as education, child care and medical services.  Increasingly, the costs associated with dispersed development are creating fiscal challenges for municipalities when delivering services such as snow removal, garbage collection and emergency management services.  In contrast, more compact areas are yielding benefits, such as more efficient use of infrastructure and lower maintenance costs, job opportunities closer to home and walkable communities to name a few.

Rural municipalities can take steps to avoid issues related to the costs of scattered development and ensure development has access to a range of services, such as directing residential development to rural settlement areas and on land serviced by public roads.

Key PPS Definition

Rural areas: a system of lands within municipalities that may include rural settlement areas, rural lands, prime agricultural areas, natural heritage features and areas, and resource areas.

PPS Fact or Fiction?

If a municipality does not have a settlement area, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not allow it to have any growth or development.  FICTION

In Fact:  Although there is an emphasis on settlement areas as the focus for concentrated growth, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides flexibility to allow growth and development on rural lands.  For example, developments related to the management or use of natural resources, resource-based recreational uses and limited amount of residential development may be appropriate and allowed.  A general rule to follow is that the proposed development should be in keeping with the scale and character of existing development patterns in the community and should meet local objectives.  Official plans play a critical role in defining the types of uses that are allowed, as well as providing context for appropriate locations for development.  Long-term infrastructure and servicing considerations should be considered so that planning and fiscal sustainability are considered together.

Policy Highlights for Rural Lands (policy 1.1.5)

The rural lands policies are focused on the lands outside both prime agricultural areas and rural settlement areas.  On rural lands, certain development is allowed provided it meets specific criteria, for example:

  • it is appropriate to the level of infrastructure (policy 1.1.5.5); and
  • it does not conflict with other policies of the Provincial Policy Statement (policy 1.1.5.1). 

Planning authorities should also promote development that is compatible with the rural landscape and can be sustained by rural service levels (policy 1.1.5.4).

As outlined in policy 1.1.5.2, permitted uses on rural lands are:

  • the management or use of resources;
  • resource-based recreational uses (e.g., recreational dwellings);
  • limited residential development;
  • home occupations and home industries;
  • cemeteries; and
  • other rural land uses.

A picture showing people skiing and snowboarding down a hill. Picture of cows grazing in a field with a barn and silo in the background. A picture of a cemetery.

The terms “management or use of resources” and “resource-based recreational uses” are not defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  Policy direction on the wise use and management of resources is set out in Section 2.0 and provides direction that can help planning authorities interpret these terms within the context of their local conditions:

  • natural heritage (policy 2.1);
  • water (policy 2.2);
  • agriculture (policy 2.3);
  • minerals and petroleum (policy 2.4);
  • mineral aggregate resources (policy 2.5); and
  • cultural heritage and archaeology (policy 2.6).

Examples of resource uses include agriculture uses, agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified uses in areas with agricultural capability, extractive operations on or adjacent to aggregate, mineral or petroleum deposits, harvesting in forested areas, and the conservation of natural heritage.

Resource-based recreational uses are related to and located in close proximity to natural features such as lakes, rivers or forests, and other geographic features.  Examples include recreational dwellings (such as cottages and camps that are not a permanent residence), country inns, hunting lodges, hiking trails, marinas and ski hills.  Resource-based recreational uses should be developed in a manner that recognizes the environmental capacity of the natural feature upon which they depend.

The term “limited residential development” is also not defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  As outlined above, limited rural residential development is permitted if it meets the criteria set out by the other rural lands policies.  For instance, development should be appropriate to the level of infrastructure and services, and compatible with the rural landscape.

One standard definition of “limited residential development” may not be meaningful and appropriate for all Ontario communities.  Individual communities should identify how much development is “limited” within the context of local conditions.  Some considerations for determining and providing a rationale for what is considered “limited residential development” within a local context include:

  • population;
  • character;
  • land use patterns and density;
  • proximity of settlement areas, both urban and rural;
  • type and availability of infrastructure and public service facilities;
  • presence of agricultural land and agricultural operations;
  • presence of natural resources;
  • presence of natural heritage features and areas; and
  • presence of significant cultural heritage and archaeological resources.

Key PPS Definition

Rural lands:  lands located outside settlement areas and which are outside prime agricultural areas.

Promoting Agricultural Viability on Rural Lands

Policies and definitions in the new Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 protect and promote agricultural viability of rural economies by:

  • permitting more on-farm diversified uses, such as agri-tourism;
  • providing more flexibility for agriculture-related uses; and
  • protecting and promoting agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses, on-farm diversified uses and normal farm practices in accordance with provincial standards (policy 1.1.5.8). 

These uses are permitted in prime agricultural areas, and are also encouraged on rural lands where appropriate.  Draft guidelines on permitted uses in prime agricultural areas are presently being finalized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and it is recommended that you contact the Ministry for the most up-to-date information.

To help support the long-term protection and viability of agricultural lands, permitted uses on rural lands should ensure they are not negatively impacting, e.g., fragmenting or constraining, farmland and operations.  Similarly, consideration should be given to any growth, such as rural settlement area expansions.  Where non-agricultural uses are adjacent to farmland and operations, mitigation measures, such as buffers, can be put in place or development could be directed towards lower priority agricultural lands.

A picture of industrial silos. A picture of a barn with crops packaged for shipping.

Key PPS Definitions

Agricultural use:  the growing of crops, including nursery, biomass, and horticultural crops; raising of livestock; raising of other animals for food, fur or fibre, including poultry and fish; aquaculture; apiaries; agro-forestry; maple syrup production; and associated on-farm buildings and structures, including but not limited to livestock facilities, manure storages, value-retaining facilities, and accommodation for full-time farm labour when the size and nature of the operation requires additional employment.

Agriculture-related uses:  those farm-related commercial and farm-related industrial uses that are directly related to farm operations in the area, support agriculture, benefit from being in close proximity to farm operations, and provide direct products and/or services to farm operations as a primary activity.

On-farm diversified uses:  uses that are secondary to the principal agricultural use of the property, and are limited in area.  On-farm diversified uses include, but are not limited to, home occupations, home industries, agri-tourism uses, and uses that produce value-added agricultural products.

Rural Settlement Areas (Policies 1.1.3 and 1.1.4)

Ensuring appropriate and effective management of development is a principle of good planning.  It is in the interest of all communities to use land and resources as efficiently as possible.  This helps preserve resources, prevents scattered development and ensures our infrastructure, such as roads, are properly utilized.

One of the key goals of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is the effective use of land and resources, with development primarily focussed in settlement areas (policies 1.1.3.1 and 1.1.4.2).  This maximizes the use of existing public infrastructure, reduces the costs for municipalities to provide services to a vast rural area, and minimizes negative impacts on the environment. The effective use of land and resources includes promoting opportunities for redevelopment and intensification where appropriate (e.g., where there are opportunities and appropriate levels of servicing).

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that development will not happen in the same way or at the same rate in all parts of Ontario.  At the same time, these basic planning policies are relevant to all areas of Ontario and help maximize the benefits from existing public expenditures in infrastructure and services.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

Regional diversity continues to shape the implementation of provincial priorities.  As a result, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 clarifies that:

  • municipalities determine appropriate locations for intensification (policy 1.1.3.3);
  • intensification targets are set by municipalities based on local conditions (unless set by provincial plan) (policy 1.1.3.5); and
  • level of detail required for a comprehensive review should correspond with complexity and scale of proposal (definition of “comprehensive review”).

What is a Rural Settlement Area?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 defines “settlement areas” as urban areas and rural settlement areas within municipalities.  These are the cities, towns, villages and hamlets that act as the centre of economic activity for the surrounding area.  They typically provide a mix of uses and services to their residents and those of surrounding areas.  They also play a primary role in providing housing for residents in the area.  These are designated in a municipal official plan.

The term “rural settlement areas” is not defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  It would be difficult for the province to distinguish between urban and rural settlement areas in a way that would be meaningful and accurate for all Ontario communities.  The use of population thresholds, density thresholds or other tools by the province to distinguish between urban and rural settlement areas would be very challenging.  Individual communities are in the best position to identify whether they are urban or rural settlement areas.

Some considerations for distinguishing between urban and rural settlement areas include:

  • character;
  • population;
  • range of services and amenities;
  • land use patterns and density;
  • economic activity;
  • types of housing; and
  • community vision and goals.

Key PPS Definition

Settlement areas:  means urban areas and rural settlement areas within municipalities (such as cities, towns, villages and hamlets) that are:

a) built up areas where development is concentrated and which have a mix of land uses; and
b) lands which have been designated in an official plan for development over the long-term planning horizon provided for in policy 1.1.2.  In cases where land in designated growth areas is not available, the settlement area may be no larger than the area where development is concentrated.

Ability to Reflect Local Circumstances

Municipalities are key to the implementation of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 through their official plans and zoning by-laws, and their decisions on development applications.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 has been designed to be easier to implement in a local planning context.  The following sections provide examples of some policy directions that provide flexibility for rural Ontario communities to reflect their local circumstances.

Housing Types (policy 1.4)

The principle of providing a mix and range of housing helps communities to ensure that housing needs of all Ontarians are met.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 requires that planning authorities provide for the mix and range of housing types necessary to meet current and future needs (policy 1.4.3).  In larger municipalities, this can be accomplished by permitting several different types of housing including semi-detached dwellings, second units and more intensified development.  In rural municipalities opportunities to provide a range and mix of housing types may be more limited due to servicing constraints and different development pressures.  While the provision of a mix and range of housing types appropriate to a community’s needs may differ, each municipality must still ensure that it has housing choices that provide for the needs and incomes of its current and future residents.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is designed so that when implemented, planning documents will create an environment in which the desired outcomes can be met, i.e., they will create the opportunity for a mix and range of housing types to be built.  The government recognizes that land use planning alone cannot ensure that housing will actually be built, since this is also determined by market conditions and other factors.

Picture of a single family home with a large yard. Picture of a modern building at a street corner.

Did You Know?

Following the release of the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy in 2010, the Housing Services Act, 2011 required that the province’s 47 Service Managers, including District Social Services Administration Boards, prepare local housing and homelessness plans by January 1, 2014.  The Housing Services Act, 2011 requires that local plans have a ten-year planning horizon and be reviewed at least every five years, and reflect the provincial interests listed in the Act and further outlined in the Ontario Housing Policy Statement.

The Ontario Housing Policy Statement was issued for the purpose of guiding Service Managers in the preparation of their housing and homelessness plans on matters of provincial interest.

Community Hubs (policy 1.6.5)

Picture of a community hub.Community hubs are places where people come together to access a range of services, programs and activities, such as health, education, recreation, cultural, community or social services and programs.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes enhanced policy direction on community hubs, encouraging the co-location of public service facilities to facilitate service integration and promote cost savings and access by walking, cycling, and shared transportation, where available.  There are a number of other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 which can help facilitate community hub development, such as those promoting community connectivity (policy 1.5.1), adaptive re-use of existing facilities (policy 1.6.3), and sense of place and community character (policy 1.7.1).

Key PPS Definition

Public service facilities: means land, buildings and structures for the provision of programs and services provided or subsidized by a government or other body, such as social assistance, recreation, police and fire protection, health and educational programs, and cultural services.

Intensification (policy 1.1.3)

The principle of intensification helps support the efficient use of public investment in existing infrastructure, such as roads, and municipal water and sewage infrastructure.  Intensification can be achieved in a variety of forms in different communities.  It is one way of bringing more people to certain areas of a community, such as a downtown area, main street or community centre, to further support a community’s social vibrancy and economic sustainability.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 requires planning authorities to identify appropriate locations and promote opportunities for intensification (policy 1.1.3.3), and to establish minimum targets for intensification based on local conditions (policy 1.1.3.5).  Municipalities across Ontario are promoting intensification in a variety of ways.  In small rural communities, it can take the form of allowing development on an infill lot for housing on pockets of undeveloped land within settlement areas, or repurposing a vacant or underutilized building.  The reuse of brownfield lands for new employment, mixed-use and residential developments in many older municipalities is yet another example of intensification.

These are the most visible examples of intensification.  Municipalities are also permitting second units (e.g., basement apartments) in single-detached, semi-detached and row houses, and accommodating small-scale infill projects (e.g., townhouses or small-lot detached homes).  These examples show that intensification can be accommodated in large urban centres, small towns, and rural communities.

When identifying appropriate locations for intensification, planning authorities should take into account the most efficient and sustainable use of existing infrastructure and consider public safety with respect to natural hazards, as well as the compatibility of new development within the context and character of the existing community.

Key PPS Definition

Intensification:  the development of a property, site or area at a higher density than currently exists through:

a) redevelopment, including the reuse of brownfield sites;
b) the development of vacant and/or underutilized lots within previously developed areas;
c) infill development; and
d) the expansion or conversion of existing buildings.

Did You Know?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 identifies the appropriate time horizon for land use planning as up to 20 years (policy 1.1.2). This means municipalities can designate a supply of land to accommodate anticipated development for a time period of up to 20 years.  This includes development both within settlement areas and rural areas.

Within settlement areas, municipalities should first look at meeting land requirements through opportunities for intensification, re-development and infill, followed by consideration of “greenfield” land, if needed. If a settlement area boundary expansion is needed to meet land requirements, it must be supported through a comprehensive review process.

