A recent crop of concerns popped up at a Tiny Township council meeting.
Tiny council heard from Lafontaine's Paul Maurice, a local farmer who serves on the board of directors for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), which represents 38,000 of the 45,000 farmers within the province.
Maurice gave a deputation explaining the concerns he and OFA shared over two upcoming legislations: proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and Bill 97, Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, 2023.
“I have to say that when we found out about this proposed legislation coming through, we – the board at OFA and a pile of farmers across this province – were in awe, to be able to see what is being proposed and the damage that this would actually cause to the agriculture community throughout the province," he told council.
Within Maurice’s remarks were an OFA presentation from March involving rural planner Wayne Caldwell, whom Maurice said had called the changes "disturbing" and "destructive."
Suggested in the proposed PPS is the allowance of multi-lot residential development on rural land, and severances on agricultural land for residential lots.
According to Maurice, Caldwell had estimated that if the policy is approved then up to 171,000 severances could happen across the province, reducing farm production and causing difficulty in moving farm equipment in a safe and proper manner.
“Tiny Township has over 16,000 acres in production,” Maurice explained. “Ontario’s farmland is a scarce resource, making up less than five per cent of the land base in the province.
“The 2021 Census shows us that we are losing 319 acres per day in the province to development of some type; (it's) something that we are extremely concerned about," he added. "We grow over 200 crops in the province, something that we must be extremely proud of.
“I have no idea how this proposed piece of legislation was thought up; I have no idea of who was consulted to bring this on, but it is something that is very disturbing to us as farmers because it’s just not cohesive."
Council asked what Maurice was requesting of the municipality through the deputation; the response was to have an opportunity for the OFA to sit with the province to find a resolution acceptable to the farming community.
“We’ve never received so many requests to see where we stand on this issue because a lot of planning departments just don’t have a clue of how to handle this and the impact that it’s going to have,” said Maurice.
The deputation was followed by a PPS overview report from Tiny acting planning and development director Kris Menzies who ran through a series of recommendations council could approve before a June 5 deadline for comments on the potential legislation.
Menzies explained that what the province was attempting to do was consolidate two documents that Tiny Township planners rely on – the current PPS as well as the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe – into one overriding planning policy for the province.
The staff report highlighted roughly ten areas of the 2023 PPS: growth targets; intensification; settlement areas; rural areas and rural land in municipalities; employment areas; agriculture; energy conservation, air quality and climate change; sewage, water and stormwater; natural heritage; and others.
Recommendations stated that Tiny should support removal of the requirement for comprehensive reviews for settlement expansion and not consider new settlement areas.
“A rural area in planning is defined as something other than a settlement area or something other than agriculture — it’s everything else," Menzies explained. "Subdivisions can happen in rural areas. That’s how a lot of the shoreline area occurred in Tiny decades ago. It was considered a rural area; shoreline development happened.”
The report also recommended that the province permit partial services for settlement expansion areas.
A strong request was for new residential lot creation policies to be deleted “as the creation of additional residential lots in agricultural areas does not protect agricultural areas”.
Other recommendations included changing part of the seasonal dwelling policy as Menzies stated there was difficulty to define what ‘seasonal’ meant in different contexts.
Mayor Dave Evans called the staff report “illuminating” and “timely," and praised Menzies for stepping into the acting director role for her planning expertise.
Evans also pointed to a recent MidlandToday article regarding MPAC growth, noting that Tiny had more new home construction growth in the approximate 10,000 township residences than the 150,000 population of Milton.
Coun. Steffen Walma asked if there were anything the municipality could do to address affordable and attainable housing; Menzies said that initiatives by Tiny’s efforts to address auxiliary units on residential properties were not only at the “forefront” of policy-making, but had also been adopted by the province in the proposed PPS.
Asked Coun. Sean Miskimins on affordable housing: “It’s great we want to build homes faster, but if it’s more McMansions, then are we actually solving the issue?”
Council approved the staff report and recommendations, with comments to be sent to the province prior to the June 5 deadline. Menzies added that members of the public also wanting to send comments regarding the 2023 PPS proposed policy can access the comments page of the Environmental Registry of Ontario website.
At the latter committee of the whole meeting, Walma also asked staff to place the concerns of OFA and Maurice onto a list of Association of Municipalities of Ontario delegation items for Tiny to bring up at the August conference.
The planning and development staff report on recommendations for the 2023 Provincial Policy Statement can be found in the agenda page located on the Tiny Township website.