Balancing growth and agricultural land protection

 

Building houses, severing land parcels, creating subdivisions, protecting agricultural lands… these are some of the issues  behind the development of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry’s Comprehensive Settlement Area Boundary Study.

South Dundas council met at a special meeting on October 25th to review and discuss the proposed changes for the areas within South Dundas Township.

The meeting was led by South Dundas Manager for Planning and Enforcement, Don Lewis. Also in attendance to answer questions and note changes were County Planner and Department Head for the Planning Department, Michael Otis, and the GIS/Planning Technician, Jack Sullivan.

In the mayor’s absence, Deputy-Mayor Jim Locke opened the meeting explaining that “because it was apparent that we were looking at some changes,” it was decided that council should meet for a “special meeting” to discuss changes to the study “before (it) comes to (County) council for approval.”

Otis confirmed that the meeting was a “working session (so that) everyone understands what’s being proposed.” He added, “we certainly welcome your input.”

He went on to report that the idea is “to take forward the report to county  council November 21st and get some kind of approval, but before we do so we’d like to hear from each of the townships.”

“Subsequent to hearing from people from the open houses, we’ve made some changes,” informed Otis.

He outlined the reasons behind the study’s development with the most notable being: “provincial policy states (that) if you want to expand a settlement area, you have to have a comprehensive study.”

Further to that point, “a number of development proposals have surfaced which are constrained by current boundaries.”

“Some of these development proposals involve contiguous land holdings located partly within and partly outside of the settlement areas.”

“The Provincial Policy Statement and the County Official Plan strongly encourage the majority of future development to occur in the settlement areas as opposed to the rural areas of the county and as such, it is important to analyze the capacity of the settlement areas to assume this role.”

“The study reports will provide guidance to prospective developers and will provide a tool for economic development as well as land use planning.”

Lewis presented council with the recommended changes to each area with the help of maps. In most cases there were simple changes to boundaries, which acknowledged and delineated exactly where the existing boundaries are located.

The maps also showed where available land for development existed within the settlement boundaries.

The areas discussed at council included Iroquois, Stampville, Morrisburg, Mariatown, Williamsburg, Ault Island, Dunbar, Hulbert, Hainesville, Glen Becker, Glen Stewart, Irena, Brinston, Dundela, Riverside Heights, Dixon’s Corners, Winchester Springs, and Elma.

Otis told council “this study will be updated every five years. The idea is to be proactive. If someone came along and said I have a development in mind, you can’t do it without this study first.”

The following discussions were “informal” and nothing has been approved by County yet.

Iroquois

This discussion revolved mostly around whether or not to include the land that meets up with the West portion of Iroquois in the urban settlement boundary. 

It was pointed out that in a rural settlement area the home/land owner is responsible for their own water and sewer whereas in an urban settlement area the municipality is responsible.

The area southeast of Iroquois was also under consideration for potential settlement zoning. 

The area north of Iroquois, however, may be rezoned, losing its urban settlement status.

Stampville

Existing settlement to the north was acknowledged on the map’s boundaries. 

The land in the south section of Stampville, which faces Highway 401 was discussed in terms of whether it should be zoned as rural or urban settlement. It was revealed that “including it as rural settlement (is) a lot more flexible than urban in what is permitted.”

The biggest point of discussion for Stampville revolved around “West Side versus East Side.” In one area, residents on the east side of the road are zoned for settlement and are permitted severances. On the west side, however, the current zoning is agricultural meaning no severances are permitted. 

Lewis wanted council to include a portion of the land on the west side in the settlement zoning.

As Otis pointed out to council, “what you do on one side of the road you should do on the other, if it’s a similar situation.” 

Mariatown

According to Otis, Mariatown was “never recognized as a settlement area.”

He explained, “what we’re doing is taking the boundary and expanding to County Road 2 and over to Morrisburg’s west boundary and east to Coyle.”

“At this point it’d be a rural settlement,” said Lewis. He suggested that it might be possible to include a clause that allowed for a change if the opportunity for development arose.

Councillor Archie Mellan wanted to know how the designation of rural settlement would affect farmer’s taxes. In response, he was told that taxes are “based on use rather than zoning.”

Williamsburg

There were two large areas, one south of Hess Street and one to the northwest, where it was suggested that the land be zoned urban settlement. 

The discussion centered around the possibilities for additional subdivisions. 

Otis told council “the idea is to provide large areas where this can occur. (They) should be provided with this opportunity.”

Glen Becker

Mellan inquired as to why the settlement boundary wasn’t extended to include the truck stop land near Highway 401. 

Otis implied that there may be plans for that area and said, “we’re going to take a closer look at that on our five year review.”

Elma

Most members of council seemed to have a different opinion of where Elma was actually located. Some thought it was around the former school, while others thought it was west of the school at the four corners.

The proposal would connect these two areas along with the land in between. In addition, the land just east of the old school was included in the settlement area due to the several existing houses.

The major concern, however, seemed to revolve around the “land in between,” which is currently designated agricultural, If the land were to be included in the rural settlement area of Elma, it would allow for severances.

To clarify, the study was done to “protect prime agricultural land” from being severed and sold in disjointed parcels as settlement areas, which leads to the fragmentation of farmland. 

The summary report states: “It is a long standing and widely accepted planning principle that the majority of future development in a municipality should be encouraged to take place in the settlement areas as opposed to the countryside in order to protect rural resources such as prime agricultural land/areas and mineral aggregates and natural heritage systems, to promote economic development and maximize existing investment in public infrastructure expenditures.”

This discussion will resume at the November 1st meeting when council is presented with a list of pros and cons.

All Other Areas 

The remaining areas had either minor changes or no changes at all. Most changes simply reflected the actual current boundaries.

In Irena, the South Nation Conservation area was removed from the settlement boundary because, as Lewis pointed out, “that’s probably never going to be sold.”

Likewise, the Henderson farmland was removed from the settlement boundary in Dundela.

In Brinston there was a parcel of land, with two separate residences, being brought back into the settlement boundary to allow for a severance of the lot.

Due to concerns with the proposed settlement boundary for Dixon’s Corners, this will also be re-examined.

On November 1st, South Dundas council had one last opportunity to review and make changes to the study before the November 8th deadline.

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