PPS Fact or Fiction?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not allow development to occur without a comprehensive review.   FICTION

In Fact:  A comprehensive review is required in three situations:

  • the identification of new settlement areas and the expansion of settlement area boundaries;
  • the conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses; and
  • within territory without municipal organization adjacent to or surrounding municipalities, where a development is not related to the management or use of resources, or is not a resource-based recreational use.

If a proposed development does not fit one of these situations a comprehensive review is not required.

Settlement Area Expansions (policy 1.1.3.8)

The principle of using land already within the settlement area to the fullest extent possible before expanding outwards helps protect resources and ensures effective and sustainable use of infrastructure.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides this direction while recognizing that settlement area boundary expansions, which are based on an evaluation through a comprehensive review process, may still be required.

It is important to examine factors such as the need for the expansion, capacity of planned or available infrastructure, alternative directions for growth that avoid prime agricultural areas or impact lower priority agricultural lands, and opportunities for redevelopment and intensification to determine if a proposed expansion is in the public interest.  This is why the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 promotes local planning by linking boundary expansions to a comprehensive review that considers these factors (policy 1.1.3.8).  It is also important to co-ordinate with other jurisdictions, agencies and boards and with Indigenous communities (policies 1.2.1 and 1.2.2).

Rural settlement areas will often have smaller or less complex proposals for settlement area boundary expansions compared to urban settlement areas.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that the studies needed to support small settlement area boundary expansions may be less complex than those required for large expansions, but the same factors noted above apply with respect to a comprehensive review. 

Overall, it is important for planning authorities to consider the full range of factors that contribute to creating healthy, sustainable communities prior to establishing the need for a settlement boundary expansion, including all relevant policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  Municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe need to fulfil Growth Plan requirements, including for a settlement area boundary expansion.

Key PPS Definitions

Infrastructure:  physical structures (facilities and corridors) that form the foundation for development.  Infrastructure includes:  sewage and water systems, septage treatment systems, stormwater management systems, waste management systems, electricity generation facilities, electricity transmission and distribution systems, communications / telecommunications, transit and transportation corridors and facilities, oil and gas pipelines and associated facilities.

Comprehensive review:  A study carried out for the identification of settlement areas and the expansion of settlement area boundaries, for an official plan review which is initiated by a planning authority, or for an official plan amendment initiated or adopted by a planning authority, which:

  1. is based on a review of population and employment projections and which reflect projections and allocations by upper-tier municipalities and provincial plans, where applicable; considers alternative directions for growth or development; and determines how best to accommodate the development while protecting provincial interests;
  2. utilizes opportunities to accommodate projected growth or development through intensification and redevelopment; and considers physical constraints to accommodating the proposed development within existing settlement area boundaries;
  3. is integrated with planning for infrastructure and public service facilities, and considers financial viability over the life cycle of these assets, which may be demonstrated through asset management planning;
  4. confirms sufficient water quality, quantity and assimilative capacity of receiving water are available to accommodate the proposed development;
  5. confirms that sewage and water services can be provided in accordance with policy 1.6.6; and
  6. considers cross-jurisdictional issues.

In undertaking a comprehensive review the level of detail of the assessment should correspond with the complexity and scale of the settlement boundary or development proposal.

Additional Resources

Cover of Municipal Tools for Affordable Housing

Municipal Tools for Affordable Housing Handbook (PDF)

This handbook identifies a range of land-use planning and financial tools that municipalities can use to support the development of affordable housing options within their communities.

 

Cover of Municipal Aboriginal Relationships: Case Studies

Municipal Aboriginal Relationships: Case Studies (2009)

This document is designed to help municipalities understand the opportunities and responsibilities to engage and consult with Indigenous communities.

 

 

Cover of Planning for Intensification InfoSheet

Planning for Intensification InfoSheet

This InfoSheet provides an overview of key Planning Act tools that municipalities can use to facilitate and direct land use intensification.


 

Cover of Comprehensive Review InfoSheet

Comprehensive Review InfoSheet

This InfoSheet helps participants in the land-use planning process understand the comprehensive review policies of the Provincial Policy Statement.


 

Cover of Building Together Guide for Municipal Asset Management Plans

Building Together: Guide for Municipal Asset Management Plans

This guide is intended to help municipalities develop detailed asset management plans.  It sets out information and analysis that municipal asset management plans should include at a minimum.


 

 

Infrastructure: Sewage and Water (Policy 1.6)

Providing municipal water and sewage infrastructure to new development helps ensure the protection of human health and the natural environment, in particular water quality and quantity.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides a hierarchy for planning sewage and water services, with strong preference given to municipal sewage services and municipal water services, particularly in settlement areas.  However, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that, where no municipal services are available, limited development that relies on private communal sewage and water services or individual on-site sewage and water services may be permitted, in appropriate circumstances.

When planning for infrastructure, it is important to co-ordinate with other jurisdictions, agencies and boards and with Indigenous communities (policies 1.2.1 and 1.2.2).

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 has been clarified to permit infilling and minor rounding out of existing development in settlement areas on individual on-site sewer and water systems (i.e., septic tanks and wells) where full municipal or communal services do not exist, provided that site conditions are suitable and that there are no associated negative impacts (policy 1.6.6.4).

What do “Infilling” and “Minor Rounding Out” Mean?

The terms “infilling” and “minor rounding out” indicate smaller scale development opportunities, but are not defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 as a single definition may not be appropriate in all circumstances.  Infilling typically refers to development on one or more lots within an already built up area, while minor rounding out may permit some additional development adjacent to existing development to rationalize a land use boundary.  Not defining the terms allows for a determination of the appropriate level and density of development based on local circumstances, including the land use patterns and environment.  Ultimately, the limited opportunities for development on individual on-site services or partial services are to occur at a scale and density that does not result in negative impacts to surface and ground water. 

The terms “infilling” and “minor rounding out” apply within the context of the servicing policies within the settlement area boundary.  They are not meant to be used to justify settlement area boundary expansions.  Land uses within settlement areas, both urban and rural, are subject to all other policy areas of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  For example, the settlement areas policies (policy 1.1.3) provide specific direction on permitted uses and land use planning criteria, including for settlement area expansions (policy 1.1.3.8).

PPS Fact or Fiction?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not allow settlement areas without full municipal sewage and water services to have any growth or development.  FICTION

In Fact:  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides flexibility for planning authorities to allow some growth and economic development in settlement areas without full municipal or communal sewer and water services.  In order to protect public health and the environment, proponents of development need to demonstrate that there will be no negative impacts associated with the provision of individual on-site services before the development can proceed.

The appropriate environmental studies that may need to be completed to demonstrate “no negative impacts” include, but are not limited to, hydrogeological assessments and water quality impact assessments, in accordance with provincial standards.  Standards for achieving “no negative impact” are outlined in guidelines on sewer and water servicing (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change).

Related Tools

To assist in achieving growth management and environmental objectives, planning authorities are encouraged to plan for sewage and water services by preparing integrated, long-term sewage and water master plans which link a community’s growth and development objectives with servicing considerations.  These plans can be important tools in determining the most appropriate type of servicing for a particular community.  Planning authorities should also take into consideration watershed and lake management plans where these exist.

Climate Change (Policies 1.8, 1.6 and 3.1)

Climate change is a global issue: greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have an impact world-wide.  Some greenhouse gases in our atmosphere exist naturally, but many human activities are causing significant increases in them, leading to rising global temperatures.  Since 1948, average annual temperatures in Ontario have increased by 1.4˚C, with warming projected to accelerate.  The effects of climate change put human health and safety, our infrastructure, and our communities at risk.  In Ontario, climate change impacts felt at local and regional scales could include heavy rains, severe winds, heat waves, drought, and wildland fire.

All governments, including municipalities, need to respond to climate change impacts in order to reduce economic costs and potential environmental, social and health risks through actions that:

  • mitigate climate change - actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, or enhance the storage of carbon in ecosystems; and
  • adapt to climate change - actions that prepare for changes that are occurring, or are likely to occur, in the future.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

Land use planning is one tool that can be used to help mitigate and adapt to climate change.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes enhanced policy direction to ensure that communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change by:

  • supporting land use and development patterns that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support adaptation to climate change (policy 1.8.1);
  • encouraging green infrastructure (policy 1.6.2);
  • strengthening stormwater management requirements as important components of broader infrastructure planning (policy 1.6.6.7). and
  • requiring consideration of the potential impacts of climate change that may increase the risks associated with natural hazards (policy 3.1.3).

Did You Know?

A number of other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also relate to climate change.  For example, policies that promote compact form, efficient development and land use patterns, watershed planning, and natural heritage protection all help to achieve the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and improve our ability to adapt to climate change.

Energy Conservation, Air Quality and Climate Change (policy 1.8.1)

The physical characteristics and patterns of land use in our communities have direct impacts on air quality, and energy consumption and efficiency.  Cleaner air and reduced climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved through well-designed communities, neighbourhoods, sites and buildings that promote energy efficiency and provide for a mix of land uses, employment opportunities and transportation alternatives.  This can result in an improved quality of life for all residents.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides enhanced policy direction to ensure that communities emit fewer greenhouse gases and are resilient to the impacts of climate change by promoting compact development, active transportation, renewable energy and efficiency/conservation.

Natural Hazards (policy 3.1.3)

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also includes enhanced direction for planning authorities to consider the potential impacts of climate change that may increase the risks associated with natural hazards.

The impacts of climate change could include more extreme local weather events, such as more frequent and intense storms.  For example, this could increase the risk of flooding, in the case of heavy rains; or wildland fires, in the case of prolonged drought.  Policy 3.1.3 does not prescribe a process or focus on a specific outcome, recognizing that the science of climate change modelling is evolving.  Therefore, municipalities have flexibility when considering and applying the science to implement this policy.  The preamble to Section 3.0 also clarifies that development should not aggravate existing hazards or create new hazards that may increase the risk to public health, safety and property.

Stormwater Management (policy 1.6.6.7)

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 outlines policies which speak to the importance of stormwater management planning.  The ultimate goal of stormwater management is to maintain the health of streams, lakes and aquatic life by mitigating the effects of development.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies aim to maintain the natural hydrologic cycle, prevent an increased risk of flooding, prevent erosion and promote stormwater management best practices, particularly Low Impact Development.

Green Infrastructure (policy 1.6.2)

Planning authorities are also encouraged to promote green infrastructure in their planning processes in order to complement infrastructure.  Green infrastructure can include natural and human made elements that provide ecological and hydrological functions in order to reduce our reliance on traditional, end-of-pipe stormwater facilities.

Additional Resources

Cover of Planning for Climate Change InfoSheet

InfoSheet: Planning for Climate Change

An overview of Planning Act tools that can help municipalities address climate change by planning for more efficient and sustainable communities.


 

Cover of Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Supply InfoSheet

InfoSheet: Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Supply

This InfoSheet supports the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement encouraging energy efficiency, conservation and a clean supply.

 

 

Agriculture (Policy 2.3)

Agriculture plays a significant role in the province’s economy, and supports environmental health and social well-being.  Ontario’s rich farmlands grow the foods we all enjoy — more than 200 agricultural commodities.  In addition to food, the farmlands also produce the raw materials we need for our developing bioeconomy.  Less than six per cent of the province is considered prime agricultural land, but not all this land is available for farming and may be constrained by existing non-agricultural uses or natural heritage features.

Generally, the most productive agricultural lands in the province are located near the highest concentrations of people.  There is great pressure to develop or fragment prime agricultural areas for other uses through sprawl, land severances and the introduction of non-agricultural uses.  Once these lands are lost to non-agricultural development, they rarely return to agricultural use.  Protection of prime agricultural areas from competing and incompatible uses will maintain future options for agriculture and food, allow farmers to carry on their operations with minimal disruption, and create opportunities for efficiencies of production needed in today’s economic climate.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides direction to protect prime agricultural areas for long-term use for agriculture.  Many of the key policies for prime agricultural areas outlined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 have been continued.  For example, policy direction related to specialty crop areas, lot creation, normal farm practices, and minimum distance separation formulae remain largely unchanged.

 

An aerial photograph of a large scale farming operation. Picture of sheep grazing in a field. Picture of a ploughed field.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

Recognizing the importance of agriculture to the rural economy, changes to the agricultural policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 include:

  • a new requirement to designate prime agricultural areas in planning documents (policy 2.3.2);
  • recognition and support for agricultural uses in rural areas outside of prime agricultural areas (policy 1.1.5.7 and 1.1.5.8), and for the agri-food sector and local food interests (policy 1.7.1 h);
  • clarifying the range and scope of uses permitted on the farm; and
  • adding flexibility on the scope and size of agriculture-related uses that serve the broader farm community.

Other requirements, such as ensuring appropriate sewage and water services and compatibility with surrounding agricultural operations, still apply, as do the remaining policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs developed additional guidance on permitted uses in prime agricultural areas to assist municipalities to develop appropriate policies in keeping with the requirements of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, while recognizing that agricultural communities and needs vary across rural Ontario.  The guidelines were released in draft form in February 2015 and are presently being finalized by the Ministry.

PPS Fact or Fiction?

Picture of horses pulling a carriage at the Elmira Produce Auction Co-Operative.The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not permit the siting of institutional uses that serve communities in prime agricultural areas that rely on horse-drawn transportation.  FICTION

In Fact:  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides a process and a set of criteria that must be met in order to allow limited non-residential uses to be considered within prime agricultural areas (policy 2.3.6).  These criteria include: demonstration of need, consideration of reasonable alternative locations which avoid prime agricultural areas, or impact lower priority agricultural land, and meeting the requirements of the minimum distance separation formulae.  In considering alternative locations, municipalities should consider that communities using horse and buggy have limited ability to travel over long distances.

