Southwest Middlesex passes official plan

This lame duck keeps things swimming forward.

Southwest Middlesex’s new council takes over mid-November, but in the meantime its current council unanimously passed a five-year update to its most important document: the official plan. The County of Middlesex now gets to give final approval to the rules of how people can build the municipality’s future.

This update to the 2008 plan includes more of a focus on affordable housing to conform with the latest provincial policies.

That means when passed homeowners can add additional residential units in their house and a small building on their property up to half the size if the primary residence. Put together, that is up to three residential properties where there used to be one.

Farmland severances are to be a little bit easier. The old plan was stuck in the ‘90s, with only homes built before 1999 allowed to be severed from a farm property. The new plan has homes needing to be 10 years or older.

One housing detail not added was a denied request by SBM on behalf of Waverly Homes to include more land within settlement boundary, which would allow housing to be built.

According to the July 27 presentation to council from Southwest Middlesex staff and consultant Monteith Brown, this process was not intended to contemplate site-specific amendments to the official plan. That includes expansions to settlement area boundaries, read the report. It also said the County indicated there is sufficient land within settlement boundaries already.

Only one person took the opportunity to make an official public comment, saying there was a need for protecting commercial spaces and the need for additional recreational space in Wardsville.

Any developments that do come are to promote cost-effective infrastructure like bike lanes and sidewalks. