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Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas

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Provincial Policy Statement, 2005

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 provides policy direction on matters relating to land use planning that are of provincial interest. It is the basis for the Province’s policy led planning system and supports the provincial goal of strong, liveable and healthy communities, which provide a high quality of life for its citizens, now and in the future. The statement sets out provincial policies, which include policies for the protection of prime agricultural areas in Ontario, including specialty crop areas.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 is issued under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act and applies to all applications, matters or proceedings commenced on or after March 1, 2005.

Importance of Farming to the Ontario Economy

Ontario’s agricultural and food industry is the most intensive and diversified in Canada and plays a key role in Ontario’s economic prosperity. According to a Statistics Canada Census of Agriculture, Ontario, with slightly less than 60,000 census farms, cultivated over 3.6 million hectares of cropland in 2001.Farm Buildings

Ontario has over half of the “Class 1” or highest quality agricultural land in Canada. Prime agricultural lands (Classes 1, 2 and 3 soils) are a limited resource in Ontario. Approximately 6% of the province’s area is census farms. In 2005, these census farms accounted for about $9 billion or approximately 24% of Canada’s annual farm cash receipts.

Although Ontario’s countryside is made up of some of the best farmland in Canada, most of the highest quality agricultural lands are located near the more populous areas. Urban expansions, sprawl and severances have led to the loss of this resource through the development and fragmentation of these lands for non-agricultural uses.

The protection of agricultural land is vital for ensuring future food production potential. A healthy agricultural industry ensures food production and food security, preserves a valuable resource for future generations, protects the countryside and supports economic prosperity and the long-term health of many rural communities that are dependent on agriculture.

Impacts of Residential Lot Creation on Agriculture and Ability to Farm

Protecting the agricultural land base is a key first step in protecting Ontario’s farmers.

All types of agricultural operations require a suitable land base. The protection of agricultural land is essential for the sustainability of Ontario’s agricultural sector and the provincial economy.

In many areas across the province, Ontario’s farmers are increasingly affected by the presence of residential development. The creation of new residential lots in agricultural areas, including farm retirement lots and residential infilling, reduces options for agriculture in the future. It creates incompatible uses in agricultural areas and fragments the agricultural land base.

Not only does the creation of residential development in agricultural areas result in the loss of valuable farmland, but it also places restrictions on the ability of farmers to operate. Complaints about noise, odour and dust tend to accompany the introduction of new residential lots in agricultural areas and threaten agricultural production.

Experience in municipalities across Ontario has shown that conflicts often result between residential development and increasingly large farm operations. Experience has also shown that residential severances for both farm-related and non-farm related uses have the same impact on the agricultural industry.

Between 1990 and 2000, there were over 15,000 severances for the purpose of creating new lots in Ontario’s agricultural land. Approximately 80% of those new lots were for residential uses.

Source: Ontario’s Countryside: A Resource to Preserve or an Urban Area in Waiting? A Review of Severance Activity in Ontario’s Agricultural Land During the 1990s. Dr. Wayne Caldwell and Claire Weir. 2002.

CropsPolicies To Protect Prime Agricultural Areas

To protect prime agricultural areas, including specialty crop areas, for current and future agricultural use, Policy 2.3 of the statement sets out policies to:

  • Preserve prime agricultural areas for long-term use for agriculture
  • Permit a range of agricultural uses on these lands, including secondary uses and agriculture-related uses
  • Strictly control the removal of land from prime agricultural areas including for urban growth expansions
  • Protect the integrity of the prime agricultural land base by discouraging lot creation in prime agricultural areas and prohibiting the creation of lots for new residential uses, except for a residence surplus to a farming operation as a result of farm consolidation.

Prime agricultural areas are where prime agricultural lands predominate. This includes areas of prime agricultural lands and associated Canada Land Inventory Class 4-7 soils and additional areas where there is a local concentration of farms which exhibit characteristics of ongoing agriculture.

Prime agricultural lands include specialty crop areas and/or Canada Land Inventory Classes 1, 2 and 3 soils, in this order of priority for protection.

Specialty crop areas are given the highest priority for protection in the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005. Specialty crop areas are where specialty crops such as tender fruits (peaches, cherries, plums), grapes, other fruit crops, vegetable crops, greenhouse crops, and crops from agriculturally developed organic soils are predominantly grown. These areas have soils suitable for specialty crops, or lands that are subject to special climatic conditions and/or a combination of farmers skilled in the production of specialty crops, and of capital investment in related facilities and services to produce, store, or process specialty crops.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 is the result of extensive public and stakeholder consultation. During the consultations, the Ontario Government heard from agricultural and other stakeholders, including farmers and farming groups, that residential severances threaten the viability of agriculture because they can introduce non-farm uses that are not compatible with and restrict surrounding agricultural operations. This can have a negative impact on the rural economy. The statement recognizes this concern and contains provisions that support severances directly related to agricultural uses to maintain agricultural viability and protect the integrity of the agricultural land base for the long-term.

CropsPolicies for Lot Creation in Prime Agricultural Areas

Policy of the statement 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.

Policy of the statement discourages lot creation in prime agricultural areas and the creation of new lots may only be permitted for:

  • 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 vacant remnant parcel of farmland created by the severance
  • Infrastructure, where the facility or corridor cannot be accommodated through the use of easements or rights-of-way.

To facilitate the implementation of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 Policy c), some planning authorities have utilized the following approaches to ensure that new residential dwellings are not permitted on the vacant remnant parcel of farmland created by the severance:

  • Some municipalities have been more restrictive than the statement and have prohibited surplus farm dwelling severances in upper or lower-tier official plans, and
  • Some municipalities choose to permit surplus farm dwelling severances, then use an “agricultural purpose only zoning” which restricts the vacant remnant parcel for agricultural uses and prohibits new residential dwellings. In addition, some municipalities require a condition of consent, which requires an agreement be entered into with the municipality (under Section 51(25) of the Planning Act).


CropsPolicies That Support Farmers and Protect Integrity of Agricultural Lands

The Province is protecting the integrity of the prime agricultural land base by prohibiting the creation of lots for new residential uses, including farm retirement lots and residential infilling, on these lands. Benefits of this approach include:

  • Increased protection of agricultural uses by restricting the introduction of potentially non-compatible uses in these areas
  • Promotion and protection of all types, sizes and intensities of agricultural uses and normal farm practices
  • Increased flexibility for siting of livestock operations and ability to comply with the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS). The MDS is a planning tool used to determine a recommended distance between a livestock facility and other sensitive land uses. The objective of the MDS is to prevent land use conflicts and minimize nuisance complaints related to odour.

Policies That Support Local Policies Across Ontario

The provincial policy prohibiting lot creation for new residential uses, including prohibiting farm retirement lots in prime agricultural areas, supports the initiatives of many municipalities in this regard. Generally, local lot creation policies for rural non-farm lots have become more restrictive over the last decade, as a number of municipalities have adopted policies strictly limiting or prohibiting residential lot creation, including farm retirement lots.

The County of Perth is an example of a municipality that adopted planning policies limiting residential lot creation before the introduction of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005.

For many years, a number of these municipalities have had concerns about the long-term implications of lot creation for residential or other purposes in prime agricultural areas. Their concerns have included many of the same issues outlined earlier in this InfoSheet: the fragmentation of farmland, potential conflicts with agricultural operations, potential for added environmental risk and pressure on infrastructure.

This InfoSheet intends to assist participants in the land use planning process to understand the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005. As this InfoSheet 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 InfoSheet should not be construed as legal advice and the user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this InfoSheet. Although this InfoSheet has been carefully prepared, the Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

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