PPS Fact or Fiction?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not allow cemeteries in rural and agricultural areas.  FICTION

In Fact:  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes cemeteries as an important component of healthy communities (policy 1.1.1 b) and clarifies that cemeteries (and a wide variety of other uses) are  permitted on rural lands (policy 1.1.5.2).  In prime agricultural areas, limited non-residential uses such as cemeteries may only be permitted if a set of criteria can be met (policy 2.3.6.1 b).  These criteria include:  demonstration of need; avoidance of specialty crop areas; evaluation of reasonable alternative locations that avoid prime agricultural areas or are located on lower priority agricultural land; and meeting the minimum distance separation formulae.

Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas

The policies related to lot creation in prime agricultural areas remain largely unchanged.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 continues to discourage lot creation in prime agricultural areas and only permits the creation of new lots for the following uses under specified conditions (policy 2.3.4.1):

  • agricultural uses;
  • agriculture-related uses;
  • a residence surplus to a farming operation as a result of a farm consolidation; and
  • infrastructure.

The creation of new residential lots, including farm retirement lots, continues to be prohibited in prime agricultural areas, with the exception of new lots for surplus farm residences (policy 2.3.4.3).

Some revisions were made to the conditions for lot creation for a surplus farm residence – a new lot may only be permitted provided that (policy 2.3.4.1c):

  • the new lot is limited to the minimum size needed to accommodate 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.

The definition for “residence surplus to a farming operation” in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also clarifies that the farm residence must be habitable.

Additional Resources

Cover of Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas InfoSheet

Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas InfoSheet

An overview of Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 policies for the protection of prime agricultural lands and policies for lot creation in prime agricultural areas.

 

 

Cover of Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae

Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae

A land use planning tool that determines a recommended separation distance between a livestock barn or manure storage and another land use.

 

 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will be working to develop a variety of guidelines to assist municipalities in developing appropriate policies that keep with the requirements of the Provincial Policy Statement, while recognizing that agricultural communities and needs vary across rural Ontario.  Draft guidelines on permitted uses in prime agricultural areas are presently being finalized by the Ministry, and it is recommended that you contact the Ministry for the most up-to-date information.

Cultural Heritage and Archaeology (Policy 2.6)

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that Ontario’s long-term prosperity, environmental health, and social well-being depend on using and managing the province’s resources wisely.  That includes the identification and protection of significant cultural heritage resources for their many economic, environmental and social benefits.

The health and viability of Ontario’s countryside is tied to retaining the unique sense of place found in rural communities.  Leveraging rural character and amenities helps ensure that those communities can continue to prosper.  Conservation of features that help define character, including built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes, is essential to retaining a sense of place.

Ontario’s archaeological resources provide a record of the province’s first inhabitants.  They chronicle the life ways of early peoples as well as those who arrived later.  While on-going agricultural uses, including agricultural activities and farm building construction usually do not affect archaeological resources, development for non-agricultural uses can cause irreparable damage.  Under the Ontario Heritage Act, anyone other than a licensed archaeologist who knowingly alters an archaeological site could be charged with committing a provincial offence.

The conservation of cultural heritage resources can: support intensification and reuse of buildings in built-up areas, require less energy for the creation of new products and services, reduce demand for new materials and resources, send less waste to landfills and reduce the generation and release of pollutants. Repair and alteration of existing buildings and structures can boost local economies by helping retain jobs in the community.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 retains and strengthens the policies for conserving cultural heritage and archaeological resources.  Development and site alteration is not permitted unless significant archaeological resources are conserved (policy 2.6.2).  Planning authorities shall not permit development adjacent to protected heritage property unless it can be shown that the heritage attributes will be conserved (policy 2.6.3).

Among other heritage-related terms, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 defines “built heritage resources,” “cultural heritage landscapes,” “archaeological resources,” “areas of archaeological potential” and “significant.”  For cultural heritage resources to be “significant,” they must “have been determined to have cultural heritage value or interest for the important contribution they make to our understanding of the history of a place, an event, or a people.”  Typically, the local significance of a built heritage resource or a cultural heritage landscape is identified by applying evaluation criteria that are prescribed in a regulation made pursuant to section 29(1)(a) of the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes a new policy identifying that municipalities should consider and promote archaeological management plans and cultural plans (policy 2.6.4).  Archaeological management plans include detailed mapping of all areas of archaeological potential, providing an efficient, effective way of ensuring the conservation of archaeological resources during land use planning and development activities.  Municipal cultural planning can help transform local economies by leveraging cultural resources, including cultural heritage resources, to attract jobs in a new knowledge-based economy.

Indigenous history is an integral part of the heritage of Ontario.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes a new policy directing planning authorities to consider the interests of Indigenous communities when conserving cultural heritage and archaeological resources (policy 2.6.5).

Key PPS Definition

Heritage attributes: means the principal features or elements that contribute to a protected heritage property’s cultural heritage value or interest, and may include the property’s built or manufactured elements, as well as natural landforms, vegetation, water features, and its visual setting (including significant views or vistas to or from a protected heritage property).

PPS Fact or Fiction?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not allow any changes to built heritage resources; significant buildings must be restored to their former glory.  FICTION

In Fact:  Altering buildings of heritage value to fit new uses can be a viable form of conservation provided their heritage attributes are retained.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 defines “conserved” as “the identification, protection, management and use of built heritage resources, cultural heritage landscapes and archaeological resources in a manner that ensures their cultural heritage value or interest is retained under the Ontario Heritage Act.  This may be achieved by the implementation of recommendations set out in a conservation plan, archaeological assessment, and/or heritage impact assessment.  Mitigative measures and/or alternative development approaches can be included in these plans and assessments.”

What is the Role of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport?

In carrying out its role conserving, protecting and preserving the heritage of Ontario, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport complies with the Ontario Heritage Act and educates municipalities, municipal heritage committees and property owners on protecting cultural heritage resources.

Cultural heritage resources are also found on property owned or managed by the Government of Ontario and are protected under the Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Provincial Heritage Properties.  These Standards and Guidelines were prepared under the authority of Part III.1 of the Ontario Heritage Act. They set out the criteria and process for identifying provincial heritage properties and establish the standards for their protection, maintenance, use and disposal.

The Standards and Guidelines apply to all ministries as well as to public bodies that have been prescribed by regulation to identify, protect and care for provincial heritage properties they own and manage.  They apply to provincial heritage properties that are:

  • owned by a ministry;
  • owned by a prescribed public body; and
  • occupied by a ministry or prescribed public body if they are entitled to make alterations.

Examples of provincial heritage properties include provincial parks, provincial mental health facilities and provincial bridges.

Additional Resources

Cover of Heritage Resources in the Land Use Planning Process

Heritage Resources in the Land Use Planning Process

This document provides an overview of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005, but it continues to provide good explanations and examples for conservation of cultural heritage resources involved in development applications.

 

 

Cover of Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Provincial Heritage Properties

Standards and Guidelines for Conservation of Provincial Heritage Properties 

These standards and guidelines set out the criteria and process for identifying provincial heritage properties and set the standards for their protection, maintenance, use and disposal.

 

 

Natural Heritage (Policy 2.1)

Picture of trees along a riverbank.The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 aims to protect our environment through policies that safeguard, enhance, and mitigate potential impacts to our natural heritage features and areas, while reflecting geographic variation.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides clear direction to protect our water, woodlands, wetlands, coastal wetlands, and endangered and threatened species habitat, and recognizes the need for the most protection in areas of the province with the greatest development pressures.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

To reflect the contribution natural heritage features and areas make to Ontario’s long-term economic prosperity, environmental health, and social well-being, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014:

  • requires identification of natural heritage systems in  Ecoregions 6E and 7E (policy 2.1.3);
  • protects all Great Lakes coastal wetlands in Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E that are not already protected as significant coastal wetlands (policy 2.1.5 f); and
  • aligns the treatment of the habitat of endangered and threatened species under the Provincial Policy Statement with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (policy 2.1.7).

Reflecting Regional Variation (policy 2.1)

Wetlands, woodlands and valleylands are afforded different levels of protection depending on where they are located in the province (policy 2.1).

North of Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E

In the Canadian Shield parts of the area north of Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E, development and site alteration are permitted in significant wetlands if it can be demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on the natural features or ecological functions.  Development is not permitted in significant coastal wetlands.  (Note: policies do not apply to Hudson Bay Lowlands)

Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E

In Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E, development and site alteration are not permitted in significant wetlands and significant coastal wetlands [1].  For coastal wetlands that are not already protected as “significant”, development and site alteration are not permitted unless it can be demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on natural features or ecological functions.

Note: [1] The definitions of “development” and “site alteration” do not include underground or surface mining of minerals or advanced exploration on mining lands in significant areas of mineral potential in Ecoregion 5E, where advanced exploration has the same meaning as the Mining Act. Instead, those matters are subject to policy 2.1.5 a) (i.e., not permitted unless it can be demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on natural features or ecological functions).

Ecoregions 6E and 7E

In Ecoregions 6E and 7E, policies regarding identification of natural heritage systems, and protection of significant woodlands and valleylands apply.  (Note: policies regarding significant woodlands and valleylands do not apply to islands in Lake Huron and the St. Marys River)

For more detailed mapping please see Section 5.0 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

PPS Fact or Fiction?

If the province has no data on a specific natural heritage feature it is not considered to be significant.  FICTION

In Fact: The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 now clarifies that evaluation of some natural heritage features and resources, such as wetlands, may be required before development may be allowed (policy 4.7).  This work is routinely required as part of the development approval process and this requirement is emphasized for clarity.  The province supports the evaluation of these features by providing data (e.g., spatial wetlands data in Land Information Ontario) and guidance (e.g., Natural Heritage Reference Manual), but evaluations may need to be undertaken by development proponents to justify a proposed development.  Some natural features have procedures or criteria in place to determine significance.  For example, wetland significance is determined by trained evaluators using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.  These features should be evaluated early in the development application process when it is more reasonable for proponents to adjust their proposals to protect the features, if required.

Natural Heritage Systems (policy 2.1.3)

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 now requires the identification of natural heritage systems in Ecoregions 6E and 7E.  It recognizes that these systems may differ in different landscape contexts such as settlement areas, rural areas and prime agricultural areas (policy 2.1.3).  A natural heritage system is an ecologically-based system of natural areas and linkages that provides continuity of ecological and hydrological functions over a larger geographic area than individual natural heritage features, and enables the movement of species.  Natural heritage systems typically incorporate natural features, functions and linkages (also referred to as “corridors”) as component parts within them and across the landscape.  Identifying these systems is required only in southern Ontario, where development pressures are greatest and patterns of growth and development have led to many small and isolated natural heritage features.

Figure 2 - Natural Heritage System

A diagram illustrating how natural heritage features may be linked together with corridors to create a natural heritage system.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Natural Heritage Reference Manual describes the key components of natural heritage systems and the ecological functions to be allowed for when planning for natural heritage systems.  The manual provides a simple tool in the form of a checklist of important considerations in this regard.

Key PPS Definition

Natural heritage system: means a system made up of natural heritage features and areas, and linkages intended to provide connectivity (at the regional or site level) and support natural processes necessary to maintain biological and geological diversity, natural functions, viable populations of indigenous species, and ecosystems.  These systems can include natural heritage features and areas, federal and provincial parks and conservation reserves, other natural heritage features, lands that have been restored or have the potential to be restored to a natural state, areas that support hydrologic functions, and working landscapes that enable ecological functions to continue.  The province has a recommended approach for identifying natural heritage systems, but municipal approaches that achieve or exceed the same objective may also be used.

PPS Fact or Fiction?

Working agricultural landscapes, such as a maple sugar bush or a pasture used for grazing cattle, cannot be part of a natural heritage system.   FICTION

In Fact: The definition of “natural heritage system” emphasizes the connectivity between natural heritage features and areas and the natural linkages that exist on the landscape between these features.  Working agricultural landscapes such as a maple sugar bush or a pasture used for grazing cattle could be considered parts of a natural heritage system, as well as a prime agricultural area.  The incorporation of such landscapes into a natural heritage system would not limit the ability of the agricultural uses to continue.

Endangered and Threatened Species Habitat (policy 2.1.7)

The protection of endangered and threatened species habitat, especially habitat used for reproduction or for survival at critical points in the life cycle, is fundamental to achieving the recovery of these species in Ontario.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 aligns the protection of habitat of endangered and threatened species with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, 2007.  This includes approaches for habitat protection and management established in associated regulations and policy.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 enables decision-makers under the Planning Act to take into account regulatory provisions under the Endangered Species Act, 2007.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry can be contacted for information regarding endangered and threatened species early in the planning process.

Wetlands and Coastal Wetlands (policy 2.1)

Wetlands perform important ecological and hydrological functions, including groundwater recharge, flood attenuation, nutrient and sediment filtering, mitigation of surface water flow, provision of foraging, breeding and overwintering habitat for a range of species, and carbon storage.

