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Surplus farm home severance issue reaches Puslinch councillors

by Mike Robinson

ABERFOYLE - It was bound to happen here in Puslinch Township.

While the severing of residences from farm properties is becoming more common around Wellington County, it is a new issue for Puslinch councillors.

The matter came to council along with correspondence from the Wellington County planning committee regarding a proposal by Jeff Buisman on behalf of Rolf Deter.

The county planning committee’s approval of the severance was dependent on the township rezoning the properties created by severing Part Lots 4 and 5 on Concession. 3.

One lot would contain the existing dwelling, barn and sheds along County Road 32, while the other lot would be primarily agricultural, although one driving shed would remain with that property.

Buisman said the parcel is owned by Deter, who owns several other farm properties.

He added, “There is an opportunity within the Wellington County official plan to sever the existing buildings and then keep the rest for farming purposes - with the restriction that the remaining farm not have a residence.”

He explained it would be a surplus home severance.

“The idea is that Deter’s capital investment does not have to be in buildings.”

Buisman said the idea is to be able to farm - not to be a landlord. He noted the severance was approved at the county level, subject to township zone changes.

The application stated the retained property would not have a residence, and the severed property will have an exemption to Puslinch bylaws restricting property coverage by accessory buildings. What is being sought is 7% coverage, while bylaws currently indicate a maximum of 5%.

“We wanted the opportunity to keep all the accessory buildings on the property.”

Buisman noted that as a result, the barn would become an accessory building on the severed residential property.

He said the intent is to keep the buildings as they exist.

One of the concerns raised at the township’s planning advisory committee was a produce stand at the front of the property.

“It’s not much,” he said, describing it as the back of a cube truck with no wheels on it. The front has a lean-to structure with posts.

He said the actual coverage of the severed property, including the produce stand is 6.8%.

Buisman’s goal was to have council agree to a public meeting for the application.

Councillor Ken Roth asked about the riding arena remaining on the agricultural parcel.

Buisman said Deter plans to install a new entrance for access to it.

He added, “It’s really just farm equipment going in there.”

Roth also had questions about the retained parcel.

He said Buisman indicated there would never be a residence built on the severed agricultural property. “Never is a long time,” Roth said. “How is that controlled?”

Buisman said the zoning bylaw would have a special section stating the parcel is not allowed to have a residence on it.

He said this type of severance is happening a lot in the northern part of Wellington County, in Minto and Wellington North. “I think this is the first one in Puslinch.”

Buisman pointed out the majority of those types of severances have the same restrictions.

Roth said the township has restrictions on height and percentage of land coverage - yet exemptions are being requested. “What, down the road, says that council won’t be asked to change the rules on the agricultural property?”

Buisman said, “Someone could come and try - but there are limits to what one can apply for in zone change applications.”

He said it would be silly to propose a residential subdivision. It would never be approved by today’s policy. “One hundred years from now, I don’t know what it’s going to be like.”

Buisman said no one takes zone changes lightly. “It is a lot of work, time and money to ask for something already specified  for no residence.”

Roth’s other concern with the severed residential parcel is there are the large agricultural buildings remaining - which are not required for a residence.

He said he could see the barn being put back into agricultural use “and we’re not going to be able to do a thing about it. I could not favour this unless the barn was removed and the property became truly residential.”

Buisman said the barn could be knocked down, “but it’s a beautiful barn and it is a nice sight to see.”

He said Puslinch does have policies regarding the number of animals that can be kept on smaller properties, and a bylaw could set specific limits to the number of animal units there.

Buisman said there are a number of properties in Puslinch where there are one or two horses, making his a reasonable request to keep that type of flexibility.

Councillor Wayne Stokley asked planner Sarah Wilhelm if she considered the move causing problems for Puslinch in the future.

Wilhelm said all the municipalities she has dealt with struggle with policies intended to create residential lots, but agricultural buildings are being kept with the dwellings.

“It does create challenges because they no longer belong with the farm and don’t comply with the bylaws for residential properties.”

She said any exceptions would need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Stokley did not favour the barn being removed, but he has concerns over the amount of land covered in that building. He favours being more specific about the amount of livestock that could be kept in it.

“Then there is no way of getting around it,” he said.

Stokley does not want decisions on that property being considered as precedent setting and said such applications could be dealt with individually.

He said the produce building at the front is more of an eyesore than anything.

Councillor Susan Fielding believes the property can be controlled by a bylaw, and did not have major concerns.

But, like Stokley, Fielding does not favour the barn being demolished. “I just don’t like to see things torn down if they can still be used.”

She also has concerns about the produce stand.

Buisman hoped to have more information available prior to the public meeting.

Mayor Dennis Lever also had concerns about the coverage area and height restrictions.

He said he would like to see the bylaw written so that if the barn does come down, the height restrictions return to the current restrictions.

Further, if any buildings is removed, Lever wants restrictions to eliminate further construction to the 5% coverage area.

“We do live in a rural area, and if the barn is complementary to that, I would like to see the barn stay.”

He also wants the bylaw to include restrictions on animals.

He said that is not just limited to horses.

He agreed the produce shed is an eyesore. “It is not complementary to anything.”

And if it is no longer a farm property, Lever questioned what would be sold there.

“What would be the need?”

Currently the produce is brought in for sale.

Council was agreeable to a public meeting being scheduled.

January 13, 2012


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