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Provincial planning changes force official plan amendments and bylaw updates

By Sharon Harrison
A slew of official plan amendments and bylaw changes came before council’s planning meeting Wednesday that include allowing more land severances, permitting bunk houses for agricultural worker uses and resort and tourist commercial workers; allowing additional dwellings and garden suites. Many of the changes come in an effort to increase the housing supply in the County.

Tree management and preservation policies in the settlement areas were also part of the new policy, as well as changes to parkland dedication requirements.

The idea of allowing energy storage systems in industrial parks and rural designations generated the most discussion during the three-and-a-half hour planning and development committee meeting which saw several members of the public express, and repeat, their concerns about the issue. Click here for that story

Resulting was a motion by councillor Chris Braney to remove the clause in the official plan amendment relating to the development of battery energy storage systems, which carried. As a result, staff will bring back a report to consider what municipal criteria is needed to be met to support future battery energy storage systems.

These changes form part of the provincial government’s planning act changes relating to Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022) and Bill 109 (More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022) which override existing municipal governance, where municipalities must comply with the new provincially-driven legislation.

Bill 23 makes various amendments to the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act, the Ontario Heritage Act, the Conservation Authorities Act, as well as other legislation.

To ensure the official plan includes the most recent data, population projections are proposed to be updated based on the municipality’s 2023 development charges bylaw background study which was conducted by Watson and Associates.

It is projected that the permanent population of Prince Edward County is expected to increase by 27 percent in the next approximately 20 years, from just over 25,000 in 2021, to just over 32,000 people by 2043.

For the same period, the seasonal population is expected to grow by almost 30 percent, from almost 8,000 in 2021, to more than 10,000 by 2043. This will result is a total population (both permanent and seasonal) increase of 27 percent, from 33,669 in 2021, to just over 43,000 by 2043.

Employment was also factored into the study, with an almost 44 percent increase in jobs, from over 7,000 in 2021, to over 10,000 expected by 2043.

The official plan amendment is a general amendment that will affect all properties within Prince Edward County.

Scott Pordham, policy planning coordinator with the municipality, noted in his report the purpose of the general amendment is to update the official plan to be consistent with new legislation, the provincial policy statement, and to keep it current with local needs.

The new legislation Pordham refers to pertains to Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act) which received royal assent in November 2022, which made various amendments to the Planning Act and other legislation.

“Changes to the Planning Act that need to be addressed in the official plan relate to permitting additional residential units instead of the second dwelling units that were previously permitted,” states Pordham.

Simply put, Bill 23 will permit a total of three residential units (including the retained lot) on a parcel of urban land (in settlement areas where serviced by municipal water and sewer systems) developed with a detached house, semi-detached house or townhouse, thereby allowing more consents in settlement areas.

“Planning staff are also recommending that one additional residential unit be permitted in rural areas or settlement areas on at least one private service-based on existing policies and provided a hydrogeological study supports the development.”
He noted that it is important to point out that the amended legislation does not mandate an allowance for additional residential units in rural areas.

“However, staff are proposing to maintain current official plan policy that allows one additional residential unit on lands outside of a settlement area, and also to permit one in settlement areas where privately serviced.”

Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act, received royal assent in April 2022 making various amendments to the planning act that include the requirement that municipalities may now pass bylaws mandating pre-consultation prior to the submission of an application for site plan control approval.

“Most importantly, the legislation made changes to consultation requirements and the rules respecting consultations with municipalities before plans and drawings are submitted for approval. The legislation also introduced requirements respecting the completeness of applications,” said Pordham.

“In an effort to assist the public through the pre-consultation process and assist in submitting a complete application, staff have prepared a pre-consultation meeting form and complete application check list. The form and checklist will provide written information to proponents to guide them through these newly legislated processes.”

Councillor Hirsch said he was happy to see the pre-consultation and complete application process bylaw finally come into effect, saying he was “100 per cent in support”.

“The legislation from the province has forced us to do this, but this is something many of us have been after for a long time, so the proponents have certainty when they are filing an application,” said Hirsch.

“No longer will we be faced with files that are missing a report or are just not done. By setting in bylaw this pre-consultation and complete application process, we will get files than we can deal with in the whole legislative time-frame.”

Councillor David Harrison commented on the “continual erosion of property rights, and I’ve watched this over a number of years how this is going, and it’s pretty near the point where there’s not much purpose in owning property because you don’t own it; there is just a few more nails in the coffin”.

Pordham noted that several new official plan policies are also proposed, or existing policies are proposed to be amended, to address local needs.

“In an effort to increase the supply of housing, settlement area policies are proposed to be amended to allow more severances. Policies are also proposed to permit bunk house dwellings for the workers of tourist commercial and the farm labourers of agricultural uses.”

Bunk house accommodations will be permitted with a maximum of six bedrooms for workers in tourist commercial uses, full-time or seasonal farm labour, in an effort to provide additional housing and more affordable housing that is located on the same property and more affordable for the staff, states the report.

“The inclusion of bunk houses would provide direct support to the business community in finding affordable, attainable and sustainable housing at a rental rate that would ensure affordability for the worker with less than 30 per cent of the gross income spent on living accommodations.”

A bunk house for farm labour is permitted and may have a maximum of six bedrooms and have common bathroom, kitchen and living room areas.

In order to ensure new development can be adequately serviced, a new policy is proposed to require hydrogeological studies for all severances, as well as additional residential units on one or more private services.

A number of amendments to the site plan control bylaw were approved, including residential development of 10 or fewer units are also now exempt from site plan control.

Other changes include the use of site plan control by municipalities and municipal requirements for parkland dedication, as well as noting exterior design is no longer a matter that is subject to site plan control, and 30-metre setbacks are now required from any lake.

“Another significant amendment to the act relates to limits set on conservation authorities (Quinte Conservation) to comment on certain planning applications,” said Pordham.

The Conservation Authorities Act has been amended such that authorities may not provide a program or service related to reviewing and commenting on certain matters.

It is further noted that site plan control applications will be approved by the chief administrative officer or the director of development services.

Site plan control will be applicable to agriculture-related uses, as defined in the provincial policy statement, or on-farm diversified uses, such as wineries and breweries.

“This would replace the current requirement that requires site plan control where those uses are greater than 1,200 square metres (12,900 square feet). Agricultural uses directly related to the farm operation (ie, livestock facilities, silos and drive sheds) will remain exempt from site plan control.”

The proposed amendment does not change environmental protection policies other than to improve clarity of process.

Councillor Sam Branderhorst also spoke to site plan control as it pertains to any agricultural use, asking for clarity with some of the exemptions.

Pordham said it is important to understand what agricultural-related use is, where he noted the PPS uses include welding businesses, a machine shop, a processing facility, and not standard farm uses, but other uses that aren’t tied directly to the farm.

“It is not your standard farm uses that would be on a farm property,” clarified Pordham. The PPS defines it as those farm-related commercial and farm-related industrial uses that are directly related to farm operations.

Pordham explained how this is an update to the existing site plan control bylaw that has already been approved by the County back in 2006, so is outdated.

“The site plan control bylaw is a process for the review and approval of site-specific development and it ensures appropriate and compatible development is developed,” said Pordham.

He said the issues that can be addressed in site plan control are identified in the planning act can include things like building locations, grading and drainage, road widening, accessibility requirements, and a whole host of other things.

He stressed that the process doesn’t determine if a use is permitted (as that would have already been established in the zoning of the property).

“Bill 23 limits the use of site plan control by municipalities, so it is no longer used for residential developments of 10 or fewer units.“

Councillor Chris Braney cited the amount of distressed calls he has received from those in the winery industry who are upset and disappointed that of all of the people that were consulted, the grape growers were not consulted or notified about the site plan control bylaw changes.

Braney tabled an amendment that removes the section of the bylaw that relates to estate wineries, cideries and breweries, where he also requested staff complete sector-specific public consultation with industry sectors and stakeholders and bring back a report to the next meeting.

Referring to the Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association (PECWGA), an organization that has been around for 23 years, an emotional and clearly upset Braney said, “this leads to the disappointment and that they feel that they don’t matter”.

“The disappointment that was conveyed to me, this is just another kick in face to them that they don’t have a lot of trust for the process because they don’t feel like they matter, they were never consulted, and when you take trust away it’s really hard to get it back,” he said.

“It’s very important, it’s imperative we have proper consultation with those stakeholders, they do matter and this is a very major amendment, and I think we need to start doing things a little differently as far as including them, they have a voice and have an opinion and we need to hear them. “

“There was an opportunity for anyone to provide comments on these bylaws,” added Pordham, to which Braney said, “first of all, they didn’t know about it”

Councillor Phil St-Jean commented that staff had already indicated that the section of the bylaw is already entrenched in the official plan, so Braney’s amendment changes nothing, something Pordham concurred with.

“The wineries and breweries are valuable industry to the County, the level of development can sometimes be associated with that can be fairly significant, so no restaurants, retail shops or events, those sorts of uses are typically something that would fall under the purview of site plan control,” said Pordham.

“It is warranted that site plan control be applied to them as it’s already official plan policy”, where he added to keep in mind that “we are not debating whether a use is permitted, it is reviewing the details of any proposed development and seeing if anything needs to be addressed”.

St-Jean added again that “this language changes nothing, this is already part of our County official plan, so removing it does nothing”, he said. “I would strongly urge that PECWGA be included, but currently there is nothing changing here.”

Braney suggested they are “missing the point” because they were not consulted. “There were a number of other individuals who were consulted, and that to me is just wrong, and it’s not the way forward and you lose trust when you do that.”

Councillor Harrison added, “What’s been said here is definitely more than an oversight that has happened here”.

Councillor Janice Maynard clarified again that there are no changes to how the site plans are implemented.

“We are just codifying, bringing one document in line with another document, and there really are no changes, no additional hurdles anticipated,” said Maynard. “If we want to communicate better with the PECWGA, that is already in this motion that they be communicated with.”

Braney’s amendment to the motion carried in a recorded vote, with councillors Maynard and St-Jean opposing.

All the above-noted changes and amendments will come before council at the June 27 council meeting for final approval, with implementation on the site plan control bylaw and the pre-consultation and complete application bylaw expected on Aug. 1, 2023.

All related documentation can be found on the County’s website for the planning and development committee meeting for June 21.

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  1. Gary says:

    If I have a well providing 4 gallons a minute I don’t need to pay someone thousands to tell me I have an adequate wa ter supply!

  2. Mark Woodward says:

    Requiring hydrogeological studies in rural areas with plentiful water is more red tape and expense placed on the County residents.

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