Wetlands are important habitats that form the interface between aquatic and terrestrial systems.  While all wetlands are important and may be evaluated as significant using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES), Ontario recognizes that coastal wetlands have special importance.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 addresses coastal wetlands along the Great Lakes and their connecting channels.  Coastal wetlands associated with the Great Lakes provide continentally important habitat for migratory birds such as waterfowl, and many of Ontario’s Great Lakes fish species.

Under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, significant coastal wetlands are protected in southern and Northern Ontario.  In recognition of the importance of coastal wetlands, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 now requires protection of all Great Lakes coastal wetlands in Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E (policy 2.1.5 f); not just those that are identified as significant using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.  Under the new policy, development and site alteration are not permitted in any coastal wetland that is not already protected as “significant” in Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E unless it has been demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on the wetland or its ecological functions.  Protection of all significant coastal wetlands in the province is retained.

A picture of a wetland. A picture of a wetland.

Key PPS Definition

Significant:
in regard to wetlands, coastal wetlands and areas of natural and scientific interest, an area identified as provincially significant by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources using evaluation procedures established by the Province, as amended from time to time.

While some significant resources may already be identified and inventoried by official sources, the significance of others can only be determined after evaluation.

Additional Resources

Cover of Natural Heritage Reference Manual

Natural Heritage Reference Manual

Represents the province’s recommended technical criteria and approaches for protecting natural heritage features and areas, and natural heritage systems in Ontario in a manner consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.

 

 

Cover of Ontario Wetland Evaluation System

Ontario Wetland Evaluation System

Technical guidance documents for southern and Northern Ontario that use scientific criteria to quantify wetland values and enable comparisons among wetlands.

 

 

Cover of Ontario's Great Lakes Strategy

Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy

The strategy explains efforts to protect, conserve and restore the Great Lakes.  It will be used for ongoing protection work as a foundation to map out goals and principles to guide future work and actions under each goal.

 

 

Water (Policies 2.2 and 4.13)

Water provides economic and social benefits and is the foundation for healthy and diverse ecosystems and communities.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides clear direction to protect our water.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

New policies have been added to the water section and other parts of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 in an effort to better manage our water resources, for example:

  • supporting consideration of cumulative impacts on a watershed basis (policy 2.2.1 a);
  • ensuring consideration of environmental lake capacity where applicable (policy 2.2.1 g);
  • requiring identification of surface water features, including shoreline areas (policy 2.2.1 c); and
  • recognizing the importance of the Great Lakes to Ontario’s long-term prosperity, environmental health and social well-being (policy 4.13).

Great Lakes (policy 4.13)

Among the fresh water resources in the province, the Great Lakes are particularly important, providing a source of fresh drinking water to most Ontarians.  The Great Lakes constitute the largest system of fresh surface water on Earth, containing roughly 20 per cent of the world’s fresh surface water.

Ontario’s land use planning framework aligns with many goals and objectives of the province’s efforts to improve, restore and protect the Great Lakes.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes the importance of the Great Lakes, including a policy that is intended to ensure that planning authorities consider agreements related to the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin (policy 4.13).  Examples of these agreements include Great Lakes agreements between Ontario and Canada, between Ontario, Quebec and the Great Lakes States of the United States of America, and between Canada and the United States of America.

Did You Know?

The Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015 strengthens our ability to restore and protect the lakes, and gives the province new tools to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and the waterways that flow into them.  The Act:

  • ensures monitoring and reporting programs will be established and maintained;
  • commits to establishing at least one target to reduce algae levels;
  • allows the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to establish targets to prevent the loss of wetlands;
  • improves consultation and engagement requirements and requires consideration of traditional ecological knowledge;
  • requires comprehensive progress reports to be tabled in the legislature every three years;
  • provides for the development of geographically-focused initiatives in local and lake-wide areas with communities and partners;
  • requires that Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy be reviewed every six years;
  • creates more opportunities for Ontarians to become involved in the protection and restoration of the ecological health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin; and
  • improves the capacity of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin to be resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Drinking Water (policy 2.2.1)

In rural areas, sources of drinking water can come from surface water features or groundwater aquifers. These sources are vulnerable to contamination or depletion.  Drinking-water wells and intakes can serve individual homes, clusters of homes, or even entire rural settlement areas.  In many rural communities across the province, sources of drinking water have been mapped in a local source protection plan, as required under the Clean Water Act, 2006 and align with the definition of “designated vulnerable areas” for the purpose of policy 2.2.1 e) of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  The systems included in the source protection plans provide water to 90 per cent of the population of Ontario.  Municipalities can rely on the mapping of these vulnerable areas as they plan their communities and direct development in order to satisfy their obligations to protect sources of drinking water under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

Shorelines (policy 2.2.1)

Healthy shorelines provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits. They help to control surface run-off and erosion, and filter associated nutrients and harmful pollutants, thereby protecting water quality.  Healthy shorelines also help regulate temperature and microclimate, screen noise and wind, preserve the aesthetic appeal of the landscape, and provide many other cultural, social and economic benefits through recreation and tourism.  They also help to protect a rich biodiversity of aquatic and terrestrial habitat and species at the land-water interface.  Healthy shorelines can also attract people to live in and visit rural Ontario.

Healthy shorelines can be threatened by activities such as removal of natural vegetation, hardening and alteration, and cumulative development that can increase stormwater runoff, sedimentation, pollutant loading, and erosion, and ultimately degrade water quality and diminish habitat.

Revisions were made to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 to more explicitly recognize the importance of shoreline areas including a provision that they should be identified (e.g., in official plans) (policy 2.2.1 c).  The intent of the change is to heighten awareness of shoreline areas in land use planning decision making and to protect sensitive shorelines as needed.  In order to protect the water quality of lakes, applications for shoreline development may need to be supported by lake impact or lake capacity assessment reports, along with other possible assessments.


Picture of waterfront properties alongside a river with docks. Picture of a pedestrian bridge over a creek.

Watershed Planning and the Cumulative Impacts of Development (policy 2.2.1)

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 encourages planning authorities to use the watershed as the ecologically meaningful scale of planning for integrated and long-term planning, which can be a foundation for considering cumulative impacts of development (policy 2.2.1 a).

Integrating watershed considerations into land use planning over the long term provides early and systematic guidance on the interrelationships between existing and potential land uses and the health of ecosystems over time.  The watershed planning approach is based on the recognition that ecosystems have limits to the stresses which they can accommodate.

The boundaries of a watershed provide the natural limits for managing these interconnections and stresses, which is why the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 encourages the use of the watershed as the context for considering the cumulative impacts of development.

A cumulative effect is a change in the environment caused by multiple interactions among human activities and natural processes that accumulate across space and time (definition adopted by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, CCME, in April 2014).

Lake Capacity (policy 2.2.1)

Picture of a lake with a tree line along the perimeter.Progressive development around the shoreline of a lake, such as cottage development, year round residences, camps, and marinas, can contribute to changes in water quality.  Activities such as development and redevelopment, vegetation clearing, hardening of surfaces, and fertilizer use can result in erosion and overland runoff that contributes phosphorus to lakes.  Septic systems associated with most shoreline development also contribute phosphorus and other pollutants to inland lake systems.  High levels of phosphorus in lake water promotes eutrophication and excessive plant and algae growth, resulting in loss of water clarity, depletion of dissolved oxygen, and a loss of habitat for species of coldwater fish such as lake trout.  Revisions were made to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 to ensure consideration of “environmental lake capacity” in an effort to protect water quality (policy 2.2.1 g).

The Lakeshore Capacity Assessment Handbook was developed as a tool to help protect the water quality of Ontario’s Precambrian Shield inland lakes by preventing excessive development along shorelines.  The lakeshore capacity assessment model can be used to predict the level of development that can be sustained without exhibiting any adverse effects related to high phosphorus levels.  Limiting phosphorus loading also contributes to the protection of coldwater fish habitat in these lakes.  The Lakeshore Capacity Assessment Handbook also contains Best Management Practices for all development on shorelines.

Although the Lakeshore Capacity Assessment Handbook is intended to provide guidance to municipalities and other stakeholders responsible for managing development along the shorelines of Ontario’s inland lakes within the Precambrian Shield, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policy on ensuring consideration of ‘environmental lake capacity’ can be used by planning authorities more broadly as a means to consider a wide range of lake capacity issues. 

PPS Fact or Fiction?

Lakes can sustain unlimited growth and development around them.  FICTION

In Fact: The protection, improvement, and restoration of water quality and quantity is an important goal of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.   When considering sustainable limits of development along shorelines, including in rural areas, planning authorities should consider all of the relevant policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, which range from integrated, long-term planning at the watershed scale to ensuring consideration of environmental lake capacity, where applicable.

Additional Resources

Cover of Ontario's Great Lakes Strategy

Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy

The strategy explains efforts to protect, conserve and restore the Great Lakes.  It will be used for ongoing protection work as a foundation to map out goals and principles to guide future work and actions under each goal.

 

 

Cover of Lakeshore Capacity Assessment Handbook

Lakeshore Capacity Assessment Handbook

This document provides guidance to municipalities and other stakeholders responsible for the management of development along the shorelines of Ontario's inland lakes within the Precambrian Shield.

 

 

Cover of Inland Ontario Lakes Designated for Lake Trout Management

Inland Ontario Lakes Designated for Lake Trout Management

This report lists the inland Ontario lakes (exclusive of the Great Lakes) that are currently designated for lake trout management.

 

 

Minerals and Petroleum, and Mineral Aggregate Resources (Policies 2.4 and 2.5)

Minerals and petroleum, and mineral aggregate resources are vital to Ontario’s economy.  The locations of these resources are fixed by nature and can be mined only where they occur (recognizing that technological approaches, such as horizontal drilling for petroleum resources, provide flexibility in the location of a surface drilling location).  Some resources are more common in the north (e.g., precious metals) while others are particular to the south (e.g., petroleum).

To ensure future availability, Ontario’s mineral, petroleum and mineral aggregate resources should be accessible and capable of being developed.  Protection of these resources does not mean preserving them forever, but rather supporting or promoting their long-term availability by avoiding situations that could sterilize the resource and prevent its extraction.  This includes development and activities on adjacent lands that could prohibit or make it difficult for future development of the resource.

Ministries with Responsibilities for Mineral Aggregates, Minerals and Petroleum

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 applies to mineral aggregates, minerals and petroleum.  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has the provincial mandate for mineral aggregate and petroleum resources and administers the Aggregate Resources Act and the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act and Part IV of the Mining Act.  The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is responsible for all other minerals and administers the Mining Act except for Part IV.  The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines also undertakes assessments of mineral aggregate resources and publishes corresponding reports (Aggregate Resource Inventory Papers).

Picture of a bulldozer at a mineral aggregate operation. Picture of a gravel pile.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

For minerals and petroleum resources and mineral aggregate resources, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides policy direction to protect these resources for long-term use, requires rehabilitation to accommodate subsequent land uses, and provides direction related to rehabilitation of extraction sites in prime agricultural areas.   The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new or enhanced requirements for:

  • identification of mineral aggregates, minerals and petroleum (policies 2.4.2.1, 2.4.2.2 and 2.5.1);
  • conservation of mineral aggregate resources (policy 2.5.2.3); and
  • rehabilitation of aggregate extraction sites in agricultural areas (policy 2.5.4.1).

Identification of Mineral Aggregates, Minerals and Petroleum

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new requirements for planning authorities to identify mineral mining operations and deposits, significant areas of mineral potential, petroleum operations and resources, and mineral aggregate deposits in their planning documents, where provincial information is available (referred to in the policies as known deposits or resources)(policies 2.4.2.1, 2.4.2.2 and 2.5.1).  The intended outcome of this change is to support protection of the resources for long-term use.

Mineral Aggregate Extraction in Prime Agricultural Areas

The policy direction for mineral aggregate extraction in prime agricultural areas is clarified and, in some ways, enhanced (policy 2.5.4.1).  For mineral aggregate operations on prime agricultural lands, the new policies clarify the requirement to rehabilitate back to an agricultural condition, which is defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

For speciality crop areas, the policies for rehabilitation have been strengthened to require that the same productivity, range, and where applicable, microclimate are restored (policy 2.5.4.1).  In addition, the situations in speciality crop areas where rehabilitation back to an agricultural condition is not required have been limited to:

  • areas where there is a substantial quantity of high quality material below the water table; and
  • where the depth of extraction makes agricultural restoration unfeasible.

A definition of “high quality” has been added to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

Other Changes Concerning Mineral Aggregate Resources

Other changes support the conservation of mineral aggregates resources and rehabilitation considerations by:

  • promoting accessory aggregate recycling facilities at extraction sites (policy 2.5.2.3);
  • encouraging comprehensive rehabilitation planning where there is a concentration of mineral aggregate operations (policy 2.5.3.2); and
  • requiring rehabilitation to mitigate negative impacts to the extent possible (policy 2.5.3.1).
Picture of a rehabilitated aggregate extraction site. 

Natural Hazards (Policy 3.1)

The costs and risks associated with natural hazards and disasters – such as flooding, erosion and wildland fire – are large.  Understanding the extent of hazard areas early in the planning process and reducing the potential human risk and economic cost from hazards is key to Ontario’s long-term social and economic well-being.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides strong direction to protect public health and safety.  It includes policy direction to help plan for and manage natural hazards.  For example, policies direct development away from areas where there is an unacceptable risk.  This could include areas susceptible to damage from flood events, landslides, sinkholes, major erosion events, or wildland fire.

All regions of Ontario are affected by natural hazards, some of which are heightened by severe weather events.  Examples of past occurrences include flooding associated with Hurricane Hazel in the Toronto region in 1954, the Témiskamingue earthquake near North Bay in 1935, the Lemieux landslide in eastern Ontario in 1993, the Peterborough flood in 2004, and the wildland fire in Timmins in 2010.

What’s new in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new direction for planning authorities to consider the potential impacts of climate change that may increase the risk associated with natural hazards (policy 3.1.3).  These risks could include local weather events, such as more frequent and intense storms, for example, increased risks of flooding in the case of heavy rains, or wildland fires in the case of prolonged drought.  Policy 3.1.3 does not prescribe a process or focus on a specific outcome, recognizing that the science of climate change modelling is evolving.  Therefore, municipalities have flexibility when considering and applying the science to implement this policy.

In addition, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new direction for planning authorities to direct development away from areas of hazardous forest types for wildland fire (i.e., forest types associated with the risk of high to extreme risk of wildland fire), unless the risk is mitigated in accordance with wildland fire assessment and mitigation standards (policy 3.1.8).

The preamble to Section 3.0 also clarifies that development should not aggravate existing hazards or create new hazards that may increase the risk to public health, safety or property.

Key PPS Definition

Wildland fire assessment and mitigation standards: means the combination of risk assessment tools and environmentally appropriate mitigation measures identified by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to be incorporated into the design, construction and/or modification of buildings, structures, properties and/or communities to reduce the risk to public safety, infrastructure and property from wildland fire.

Role of Conservation Authorities

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has delegated responsibility to conservation authorities to comment on municipal planning documents and applications under the Planning Act that are submitted to determine consistency with the natural hazards policies, except the wildland fire policy, of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

Municipalities establish conservation authorities in conjunction with the province to implement resource management programs.  Throughout southern Ontario they have been established by municipalities with a common watershed.  In Northern Ontario, conservation authorities have been established by the larger municipalities, including the Cities of Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Sudbury and North Bay, and the province.  Through the Conservation Authorities Act, administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, conservation authorities implement a shared municipal/provincial program in natural hazards prevention to protect people and property from certain natural hazards within the authority’s jurisdiction.  In a regulatory process separate from the Planning Act, through Minister-approved regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act, conservation authorities regulate development as defined under the Act in areas prone to water-related hazards (Great Lakes shorelines, inland lakes, river or stream valleys, floodplains, wetlands and their adjacent areas, hazardous lands).  Permits are issued where the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches, pollution, conservation of land will not be affected by the development, or activities that may interfere with a watercourse or wetland.

Municipalities and similar planning authorities will need to identify areas subject to natural hazards for land use planning purposes to limit exposure to public health and safety risk.  A conservation authority may undertake the mapping of some or all natural hazards on behalf of the municipality.  This mapping may not cover the full extent (e.g., every watercourse) of a municipality.  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry may provide this type of mapping where conservation authorities have not been established. The natural hazard policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provide important direction in the absence of mapping for these types of hazards.

Aerial photograph of a forest fire in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. Picture of a washed-out road.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kirkland Lake Fire

Additional Resources

Technical guidance material on natural hazards developed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to support the natural hazards policies dealing with flooding and erosion hazards has been available for many years and remains relevant.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will be producing guidance material to support the policy for wildland fire (policy 3.1.8).  However, some implementation support material for the wildland fire policy direction already exists (FireSmart program).

Cover of Understanding Natural HazardsUnderstanding Natural Hazards (PDF)

Technical guidance on natural hazards.

 

 

Cover of Adaptive Management of Stream Corridors in Ontario: Natural Hazard Technical Guides

Adaptive Management of Stream Corridors in Ontario: Natural Hazard Technical Guides

Technical guides that include River and Steam Systems; Flooding Hazard Limit Technical Guide, River and Steam Systems; Erosion Hazard Technical Guide, Hazardous Sites Technical Guide in support of natural hazard policies (policy 3.1).


 

Cover of Natural Hazard Technical Guides for Flooding, Erosion and Dynamic Beaches

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System and large inland lakes: Natural Hazard Technical Guides for flooding, erosion and for dynamic beaches in support of natural hazards and policies (policy 3.1).

 

 

 

Provincial Plans (Policy 4.12)

Provincial plans build upon the policy foundation provided by the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 and its predecessors.  They provide land use planning policies that address issues facing specific geographic areas in Ontario.

Provincial Plans are to be read in conjunction with the Provincial Policy Statement.  They take precedence over the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement to the extent of any conflict, except where the relevant legislation provides otherwise.

Cover of the Greenbelt Plan 2005The Greenbelt Plan

Protects approximately 1.8 million acres of environmentally sensitive and agricultural land around the Greater Golden Horseshoe from urban development as well as supports a wide range of recreational, tourism and cultural opportunities.  It includes the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment and land known as Protected Countryside that lies at the heart of the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

 

Cover of Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation PlanOak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan

An ecologically based plan established by the Ontario government to provide land use and resource management direction for the 190,000 hectares of land and water within the Moraine.

 

 

Cover of the Niagara Escarpment PlanThe Niagara Escarpment Plan

The Plan guides development in the area of the Niagara Escarpment.  It is Canada’s first large-scale environmental land use plan.  It provides for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity as, substantially, a continuous natural environment, and ensures that only development compatible with that natural environment occurs.

 

 

Cover of Lake Simcoe Protection PlanLake Simcoe Protection Plan

A legislated watershed based plan that aims to protect, improve or restore key elements that contribute to the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed by restoring the health of cold water fisheries, improving and maintaining water quality, reducing phosphorus loadings to the lake and protecting and rehabilitating important natural areas, such as shorelines.

 

 

Cover of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden HorseshoeThe Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Created to better manage growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe by creating compact, complete communities that support a strong economy and efficiently use land and infrastructure; and to protect agricultural land and natural areas.

 

 

Cover of the Growth Plan for Northern OntarioThe Growth Plan for Northern Ontario

Aims to strengthen the economy of the North by providing a framework for decision-making and investments by both the province and local governments.

 

 

For More Information

Ministry of Municipal Affairs

Web site: www.ontario.ca/mah

Provincial Planning Policy Branch

777 Bay Street, 13th Floor
Toronto M5G 2E5
(416) 585-6014

Municipal Services Offices

For more information and assistance, contact one of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs' five Municipal Services Offices.

Central (Toronto)
777 Bay Street, 2nd Floor
Toronto M5G 2E5
(416) 585-6226 or 1-800-668-0230

Western (London)
659 Exeter Road, 2nd floor
London N6E 1L3
(519) 873-4020 or 1-800-265-4736

Eastern (Kingston)
8 Estate Lane, Rockwood House
Kingston K7M 9A8
(613) 545-2100 or 1-800-267-9438

Northern (Sudbury)
159 Cedar Street, Suite 401
Sudbury P3E 6A5
(705) 564-0120 or 1-800-461-1193

Northern (Thunder Bay)
435 James Street South, Suite 223
Thunder Bay P7E 6S7
(807) 475-1651 or 1-800-465-5027


 

Appendix: Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 - Practical Scenarios

The analysis of the scenarios in this section is focused on only some of the key policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 that may be relevant to the proposals.  In reality, each proposal would be unique and a more thorough planning analysis would be required based in part on local context and information to assess whether the proposal is consistent with the policy direction in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  In many instances, more detailed information would be required to undertake a complete and thorough planning analysis.  The focus on only some of the key Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies in this section is designed to highlight certain key policies and provide a sample of some planning considerations that would need to be assessed.  It was necessary to avoid significant detail to ensure the scenarios and the analysis were not overly long and complicated.  Other policies, plans, and legislation may also apply to the scenarios depending on where they are located within Ontario.

Index

Scenario 1: Permitted Uses in Rural Areas
Scenario 2: Land Needs in Rural Areas
Scenario 3: Limited Residential Development on Rural Lands
Scenario 4: Cottage Development
Scenario 5: Second Units
Scenario 6: Lot Creation
Scenario 7: Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas
Scenario 8: Permitted Uses in Prime Agricultural Areas - Cider Production Facility
Scenario 9: Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae
Scenario 10: Permitted Uses in Prime Agricultural Areas - Pork Production Facility
Scenario 11: Wetland
Scenario 12: Coastal Wetland
Scenario 13: Floodplain
Scenario 14: Wildland Fire

Scenario 1: Permitted Uses in Rural Areas

An agricultural property with two buildings on site.A farmer would like to set up a landscaping side business on his farm, including a home office and a building to store his landscaping equipment (e.g., lawn mowers, vehicles and other equipment).  The farmer was unable to find a suitable lot in the nearby settlement area that would accommodate his side business.  Is this development permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of considerations, including the property’s characteristics and location, that are influential in determining whether this development is appropriate and permissible. One of the main considerations would be if the farm is in a prime agricultural area or on rural lands. Generally, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit the introduction of a landscaping business on rural lands.  If the farm is located in a prime agricultural area, there would be more issues to consider – for instance, suitability of the size of the landscaping business in relation to the rest of the farm, compatibility with surrounding agricultural operations, and compliance with the minimum distance separation formulae.

The municipal official plan and zoning by-law are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides direction that permits certain development on rural lands (i.e., lands outside prime agricultural areas and settlement areas), including home industries (policy 1.1.5.2), provided the development meets specified criteria. For example the development must avoid the need for the unjustified and/or uneconomical expansion of infrastructure (policy 1.1.5.5),  is compatible with local land uses in order to prevent or mitigate adverse effects (policy 1.2.6.1) and does not conflict with other policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.

Planning authorities should also promote development that can be sustained by rural service levels and is compatible with the rural landscape (policy 1.1.5.4).  On rural lands, opportunities for new or expanding land uses that require separation from other uses should be retained (policy 1.1.5.6), while protecting agricultural and other resource-related uses from development that may constrain these uses (policy 1.1.5.7).

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies are designed to protect prime agricultural areas for long-term use by agriculture by requiring the designation of these prime agricultural areas in the official plan, identifying permitted uses allowed in these areas, and addressing the limited circumstances in which these areas can be used for non-agricultural purposes.  Regarding permitted uses in prime agricultural areas, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that:

  • agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified uses are permitted (policy 2.3.3.1).  These uses are defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014;
  • all types, sizes and intensities of agricultural uses and normal farm practices are promoted and protected in accordance with provincial standards (policy 2.3.3.2); and
  • new land uses, including the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae (policy 2.3.3.3).

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

In prime agricultural areas, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 permits on-farm diversified uses that are secondary to the principal agricultural use of the property and are limited in scale/area.  These may include home occupations and home industries that support the agricultural economy.  The municipality will need to give consideration to these criteria to help determine whether the proposal is appropriate for prime agricultural areas.  Depending on the specifics of the proposed development, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 limits lot creation within prime agricultural areas to lots for agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses, residences surplus to a farm operation, and infrastructure.

Also, the property may have certain characteristics that may trigger the application of other Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies.  Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, including:

  • natural heritage features (e.g., habitat of endangered species and threatened species) or other resources (e.g., water) that would require protection;
  • cultural heritage and archaeology (e.g., presence of a cultural heritage landscape or archaeological resource);
  • natural hazards (e.g., flooding or erosion hazards) that development is to avoid or address; and
  • infrastructure (e.g., water and sewage) that is necessary and appropriate to accommodate the proposed uses and scale.

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 applies province-wide but allows the outcomes to be tailored to fit the local context.  As such, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, does not identify the size and scale of uses.  Instead, planning authorities through their planning documents (e.g., official plan and zoning by-law) determine permitted uses and scale to best suit the community.

Draft guidelines on permitted uses in prime agricultural areas are presently being finalized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and it is recommended that you contact the Ministry for the most up-to-date information.

It is important that the proposed new uses are compatible with the surrounding uses, including consideration of noise, air emissions and odours emitted from the landscaping business. For example, permits and approvals for noise or disposing of certain wastes may be required.  The ability to avoid and mitigate these and other impacts on neighbours, such as increased traffic, is an important test in determining the appropriateness of the proposal.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may determine whether this proposal will be permitted. These may include the minimum distance separation formulae, Building Code, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s D-Series Guidelines, which provide guidance on avoiding and mitigating land use compatibility issues, and other environmental approvals.

Scenario 2: Land Needs in Rural Areas

Shops along a downtown mainstreet.A rural municipality with little historic growth is under pressure to permit more development on rural lands outside of its rural settlement area and the prime agricultural areas designated in the official plan. The municipality is undertaking a five-year review of its official plan.  As part of this review, the municipality would like to ensure it has sufficient lands available to grow and develop over the 20-year planning horizon.

To determine the amount of land needed and available for new development within its rural settlement area and rural lands, the municipality undertook a vacant land inventory and assessed its projected population. The analysis indicated a need for approximately 200 additional residential lots over the next 20 years (approximately 10 lots per year).  The Town’s existing official plan permits 25 rural estate lots per year on rural lands outside of the settlement area, but this threshold was never reached.

What lot creation policies may be appropriate for this municipality?

The official plan is the main vehicle for implementing the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  The five-year review is an opportunity to ensure the official plan continues to address local priorities, reflects changing community needs and implements updated provincial policies in land use planning.  The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether future proposals for development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 directs growth to settlement areas, including rural settlement areas. It also permits limited residential development within rural lands located in municipalities (policy 1.1.5.1. c).  However, the term ‘limited’ is not defined, and the municipality will therefore need to determine what limited means given its local circumstances.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The completion of an assessment of existing vacant lots, both on rural lands and in the rural settlement area, is a good first step in determining how much land is available for development.  Local intensification targets and phasing policies need to be considered and the availability of infrastructure and public service facilities needs to be assessed.  This information, combined with projected population growth, will assist the municipality in determining how many more residential lots are needed over the 20-year planning horizon.

The municipality must ensure that the distribution of residential development throughout the municipality reflects the intent of policy 1.1.4.2 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, which states that “…rural settlement area(s) shall be the focus of growth and development and their vitality and regeneration shall be promoted.”

If the municipality determines that the existing rural settlement area can accommodate the majority of projected growth (through development on existing vacant lots, infilling, and new lot creation), then an expansion of the settlement area boundary will not be needed.  If no expansion is proposed, then the municipality does not have to undertake a comprehensive review.

The municipality, knowing that there is a demand for lots on rural lands, will need to develop policies that address growth on rural lands without compromising the viability of its rural settlement area. It appears that the existing official plan policies that permit 25 rural estate lots per year (resulting in a possible 500 lots over the planning horizon) are not reflective of current needs and projections. Alternative consent and subdivision policies are needed in order to appropriately distribute a limited portion of the projected 200 lots to the rural lands.

Ontario municipalities have taken multiple policy approaches to permitting limited residential development on rural land.  For example:

  • directing a higher percentage of growth to settlement areas and a lower percentage to rural lands;
  • examining the ability to service existing and projected growth through an assessment of the capacity of existing and planned sewage and water servicing;
  • identifying a “cap” on the number of lots that can be created on rural lands on an annual (or other timeframe) basis; and
  • identifying the number of lots that can be created from a parent parcel of land on rural lands as of a certain date.

For these policy approaches, and any others that are being implemented to achieve the same outcome of limited rural residential development, municipalities should carefully monitor actual lot creation to determine whether the policies are effective and remain appropriate.

Other Relevant Considerations

The appropriate provision of infrastructure is another key consideration for permitting limited residential development on rural lands.  Policy 1.1.5.5 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that “development shall be appropriate to the infrastructure which is planned or available, and avoid the need for the unjustified and/or uneconomical expansion of this infrastructure.”  The costs of providing and maintaining infrastructure (such as public roadways) and services (such as fire and police) to more dispersed rural development therefore also need to be taken into account.

Dispersed rural development can also take away some of the long-term ecological functions of natural heritage systems, for example by taking away an important linkage between natural heritage features.  It can also impact the continuity of significant cultural heritage landscapes in a rural area.

The requirement to separate residential development from other incompatible land uses on rural lands should also be considered.  Policy 1.1.5.9 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that “new land uses, including the creation of lots, and new or expanding livestock facilities, shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae.”  If any livestock facilities are in the vicinity of a proposed new residential lot on rural lands, the minimum distance separation formulae should be considered, which will likely result in a setback distance that must be met between the livestock facility and the new proposed lot.  In some cases, this may affect the proposed location of the lot.

Scenario 3: Limited Residential Development on Rural Lands

A large one-storey home in a rural setting.A local developer is proposing an 8 lot residential development in a rural area.  The subject property is located on rural lands, outside of a prime agricultural area.  There are no services currently available at this site.  Is the proposed residential development permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors to consider in determining whether this type of development is appropriate and/or permissible.  While the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit residential development on rural lands, there are a number of other considerations that will influence the decision.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted, and may outline the maximum number of residential lots that would be permitted.  When developing an official plan, municipalities should consider if some limited residential development is appropriate for the rural areas (such as, how much and where), and if so, identify appropriate policies keeping in mind provincial policy directions and local considerations and objectives.

The Role of Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 directs growth and development to settlement areas, including rural settlement areas such as towns, villages and hamlets.  It also permits limited residential development on rural lands located in municipalities (policy 1.1.5.1 c).

One of the key goals of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is the effective use of land and resources, with development primarily focussed in settlement areas (policies 1.1.3.1 and 1.1.4.2). This helps to support the continued vitality of these areas.  It also ensures the use of existing public infrastructure and public service facilities is maximized, reduces the costs for municipalities to provide services to a vast rural area, and minimizes negative impacts on the environment.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

Recognizing that each community faces unique circumstances, the term “limited” is not defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  The municipality will need to determine what limited means given its local circumstances.  Some examples include looking at:

  • the scale of the development;
  • the proximity to a settlement area;
  • capacity of available or planned infrastructure;
  • context of the surrounding area; and
  • whether it would be in keeping with the rural character.

The municipality could also consider the level of anticipated growth or development, and the scale of the proposed development relative to that.

The appropriate provision of infrastructure is a key consideration for permitting limited residential development on rural lands.  Beyond providing sewage and water services, the way a development is serviced may have implications on the environment, such as water quality.  In this instance, there are no services available at the subject property.  Policy 1.1.5.5 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that “development shall be appropriate to the infrastructure which is planned or available, and avoid the need for the unjustified and/or uneconomical expansion of this infrastructure.”  The costs of providing and maintaining infrastructure (such as public roadways) and services (such as fire and police) to more dispersed rural development need to be taken into account.

Another consideration relates to the proposed sewage and water servicing plans for the development.  Policy 1.6.6 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 outlines the province’s preferred sewage and water servicing hierarchy.  Policy 1.6.6.1 a) provides that planning for sewage and water services shall direct and accommodate expected growth or development in a manner that promotes the efficient use and optimization of existing municipal sewage and water services, and private communal services where municipal services are not available.

Individual on-site sewage and water services (i.e., septic tanks and wells) are permitted where municipal or private communal services are not available, so long as the site conditions are suitable for the long-term provision of such services with no negative impacts, as defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 (policy 1.6.6.4).  The proponent will need to demonstrate that there will be no negative impacts to water quality and quantity by completing appropriate environmental studies in accordance with provincial standards (e.g., hydrogeological or water quality impact assessments).  This is needed to protect the interests of any future resident of the site, as well as protect the broader environmental interests, such as the interests of the existing residents in the area as they also have a need for safe groundwater.

In this case, partial services would not be permitted.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that partial services are only permitted to address failed individual on-site sewage and water services in existing development or for infilling and minor rounding out of existing development on partial services in settlement areas (provided site conditions are suitable with no negative impacts) (policy 1.6.6.5).

The requirement to separate residential development from other incompatible land uses on rural lands should also be considered.  For instance, policy 1.1.5.9 of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that “new land uses, including the creation of lots, and new or expanding livestock facilities, shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae.”  While the property is not located in a prime agricultural area, there may be livestock facilities in the vicinity of the proposed rural lands.  If there are livestock facilities nearby, the minimum distance separation formulae should be considered, which would likely result in a setback distance that must be met between the livestock facility and the proposed new development.  In some cases, this may affect the proposed location of the residential development, or potentially the ability to locate any residential development at this site.

Other Site-specific Considerations

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, including:

  • presence of a significant cultural heritage resource (including built heritage, cultural heritage landscape, or archaeological site), natural heritage features (e.g., wetlands), habitat of endangered or threatened species or other resources (e.g., minerals or aggregates) that would require protection;
  • human-made hazards (e.g., mining-related hazards); and
  • natural hazards (e.g., floodplains, or hazardous forest types for wildland fires) that development is to avoid or address.

The municipality may require archaeological assessments in areas of archaeological potential, and/or heritage assessments where there are known or potential cultural heritage resources, as part of applications under the Planning Act.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may be relevant in determining whether this proposal will be permitted including Building Code approvals, environmental approvals, Endangered Species Act, 2007 approvals, Ontario Heritage Act consents, and any local planning provisions set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

Scenario 4: Cottage Development

A lake-front cottage.A small cottage development of three lots is being proposed around an inland lake in a rural area in a municipality.  The lands are not part of a prime agricultural area.  Is this cottage development permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors, including the property’s characteristics and location, that are influential in determining whether this development is appropriate and permissible.  While the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit the development of cottages around a lake, there are other considerations that would influence the decision.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

One of the key goals of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is the effective use of land and resources, with development primarily focused in settlement areas (policies 1.1.3.1 and 1.1.4.2).  This ensures the use of existing public infrastructure and public service facilities is maximized, reduces the costs for municipalities to provide services to a vast rural area, and minimizes negative impacts on the environment.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that development will not happen in the same way or at the same rate in all parts of Ontario.  At the same time, the settlement area policies are relevant to all areas of Ontario and help minimize unnecessary public expenditures in infrastructure and services.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also outlines permitted uses on rural lands, one of which is resource-based recreational uses (e.g., recreational dwellings) (policy 1.1.5.2).

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

Although the term “resource-based recreational uses” is not defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, resource-based recreational uses are related to and located in close proximity to one or more natural features such as lakes, rivers or forests, and other geographic features.  Examples include recreational dwellings (such as cottages and camps), country inns, hunting lodges, hiking trails, marinas and ski hills.

Providing municipal water and sewage infrastructure to new development helps ensure the protection of human health and the natural environment, in particular water quality and quantity.  In the absence of full municipal services, some limited development that uses communal or individual on-site sewage and water services may be appropriate provided it has been demonstrated that site conditions are suitable and the long-term provision of those services will have no negative impacts on the environment.

These uses should be developed in a manner that recognizes the environmental capacity of the features and areas upon which they depend. The scale and the location of the development (i.e., on a lake) may trigger other considerations in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, including the protection of water resources and fish habitat.  Shoreline development can result in the loss of vegetation and hardening of surfaces and increase the potential of erosion and pollution of water bodies.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 ensures consideration of “environmental lake capacity” in an effort to protect water quality for drinking and for aquatic life (e.g., fish).  Consideration of environmental lake capacity is supported by existing implementation tools (Lakeshore Capacity Assessment Handbook, 2010), which direct this consideration to inland lakes in the Precambrian shield.

Other Site-specific Considerations

Given the proximity of the proposal to a water body, consideration may need to be given to the potential of archaeological resources on the site.  The local municipality may have an archaeological management plan that identifies the areas with known archaeological sites and the areas of archaeological potential.  Such a plan can be an effective tool that supports the implementation of municipal policies and procedures for identifying and conserving archaeological resources.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 encourages the use of archaeological management plans to support the desired outcomes of conserving archaeological resources, while expediting the development plan review process.

Regardless of whether the municipality has an archaeological management plan in place, the municipality may require archaeological assessments or studies in areas of archaeological potential as part of applications under the Planning Act.

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, including:

  • other natural heritage features (e.g., wetlands) or other resources (e.g., minerals or aggregates) that would require protection;
  • cultural heritage (e.g., the presence of a cultural heritage landscape that may be part of a heritage waterway);
  • human-made hazards (e.g., mining-related hazards); and
  • natural hazards (e.g., floodplains, or hazardous forest types for wildland fires) that development is to avoid or address.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may be relevant in determining whether this proposal will be permitted, including Building Code approvals, conservation authority permitting, environmental approvals, Ontario Heritage Act consents, Fisheries Act rules or authorizations, and any local planning provisions set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

Scenario 5: Second Units

Family home in a rural setting.A family living in a single-family home located in a rural hamlet would like to create a new apartment within their existing home for their grandmother. Is the family permitted to establish a second unit under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 requires that planning authorities provide for a mix and range of housing types necessary to meet current and future needs.  They do this by permitting different forms of housing, including second units, and establishing targets for housing that people can afford.  The provision of a mix and range of housing types appropriate to a community’s needs will ensure that current and future residents have housing choices that take into account a variety of needs and incomes.

Second units, such as basement apartments and granny suites, serve to increase densities within existing housing stock.  They also create opportunities for increased affordable rental housing stock and accommodating ageing in place.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Planning Act Provisions

Some of the changes made to the Planning Act through the Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act, 2011 require municipalities to establish official plan policies and zoning bylaw provisions allowing second units in detached, semi-detached and row houses as well as in ancillary structures (such as above laneway garages).  Other provisions place limitations on the ability to appeal the establishment of such policies or provision, including the standards for second units.

While municipalities are required to permit second units, there may be inherent constraints within portions of a municipality or community that would make those areas inappropriate for second units (such as flood-prone areas or areas with inadequate servicing).  Municipalities should consider any such constraints in developing or reviewing second unit policies.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

Since the proposed use is on an existing lot and within an existing home, there are only a limited number of Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies that would specifically apply.  For example, the sewage and water servicing policies (policy 1.6.6) would need to be considered including a determination about the adequacy of the sewer and water system in light of an additional unit.  If the property is serviced by well and septic system, the proponent would need to demonstrate that those services have the capacity to service the additional demand while not negatively impacting the environment.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals, such as building permits and accessibility standards, may be relevant in determining whether this proposal will be permitted.  The proposal would also be subject to local planning provisions (e.g., official plan, zoning bylaw) and standards that apply to second units in relation to matters such as minimum unit size or parking requirements.

Scenario 6: Lot Creation

A bungalow home in a small, rural town.A landowner wants to create a new lot and there are few, if any, vacant lots within her small town on which her son could build a new house.  The small town does not have a municipal sewer or water system.  The municipality advised the proponent that the development would be considered infilling in the community.  Is the proponent allowed to create a new lot in light of the policy direction in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors including the property’s characteristics and location that are influential in determining whether this development is appropriate and permissible.  Depending on the factors, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit creating a new lot in an unserviced community.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

One of the key goals of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is that land should be used effectively, with development focussed in settlement areas, including promoting opportunities for redevelopment and intensification.  This will avoid scattered development, which can be costly to service, can create demand for services that were not contemplated, and may have negative impacts on the environment and resources.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides a hierarchy for planning sewage and water services, with preference given to municipal sewage services and municipal water services (policies 1.6.6.1 and 1.6.6.2).  However, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that where no municipal services are provided, some development can rely on private communal sewage and water services, where appropriate (policy 1.6.6.3).  Also, some limited development on individual on-site sewage and water services may be permitted for the purposes of infilling and minor rounding out of existing development provided that site conditions are suitable and environmental studies demonstrate that there will be no negative impacts associated with the services (policy 1.6.6.4).

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 recognizes that development will not happen in the same way or at the same rate in all parts of Ontario.  At the same time, settlement area policies are relevant to all of Ontario and help to minimize unnecessary and unsustainable public expenditures in infrastructure and services.

Providing municipal water and sewage infrastructure to new development helps ensure the protection of human health and the natural environment, in particular water quality and quantity.  In the absence of full municipal services, some limited development that uses communal or individual on-site sewage and water services may be appropriate provided site conditions are suitable and the long-term provision of those services will have no negative impacts on the environment.

The proponent will need to demonstrate that there will be no negative impacts to water quality and quantity by completing appropriate environmental studies in accordance with provincial standards (e.g., hydrogeological and/or water quality impact assessments).  This is needed to protect the interests of any future resident of the site plus to protect the broader interests of the existing residents in the area, including their need for safe groundwater.

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 that may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, include:

  • natural heritage features (e.g., provincially significant wetlands) or other resources (e.g., agriculture) that would require protection or limit lot creation opportunities;
  • significant built heritage resources, cultural heritage landscapes or archaeological resources that require conservation;
  • natural hazards (e.g., flooding hazards) that development is to avoid or address; and
  • other infrastructure (e.g., roads) and public service facilities that is necessary and appropriate to accommodate the proposed uses and scale.

The new lot creation would also be subject to local planning provisions, including those set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

Scenario 7: Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas

A large farm property with a barn and silos.A proponent is seeking to sever one hectare (2-1/2 acres) of land from a corner of his larger farm property to build a new home for a family member with no connection to the farming operation.

The farm is located in a prime agricultural area and is surrounded by other active farms. The area to be severed is not currently in agricultural production and contains a pocket of lower capability (Canada Land Inventory Class 5) land. Further, the proposed parcel to be severed also had a residence on it at one time but it was demolished many years ago. Is the proposed severance permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

In this instance, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 would not permit the creation of a new residential lot in a prime agricultural area.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

One of the goals of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies is to protect prime agricultural areas for long-term use by agriculture.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 achieves this, in part, through policies that are designed to protect prime agricultural areas for their long-term use for agriculture by requiring that these areas be designated in municipal official plans.  The policies also identify the permitted uses in prime agricultural areas, as well as the limited circumstances in which lands in these areas can be used for non-agricultural uses.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that the creation of new residential lots, including farm retirement lots and residential infilling, is not permitted in prime agricultural areas including specialty crop areas, except for a residence surplus to a farming operation as a result of a farm consolidation.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 discourages lot creation in prime agricultural areas. The creation of new lots may be permitted only for (policy 2.3.4.1):

  • agricultural uses, provided that the lots are of a size appropriate for the type of agricultural use(s) common in the area and are sufficiently large to maintain flexibility for future changes in the type or size of agricultural operations;
  • agriculture-related uses, provided that any new lot will be limited to a minimum size needed to accommodate the use and appropriate sewage and water services;
  • a residence surplus to a farming operation as a result of farm consolidation, provided that the planning authority ensures that new residential dwellings are prohibited on any remnant parcel of farmland created by the severance and the new lot will be a minimum size needed to accommodate the use and appropriate sewage and water services; and
  • infrastructure, where the facility or corridor cannot be accommodated through the use of easements or rights-of-way.

Another way the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 achieves this goal is by promoting the efficient use of land by directing growth and development to urban and rural settlement areas while supporting the viability of the broader rural area.

Prime agricultural areas are defined as areas where prime agricultural lands predominate. Specialty crop areas are given the highest priority for protection, followed by Canada Land Inventory Class 1, 2, and 3 lands, and any associated Class 4 to through 7 lands within the prime agricultural area, in this order of priority (policy 2.3.1). In the example, while the lands may not currently be in agricultural production and have lower capability, they are part of a broader prime agricultural area.  As a result, under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, the proposal would not be permitted.  Only agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified uses are permitted in prime agricultural areas (policy 2.3.3.1).

The creation of residential development in agricultural areas, even if the lands have lower capability, places restrictions on agricultural activities and normal farm practices. Complaints about noise, odour, dust and other issues tend to accompany the introduction of new residential lots in agricultural areas and constrict or impact agricultural operations.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, permits lot creation in prime agricultural areas only for agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses, a residence surplus to a farm operation as a result of farm consolidation, and infrastructure (policy 2.3.4.1).  These policies are in place to reduce the fragmentation of agricultural land and to protect agricultural operations from nuisance complaints or other restrictions on agricultural activities and normal farm practices. The proposed residential lot is not an example of a residence surplus to a farm operation as a result of farm consolidation as no residence currently exists.

The minimum distance separation formula is not applicable in this scenario, as the use is not permitted and the lot cannot be created. However, in Ontario's rural lands and prime agricultural areas, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 requires that new land uses, including the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities, comply with the minimum distance separation formula.

Scenario 8: Permitted Uses in Prime Agricultural Areas - Cider Production Facility

Cider production facility.The owner and operator of a small cidery in a prime agricultural area wishes to expand its production to include a larger and modern cider-production facility and a small restaurant related to the cidery.  Is this development permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

A number of factors are important to consider, including the scale of the proposal as well as the property’s characteristics and location.  Depending on the factors, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit the expansion of the cidery and the introduction of a small restaurant related to the agricultural activities on the site in prime agricultural areas.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 permits agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified uses — which could potentially include cideries — in prime agricultural areas to support the agricultural and rural economy.  Careful consideration would need to be given to the potential introduction of a small restaurant and its potential impacts on agriculture as it has the potential to introduce, for example, more traffic and potentially take some prime agricultural land out of production.  It would be necessary for the uses to be secondary to the agricultural use.  Municipal planning policies would likely provide additional direction in this regard.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 are designed to protect prime agricultural areas for long-term agricultural use by requiring the designation of these prime agricultural areas in the official plan, identifying permitted uses allowed in these areas, and addressing the limited circumstances in which these areas can be used for non-agricultural purposes.  Regarding permitted uses in prime agricultural areas, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that:

  • agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified are permitted (policy 2.3.3.1).  These uses are defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014;
  • all types, sizes and intensities of agricultural uses and normal farm practices are promoted and protected in accordance with provincial standards (policy 2.3.3.2); and
  • new land uses, including the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae (policy 2.3.3.3).

Permitted uses recognize the need for on-farm economic development opportunities, and aim to support the agricultural and rural economy.  However, other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, including:

  • whether there are natural heritage features (e.g., provincially significant wetlands) or other resources (e.g., aggregates) to protect;
  • whether there are cultural heritage and archaeological resources to conserve (e.g., the presence of an area of archaeological potential);
  • if there is a mineral aggregate operation nearby, whether the restaurant could hinder the continued use of that operation;
  • whether there are natural hazards (e.g., flood plains or karst features) or human-made hazards (e.g., oil, gas and salt hazards) to avoid; and
  • providing the necessary infrastructure and services (e.g., roads, water supply and sewage) to accommodate the proposed uses and scale.

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development.

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

As the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides policy direction province-wide, it does not identify the size and scale of uses.  Instead, the local municipality will need to determine in its planning documents (e.g., official plan and zoning bylaws) permitted uses and scale to fit the local context and site-specific circumstances.

Draft guidelines on permitted uses in prime agricultural areas are presently being finalized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and it is recommended that you contact the Ministry for the most up-to-date information.

The proposed new and expanded uses would need to be compatible with the surrounding uses, including consideration of noise and odours.  For instance, any new or expanded buildings (depending on their use) would need to consider the proximity from nearby livestock operations, including the potential applicability of the minimum distance separation formulae.  Traffic impacts may also be a consideration.  These are some factors that can influence the appropriateness of the development.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may determine whether this proposal will be permitted. These may include restaurant/food regulations, Building Code, permit to take water, environmental compliance approvals, the minimum distance separation formulae, accessibility standards, liquor licensing, and permit or certain rules to be followed under the Endangered Species Act, 2007, etc.

Any new lot creation would also be subject to local planning provisions, including those set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

Scenario 9: Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae

An extension to a home under construction with a barn nearby.The owner of a residential property located on rural lands would like to divide her lot to create one new lot for the purpose of building a house for her son. The owner’s house would be on the retained lot. The property is located across a road from a pig farm. Is the proponent allowed to create a new lot considering the policy direction set out in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors, including the property’s characteristics and location, that are influential in determining whether this development is appropriate and permissible.  Depending on the factors, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit creating new lots on rural lands. The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 permits certain development on rural lands (i.e., lands outside prime agricultural areas and settlement areas), including limited residential development (policy 1.1.5.2), provided the development meets specified criteria.  For example, it avoids the need for the unjustified and/or uneconomical expansion of infrastructure (policy 1.1.5.5), and it does not conflict with other policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014. Planning authorities should also promote development that can be sustained by rural service levels and that is compatible with the rural landscape (policy 1.1.5.4).  On rural lands, opportunities to locate new or expanding land uses that require separation from other uses should be retained (policy 1.1.5.6), while protecting agricultural and other resource-related uses from development that may constrain these uses (policy 1.1.5.7).

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 aims to promote and protect agricultural uses and normal farm practices. Consideration would need to be given to the potential incompatibility between the existing livestock facility and the new residence.

Regarding agriculture on rural lands, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that:

  • agricultural uses, agricultural-related uses, on-farm diversified uses and normal farm practices should be promoted and protected in accordance with provincial standards (policy 1.1.5.8); and
  • new land uses, including the creation of lots, and new or expanding livestock facilities, shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae (policy 1.1.5.9).

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

Given this policy direction in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, the development would need to consider the proximity from the nearby livestock operation. The minimum separation distance formulae would be applicable to the proposed lot severance and would determine the required minimum setback for new sensitive development (e.g., residential) from livestock operations. The location and intensity of the livestock operation may determine the appropriateness of this development or influence the scale and location of the development. Generally, the larger the livestock operation, the greater the setback required by the minimum distance separation formulae.

Depending on the property, other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may also apply, such as:

  • whether there are significant built heritage resources, cultural heritage landscapes or archeological resources on site to conserve;
  • whether the new lot contains or is adjacent to natural heritage features (e.g., provincially significant wetlands) or other resources (e.g., aggregates, other surface or ground water features) to protect; and
  • whether there are natural hazards (e.g., flood plains) to avoid or address.

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Natural Heritage Reference Manual recommends that, if development exists within the recommended adjacent lands widths for natural heritage features and the existing development is situated between the feature and the new development, the demonstration of no negative impacts can simply be a statement in a planning report that negative impacts are not anticipated.

Other Relevant Considerations

Any new lot creation would also be subject to local planning provisions, including those set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw. There is also the potential that other documents and approvals will determine whether this proposal will be permitted, including Building Code approvals.

Scenario 10: Permitted Uses in Prime Agricultural Areas - Pork Product Facility

A hog barn.A hog farmer would like to establish a business on a property next to her farm where she can make and sell pork products, including homemade sausages.  Is this development permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 in a prime agricultural area?

A number of factors are important to consider, including the scale of the proposal as well as the property’s characteristics and location. Depending on those factors, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit the introduction of a facility to make pork products and an associated retail store in prime agricultural areas.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 permits agriculture-related uses, such as meat processing directly related to farm operations in the area, in prime agricultural areas to support the agricultural and rural economy.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policies are designed to protect prime agricultural areas for long-term agricultural use by requiring the designation of these prime agricultural areas in the official plan, identifying permitted uses allowed in these areas, and addressing the limited circumstances in which these areas can be used for non-agricultural purposes.  Regarding permitted uses in prime agricultural areas, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that:

  • agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses and on-farm diversified uses are permitted (policy 2.3.3.1).  These uses are defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014;
  • all types, sizes and intensities of agricultural uses and normal farm practices are promoted and protected in accordance with provincial standards (policy 2.3.3.2); and
  • new land uses, including the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae (policy 2.3.3.3).

Permitted uses recognize the need for on-farm economic development opportunities and aim to support the agricultural and rural economy.  Depending on the property, there may also be other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 that apply, such as:

  • protecting natural heritage features (e.g., provincially significant woodlands) or other resources (e.g., water);
  • conserving cultural heritage and archaeological resources (e.g., the presence of an area of archaeological potential);
  • avoiding natural hazards (e.g., floodplain); and
  • ensuring the necessary infrastructure and services (e.g., roads, water and sewage) are available to service the proposed uses and scale.

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development.

