HURON-KINLOSS – Matt Farrell, chief building official, presented a report on May 17 about the Bruce County’s process of creating a new Official Plan.
The county has released interim reports on certain areas of land use planning projects – agriculture, homes, and good growth – and is looking for feedback from the lower tiers.
In terms of agriculture, the county has identified some areas as potential prime agricultural areas, including one area just east of Whitechurch.
Farrell said the mapping still “presents small pockets of rural lands that are hard to create policies for. We have taken the … approach that if a farm parcel is greater than half rural, the whole parcel becomes rural. We would recommend the county takes the same approach.”
Farrell went on to say the county is once again asking about minimum farm size and wondered if council still supports 50-acre farm lots rather than 100-acre lots. In addition, the county is asking what forms of industrial or commercial activities should be permitted on agricultural properties and wondered if council would support any additional uses.
Deputy Mayor Don Murray commented on the need for smaller severances as “another option for food production.” He’d also like to see the county look at allowing small mechanic’s shops out in the country, not just in town.
Regarding homes, the county currently applies housing targets for individual projects – 15 units per hectare. Farrell noted the township has always supported a diversity of housing types. “We have found that developers have had difficulty meeting this target and end up with projects where multiple forms of housing are provided.”
He said that the county is proposing a number of ideas to increase the supply of affordable housing, which may work in more populated areas but may not be appropriate for Huron-Kinloss. Farrell said, “We would encourage the county allow a great deal of flexibility on how municipalities apply these policies.” Some of the ideas have already been implemented, for example, allowing additional residential units in Ripley and Lucknow.
Coun. Ed McGugan commented that he’d like to see more attention given to smaller homes, not 5,000 square-foot ones. “We hear a lot of talk about ‘tiny homes’ – we see renewed interest in smaller houses.”
The related area of good growth is an interesting one, in that Huron-Kinloss has “outperformed all other municipalities in the county on predicted growth” in the past 15 years, said Farrell in his report. He said this would tend to indicate council knows what it’s doing in what attracts people to live and work in the township.
Staff wants to ensure the growth forecast looks at municipalities as a whole in determining whether expansion of urban areas is needed.
Of concern is the rapid depletion of available lands along the lakeshore – the township may be exploring an expansion of this boundary within the 25-year lifespan of the Official Plan. Staff also want to ensure the county recognizes the “unique and diverse characteristics of Huron-Kinloss.”
Overall, Farrell said staff have reservations about the amount of work the county wants the lower tiers to review in a short period of time. There are concerns that priorities at the upper tier may not align with those at the local level. Staff’s preference would be for the wording of the county documents to leave room for some flexibility at the municipal level.
Farrell will be sharing with the county the comments he heard from council.
The point Murray wants to stress is “to make sure people know we’re open for business.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times