Council divided on support for land severance in Wellington North

Staff recommendation defeated in 2-2 vote

WELLINGTON NORTH – In a rare move, council here defeated a staff recommendation at an Oct. 11 meeting.

Planning staff advised council not to support an application from Red Maple Land Company seeking to sever a prime agricultural property located at 8648 Highway 6 in Arthur.

The applicant wants to build a house on 7.4 acres of vacant land fronting Sideroad 10 West, while retaining 144 acres—with existing barns, a manure pit, house, shed and garage—for ongoing agricultural use.

But provincial and county land use policy doesn’t allow the creation of residential lots on prime agricultural land, notes a report from Wellington County senior planner Zach Prince.

“I have a hard time believing that this is actually prime agricultural land; I’ve lived here almost all my life and there’s been nothing but … trees on it and scrub brush, and I would say, at best, it’s very marginal, even sub-marginal land,” councillor Steve McCabe said, addressing council.

“And for this owner to want to sever that … to build his own house so he can retire on his own land, I have absolutely no issue with that at all.”

McCabe questioned whether anyone had actually stepped foot on the property.

A note on the county report states the property had not been visited.

Severance sketch by Van Harten Surveying Inc. (Wellington North council agenda image)


“If they have actually been there to have a look at it they would recognize that … you can’t grow anything on it,” said McCabe, asking for an explanation for the staff recommendation.

Lisa Hern, councillor for Ward 3, where the property sits, challenged McCabe’s assertions, arguing livestock could still graze on the property.

“Whether it can be cropped is maybe a whole other matter,” Hern acknowledged.

But said she doesn’t believe “basing everything on being able to crop it is necessarily a valid argument.”

“It’s still useful for agriculture and I think we need to embrace … the whole scope of the system here,” she said.

Hern suggested an agricultural impact analysis if the severance is going to be entertained.

County planner Matthieu Daoust said, “I can appreciate councillor McCabe’s point about, you know, it’s scrub and it’ll never be sort of prime ag, in quotations, but … our role is really to look at things from a policy perspective.”

Daoust explained the prosed severance doesn’t agree with Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement or the Wellington County Official Plan.

“Hence why there’s the no support there,” he said.

Mayor Andy Lennox and councillor Hern voted to oppose the severance and councillors Dan Yake and McCabe voted in favour of the severance (councillor Sherry Burke was absent).

“So, that’s defeated,” Lennox said. “Boy, we haven’t done that very often.”

Despite the local vote, the decision on the severance falls to the county’s land division committee.

Wellington North council is limited to voicing its support or opposition, which the committee then takes into consideration.

Council directed township staff to forward its comments to the committee, along with four conditions the township wants included should the severance go forward:

  • the satisfaction of financial requirements;
  • parkland dedication;
  • assigning maintenance costs to the land owner for any impact on municipal drains; and
  • driveway access must meet township requirements.