NORTH PERTH – The precedent of allowing two businesses on one agricultural property, through a Official Plan amendment application, was discussed at length at the Nov. 20 council meeting, and then revisited at the Dec. 4 meeting.
According to the report from Perth County Planner Nathan Garland, the applicants Shawn and Amanda Cleland proposed two non-farm diversified or secondary farm businesses on an agricultural property at 5621 Line 81, North Perth.
“The businesses proposed are a mechanics shop and flower shop,” Garland told council. “Each will be owned and operated by the residents and owners of the agricultural property.”
The applicant’s agent, Pierre Chauvin of MHBC Planning, told council the property is over 50 acres in size, with a sizable frontage on Line 81.
“The Clelands operate the dairy farm across the road,” he said. “This proposed business is actually operating across the road and they’re simply relocating to this property… I just wanted to point out that this is an existing business. The mechanic shop is an existing operation operated on the dairy farm across the road on Shawn’s parents’ farm.”
Chauvin told council in his presentation that this application meets the province’s criteria for non-farm diversified use.
He said the main criteria are:
It has to be located on a farm. Chauvin added that the lands will continue to be farmed and cropped as they are today;
It has to be secondary to the principal use. He added that the main use of the property is agriculture, and the mechanic and flower shops will be secondary use; and
No more than two per cent of the lot is devoted to non-farm diversified use.
Before construction of a new building for the businesses, the applicants are required to receive an Official Plan amendment from Perth County, and zoning bylaw amendment and will be required to submit a site plan.
“The amendments requested will facilitate an additional secondary farm business where one is currently permitted; the addition of two/three non-farm/resident employees where two are currently permitted in the Official Plan and one in the North Perth zoning bylaw; the creation of a second entrance; and an increased size in the permitted non-agricultural building,” Garland wrote in his report.
Garland added that one verbal complaint from a neighbour was received during the process of creating this report. The concern was that there should only be one business as allowed in the zoning bylaw, they were also concerned with the number of staff that are proposed.
Additionally, North Perth Clerk Lindsay Cline received a written comment from Doug Johnston of Maplevue Farms Inc., which nieghbours the applicant’s property to the west.
Johnston wrote that his complaint was regarding the number of employees allowed,
“We feel when businesses reach that size, they are better suited to be located in a settlement area with proper industrial commercial zoning,” he wrote. “By allowing the increase in employees, it is setting a dangerous precedent for other businesses to follow in the future.”
Additional concerns were shared regarding allowing two businesses at the same location.
“We also have concerns about allowing two businesses to operate at the same location,” Johnston wrote. “Once again this is setting the precedent for other businesses to follow it as the precedent would then encourage fewer businesses to locate in our towns and hamlets in the future and once again use more vulnerable farmland for large-scale buildings to be located on farms in the rural areas.”
Chauvin argued that the non-farm diversified use criteria does not specify how many employees or how many businesses are allowed, it only limits the size.
“In theory, and these criteria apply across the province, you can have multiple non-farm diversified uses with multiple employees provided you meet the two per cent,” he said. “In this case, it is only 4,000-square metres that we are considering non-farm diversified use. The intent is that it is limited in scale. In this case, we comply with that and under the two per cent.”
Wallace Ward Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen said she appreciated the identification of the criteria for non-farm diversified use.
“I think that this application does fit very nicely with the criteria that you have presented,” she said. “I actually think that it’s important that we restrict land, and this application does. But it also provides our residents with an opportunity to have diversified occupations, so that they can supplement their income along with doing agricultural practices. So for me, I think that I definitely would support this application.”
Johnston’s letter also asked if the sale of flowers was going to be monitored.
“In the text of the application, it states the flower shop will only sell flowers grown on-site,” he wrote. “Knowing our climate and growing season in Perth County that would only leave a portion of the calendar year for growing. We question how this will be monitored and enforced should the amendment be approved?”
Additionally Elma Ward Coun. Allan Rothwell asked if the flowers sold in the flower shop would be grown on the property.
“My understanding is that Amanda is certainly very talented and sells more than just flowers grown on her property,” he said. “Dahlias are grown on the site and she sells these across the country apparently.”
Rothwell pointed out that the notice for this application states “the flower shop would occupy approximately 33-square metres of the main floor and would include a flower cooler, and work/sales area. The flowers sold at the flower shop are to be grown on the property.”
He asked the agent if that was still the intent.
“I just want to frankly make sure that your client is getting what they want in terms of conducting their business,” Rothwell said. “If the notice is not correct I think we need to make sure that it is correct.”
He added that the agent’s proposal made no specific mention of this.
