Zoning amendment passed to allow surplus farm dwelling severance

Puslinch has joined a growing list of municipalities dealing with severances effectively separating farmland from residences.

On Feb. 15, council held a public meeting about property on the south side of Concession Road 4 and the west side of County Road 32.

The proposed zoning bylaw amendment would change the farm property status to an appropriate agricultural zone categories to prohibit a new residential dwelling and address compliance issues for accessory buildings on the property.

The rezoning satisfies a condition of severance that created a separate lot for the existing dwelling, barn and sheds along County Road 32 and an agricultural lot with a drive shed (a converted horse arena).

On behalf of property owner Rolf Deter, Jeff Buisman of Van Harten Surveying explained the severance of the surplus residence was approved by the county several months ago, with conditions.

Buisman said part of those conditions is the severed farmland not be allowed a dwelling. He noted that on the severed residential lot, there is the house, barn and a number of other sheds and buildings. The drive shed would remain on the farm property and be used to store Deter’s farm equipment.

Buisman said, “What we are asking for is to allow the existing accessory buildings to remain, and for the existing barn to remain.”

Currently, the accessory buildings make up 6.8% of the property coverage. The township bylaw allows only 5%.

An exemption was also required to keep the barn, which exceeds the height for an accessory structure on a residential property.

Buisman said the proposal is to allow additional coverage but only as long as the barn exists. After that, the property would need to meet current township property coverage and building height requirements. “As such the barn would not be rebuilt as it was.”

He also said the amendment provides more clarification on allowances for livestock, which would not allow for an intensive use.

He cited the example of an upper limit of three horses.

Buisman said the county planner had supported the changes, “and we ask for the township’s support in the zoning bylaw amendment.”

Resident Bev Wozniak noted Deter was granted the severance because he did not wish to be a landlord. “In all fairness to the intent of the bylaw,” and to protect the township in the future, Wozniak requested the residential prohibition be registered on the title of the severed farm property.

“I feel the bylaw does not protect the township in the future.”

While Buisman agreed it is a good question, he said the registry office will not accept deeds with those criteria and conditions. He explained the registry office is there to clarify titles on property or whether easements exist.

Buisman said since the limitation is spelled out in the bylaw, it would be clearly presented to any future owners.

He later explained the no house requirement applied only to the severed farm property, not the residential property.

In response to council questions, planner Sarah Wilhelm stated the intent of the bylaw is the change would be in perpetuity. “It’s true, bylaws can be changed, and I share some discomfort with that fact.”

She, too, understood Wozniak’s concerns, but, “This is the approach we have been taking across the county.”

She was uncertain if there are approaches other than rezoning, but was willing to investigate.

Councillor Ken Roth said he continues to struggle with the issue.

He felt approval could open the township up to other issues – especially in the regulation of the number of animals which can be kept. “It’s just opening a can of worms.”

In addition, Roth is concerned the application also sought a number of concessions for the residential property. “I can’t support this.”

Mayor Dennis Lever had concerns if there may be a residence on the severed farm property at some point in the future.

However, based on advice from the planning department, Lever said, “This appears to be the best we can do at this particular time.”

Council later approved the zoning amendment.

Roth remained opposed.