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 applies province-wide but allows the outcomes to be tailored to fit the local context.  As such, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, does not identify the size and scale of uses.  Instead, planning authorities through their planning documents (e.g., official plan and zoning bylaw) determine permitted uses and scale to best suit the community.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs released draft guidance material on permitted uses in prime agricultural areas which can assist municipalities to develop appropriate land use policies.  The “Guidelines on Permitted Uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas” provide criteria and additional information that municipalities can use to inform the development of their local land use policies.

The proposed new uses would need to be compatible with the surrounding uses, giving consideration to things such as noise and odours, which can influence the appropriateness of the development.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may determine whether this proposal will be permitted. These may include the minimum distance separation formulae, Building Code, health regulations and standards, food safety regulations and license requirements, Nutrient Management Act, 2002 approvals, Environmental Protection Act approvals, and permit or certain rules to be followed under the Endangered Species Act, 2007.
The proposal would also be subject to local planning provisions (e.g., official plan, zoning bylaw).

Scenario 11: Wetland

A wetland.A large corporation is looking to establish a new manufacturing facility in southern Ontario on a vacant parcel of land.  The property  is located within the settlement area, along a major highway corridor with good visibility and highway access and well separated from sensitive land uses.  This facility would create many new jobs for the local community.  There is a woodlot on part of this property, which also is a significant wetland.  Is this development permitted on the property under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors to consider in determining whether this type of development is appropriate and/or permissible. In this instance, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is clear that development and site alteration are not permitted in a significant wetland in the area of the proposed development.  Development on the remainder of the property may be possible, but would require further analysis including consideration of the wetland feature, and possible impacts on the woodlot.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that the province’s natural heritage resources provide important environmental, economic and social benefits.  As such, one of its goals is to ensure that resources are managed in a sustainable way to conserve biodiversity and protect essential ecological processes while minimizing environmental and social impacts to meet Ontario’s long-term needs.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 achieves this through policies designed to protect natural heritage features and their ecological functions for the long term. In determining the appropriate level of protection for particular features, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 uses ecoregions to identify different geographic regions. This particular example would fall within Ecoregions 6E and 7E.

Municipalities are required to identify natural heritage systems in Ecoregions 6E and 7E in their official plans while recognizing that natural heritage systems will vary in size and form in settlement areas, rural areas, and prime agricultural areas (policy 2.1.3).  To assist in implementing the natural heritage policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, including recommended distances for adjacent lands and criteria for determining of woodlands significance, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has developed a Natural Heritage Reference Manual as a resource for municipalities.

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

In this particular example, it has been established that the wetland is significant, so the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 would not permit development or site alteration within the wetland.  In addition, it would have to be demonstrated that any development on adjacent lands (120 metres, as recommended in the Natural Heritage Reference Manual) would not result in negative impacts, as defined in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, on the wetland or its ecological functions.  The Natural Heritage Reference Manual also provides criteria for determining the significance of woodlands (ecologically important, functionally important or economically important).  Development and site alteration are not permitted in a significant woodland (policy 2.1.5) or adjacent to a significant wetland or woodland (policy 2.1.8), unless it is demonstrated there will be no negative impacts on the natural heritage features or its ecological functions.  In this scenario, development in the woodland is not permitted, since it is also a significant wetland.

Part III of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also contains a discussion of how specific language is considered in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  While several policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 speak to the importance of economic development (policies 1.3 and 1.7), the policies regarding significant wetlands state that development and site alteration of this type shall not be permitted in such a feature in Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E (policy 2.1.4).

While not applicable to the scenario as presented, it is important to note that prior to determining whether development is allowed on or adjacent to a wetland that has not been evaluated, a wetland evaluation by an evaluator trained by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System may be required to determine the significance of the wetland. This information should be obtained early in the development application process when it is more reasonable for proponents to adjust their proposals.

Other Site-specific Considerations

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may also determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale of and location of the development, including but not limited to:

  • other natural heritage features (e.g., habitat of endangered species) or other resources (e.g., minerals or petroleum , other surface or ground water features) that would require protection;
  • cultural heritage and archaeology (e.g., the presence of a cultural heritage landscape);
  • natural hazards (e.g., flooding hazards or unstable soils) that development is to avoid or address; and
  • infrastructure (e.g., water and sewage) that is necessary and appropriate to accommodate the proposed uses and scale.

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may be relevant in determining whether this proposal will be permitted including Building Code approvals, conservation authority permitting, and any local planning provisions set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

Scenario 12: Coastal Wetland

A coastal wetland.A private company has put forward a proposal to build a world class marina in a municipality in eastern Ontario.  The subject property is located along the shore of Lake Ontario and part of the property has a wetland that has not yet been evaluated to determine if it is significant. Is the proposed marina development permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors to consider in determining whether this type of development is appropriate and/or permissible.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes policies to protect natural heritage features and areas, including coastal wetlands.  These policies will be important in determining whether the proposed development is permitted.

The municipal official plan, which sets out where development may and may not occur, and the zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.  These documents identify how lands may be used and provide the ground rules for development.  They include direction to address local circumstances and consider site-specific issues, such as roadways to access the site and parking requirements, while keeping in mind provincial policy direction.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 states that the province’s natural heritage and water resources provide important environmental, economic and social benefits.  For example, these resources contribute to benefits such as flood control, recreation and tourism, and biodiversity and the range of goods and services we depend on.  As such, one of its goals is to ensure that resources are managed in a sustainable way to conserve biodiversity, protect the health of the Great Lakes, and protect essential ecological processes to meet Ontario’s long-term needs.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 achieves this through policies designed to protect natural heritage features and their ecological functions for the long term (policy 2.1), as well as policies to protect, improve or restore the quality and quantity of water (policy 2.2).  In determining the appropriate level of protection for particular natural heritage features, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 uses ecoregions to identify different geographic regions.  This particular example would fall within Ecoregions 6E and 7E.

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 is clear that development and site alteration are not permitted in significant coastal wetlands (policy 2.1.4 b).  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 also restricts development and site alteration in coastal wetlands in Ecoregions 5E, 6E and 7E unless it has been demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on the natural features or their ecological functions (policy 2.1.5 f).  Development or site alteration may be permitted on adjacent lands (120 metres, as recommended in the Natural Heritage Reference Manual) provided it can be demonstrated that the development would not result in negative impacts on the wetland or its ecological functions (policy 2.1.8).

In this particular example, the significance of the wetland is not yet known.  As part of the process of determining whether development is allowed on or adjacent to the wetland, a wetland evaluation will need to be undertaken.  Wetland evaluations can be performed by an evaluator trained by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.  This information should be obtained early in the development application process when it is more reasonable for proponents to adjust their proposals, and to help determine potential feasibility before other expensive studies or investments are made.  The level of significance of the wetland will then determine which policy standard is to be applied in this situation.

If it is determined that the wetland is significant, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 would not permit development or site alteration within the wetland.

If the wetland is found to not be significant, the proposed development may be permitted within and/or adjacent to the wetland if the no negative impacts test can be demonstrated, and if it does not conflict with any other policy directions in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  “Negative impacts” is a defined term in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  In order to meet the no negative impacts test, the proponent will need to conduct appropriate studies.

As mentioned, development on part of the property may be possible but would require further analysis including consideration of the wetland feature, and potential impacts on Lake Ontario and its shoreline area.  Shoreline protection plays a key role in maintaining biodiversity because the area where land meets water typically has high concentrations of biodiversity.  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes enhanced direction related to shoreline areas, recognizing their importance to the ecological and hydrological integrity of the watershed.  For example, policies require the identification of water resource systems, including shoreline areas (policy 2.2.1 c), and require that linkages and related functions are maintained among ground water features, hydrological functions, natural heritage features and areas, and surface water features including shoreline areas (2.2.1 d).

In addition to the policies on coastal wetlands and shoreline areas, municipalities are required to identify natural heritage systems in Ecoregions 6E and 7E in their official plans while recognizing that natural heritage systems will vary in size and form in settlement areas, rural areas, and prime agricultural areas (policy 2.1.3).

Other Site-specific Considerations

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may also determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, including but not limited to:

  • other natural heritage features (e.g., fish habitat, habitat of endangered species), cultural heritage resources or other resources (e.g., minerals or petroleum) that would require protection;
  • natural hazards (e.g., flooding hazards or unstable soils) that development is to avoid or address; and
  • infrastructure (e.g., water and sewage) that is necessary and appropriate to accommodate the proposed uses and scale. 

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may be relevant in determining whether this proposal will be permitted including Building Code approvals, conservation authority and Ministry of Transportation permitting, and any local planning provisions set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

A Public Lands Act permit may also be required.  Any coastal wetlands that are located below the seasonal water line may be considered part of the adjacent lake bed, and therefore may be Crown land.

Scenario 13: Floodplain

A flooded area.The owner of a waterfront property with an existing residential building on the St. Lawrence River would like to sever a portion of his property to create a new residential waterfront lot. However, the proposed lot is impacted by flooding hazards according to Canada/Ontario Flood Damage Reduction Program (FDRP) mapping or municipally approved and updated floodplain mapping. Is the proponent allowed to sever his property under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors, including the property’s characteristics and location, that are influential in determining whether this lot severance is appropriate and permissible. Depending on the factors, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit creating new waterfront lots. 

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are also critical in determining whether the proposed development can be permitted.

The Role of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 are designed to reduce the potential for public cost or risk to Ontario’s residents from natural hazards, including flooding. Regarding development in floodplains, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that:

  • development shall generally be directed to areas outside of hazardous lands adjacent to the shorelines of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River System and large inland lakes which are impacted by flooding hazards, erosion hazards and/or dynamic beach hazards (policy 3.1.1 a);
  • development and site alteration shall not be permitted within defined portions of the flooding hazard along connecting channels, including the St. Lawrence River (policy 3.1.2 b); and
  • development and site alteration shall not be permitted within areas that would be rendered inaccessible to people and vehicles during times of flooding hazards, erosion hazards and/or dynamic beach hazards, unless it has been demonstrated that the site has safe access appropriate for the nature of the development and the hazard (policy 3.1.2 c).

Applying the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

Given these policies, if the flooding hazards impacted the entire area of the proposed lot, the development would not be permitted. However, depending on the amount of land impacted by the flooding hazard and the characteristics of the property, flooding hazards may not prohibit development.

There may be other provincial interests to also consider, such as:

  • whether there are significant built heritage resources, cultural heritage landscapes or  archeological resources on site to conserve;
  • whether there are natural heritage features (e.g., provincially significant coastal wetlands) or other resources (e.g., aggregates or agriculture) to protect; and
  • providing the necessary infrastructure and services (e.g., roads, water supply, and sewage) to accommodate the proposed uses and scale.

Other policies in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development.

Fitting In: Site-specific Considerations

Careful consideration would be given to available data or information from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or the local conservation authority having jurisdiction and how this information coincides with floodplain mapping in the official plan. This would impact the potential building envelope on the proposed lot. Any new buildings would need to be compatible with the required building envelope and setbacks contained in the local zoning bylaw and official plan policies.

The province’s technical guidance for the natural hazards policies pertaining to the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River System should be considered. Among other things, it states “to determine the critical or defined portions of the flooding hazard along connecting channels, various factors should be considered including but not limited to:

  • physical characteristics of connecting channel;
  • each individual component of flooding hazard (i.e., water level, wave uprush, other water related hazards);
  • duration and frequency of flooding;
  • pre-development and post-development flood conditions and impacts;
  • date of flood information;
  • reliability of the flood information;
  • availability, accuracy, applicability of existing engineering studies; and
  • long-term maintenance costs where flood mitigation measures are proposed.”

Other Relevant Considerations

Other documents and approvals may determine whether this proposal will be permitted. These may include Building Code approval, conservation authority permitting, and any local provisions set out in the local official plan and zoning bylaw.

Scenario 14: Wildland Fire

A proponent would like to build a small residential subdivision and found a parcel of municipally serviced (water and sewage) land in a forested area just within the boundary of a small community.  Is this subdivision permitted under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014?

There are a number of factors, including the property’s characteristics and location, that are influential in determining whether this development is appropriate and permissible.  Depending on the factors, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 does not prohibit the subdivision proposal.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 may apply in this scenario and may determine the appropriateness of the development or influence the scale and location of the development, including whether there are natural heritage features (e.g., significant woodlands) or other resources (e.g., agricultural areas) that would require protection from this development.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes new direction for planning authorities to direct development away from areas of high to extreme risk of wildland fire unless the risk is mitigated (policy 3.1.8).  The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 approach to addressing the risk associated with wildland fire has two key elements:

  1. generally direct development away from areas where the risk may be greatest; and
  2. where this may not be possible, mitigate the threat to a low to moderate risk through, for example, site design and arrangement of land uses that help reduce the risk.

The municipal official plan and zoning bylaw are critical in determining whether the proposed subdivision can be permitted.  The municipal official plan should aim to protect public health and property from these wildland fires.  For example, by:

  • including policies and designating lands on schedules with hazardous forest types for wildland fire that development should avoid;
  • including policies requiring development to incorporate site designs and arrangements of land uses (e.g., through zoning bylaw and/or site plan control) that will assist in mitigating the risk from wildland fire for situations where development cannot avoid lands with hazardous forest types for wildland fire; and
  • setting out considerations for wildland fire mitigation measures in subdivision and other development agreements.

Some implementation support material for this policy direction already exists (FireSmart program). The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is developing additional support material related to the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 policy direction.


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