“It was a bit more broad interpretation,” Rothwell said. “From your client’s perspective, I think I would want to make sure that wording is in there so that if it is more than just flowers growing on the property, that she is able to do that with no problems associated.”
Chauvin said the bylaw is what would enforce this concern.
“In terms of enforcement, I will go back to what the bylaw says, and there is no stipulation in the bylaw, it doesn’t say anything,” he said.
Listowel Ward Coun. Sarah Blazek added that the application does not dictate that the flowers only be grown on the property.
“As far as policing and or monitoring the flowers that are sold in the shop, the application when you read it, and reread it like I have, it does not say that they were, that they only plan on selling flowers that are grown in the shop. The word ‘only’ is not in that application in any capacity,” she said. “It doesn’t even say that the flowers are to be grown in the shop. The words that we choose matter. And I just wanted to clarify that those words aren’t even there. So I don’t believe that policing or monitoring the flowers that are specifically sold needs to be a municipal issue should this application be approved. And I do very much support this application.”
The recommendation from Garland at the Nov. 20 meeting was for the first and second reading to be given to the bylaw, but not the third reading.
“The two readings are to show support of this, the third reading is to adopt it but the county Official Plan also has to be adopted prior to this zoning bylaw being adopted,” he explained.
Council passed a motion to accept the report with a vote of 7-1, with Rothwell voting in opposition.
Additionally, at the end of this meeting, while council was considering the bylaws, Rothwell asked for the associated bylaw to be extracted for further discussion.
His reasoning was to make council aware that this was only passing the first and second reading, and additional revisions could occur.
“I just want to make sure that council is aware that yes, we did hear the issues and that the permissions can be revised on that third reading,” he said.
Without separating the two bylaws included in the agenda on Nov. 20, as per typical procedure, council gave the first and second reading to the bylaw supporting the Cleland application at the Nov. 20 meeting, without amendments, with a vote of 8-0.
Additionally, Rothwell requested a report be brought back to the next council meeting, outlining North Perth’s recommendations to Perth County, as they would consider this application on Dec. 7.
At the Dec. 4 North Perth meeting, Mayor Todd Kasenberg asked theoretically, “how many non-farm diversified businesses would we allow on a single farm?”
Garland explained that each application is unique, however the North Perth zoning bylaw allows one and that is consistent with the Perth County Official Plan. He added that one farm use is also permitted, for example a food market stand for those who grow their own fruits and vegetables.
“If someone came in with a request for four non-farm diversified use businesses, what would happen?” Kasenberg pressed. “I guess I’m asking the question because I am vaguely uncomfortable with the precedent we would be setting here. I get the provincial policy wants to encourage diversified uses but at the same time, if we are sitting in a gray area where we can’t define how many diversified uses we would tolerate, I find that a bit concerning and perhaps something that needs to be addressed in the Official Plan.”
He went on to say that this is personal for him.
“The truth of the matter is that I have spent the better part of the last five years of my life talking about the need for a new Official Plan,” Kasenberg said. “What in practise this could do is change the whole basis of official planning because anyone in an agriculture zone could come forward and say they want to put in four or five diversified uses and they essentially create a mini mall in the middle of farm country. I find that disturbing, actually.”
He added that his mind is torn on this topic.
“I am very torn on this because I want to support entrepreneurialism and I understand its value in our community, but at the same time this seems risky to defy the Official Plan,” Kasenberg said.
Rothwell reiterated that the majority of the application is for the mechanic shop.
“There is no doubt and certainly when you look at the square footage of the building and so on,” he said. “The issue of the secondary use is questionable in that a fair bit of the flower business is actually grown on the farm and it is truly more of a farm use. However, where it gets complicated is that it is going to be inside the building, and is going to have additional flowers and so on that are not necessarily grown on that farm as well.”
He added that there is potential for retail sales of tools, equipment and furtilizers, which steer the application away from a typical farm use.
“It is in the application two non-farm diversified uses, but clearly when you look at the square footage of the secondary of them, being the flower shop, it is truly in my mind much more minor, but it has to be well understood,” Rothwell said. “I hope that our county councillors are willing to convey this to county council.”
He added that it has to be dealt with on its own merits.
“I think going forward this council needs to look at new Official Plan policies coming forward, we need to be very mindful of that,” Rothwell said. “To use the Mayor’s words, to ensure we don’t have mini malls popping up all across our agricultural land, although I don’t think that this was the intent.”
Council ultimately approved the application in principle, and gave a recommendation of approval to Perth County council with a vote of 6-1 at the Dec. 4 meeting, with Kasenberg voting against, and Coun. Dave Johnston was absent from voting as he declared a conflict of interest.
Kelsey Bent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner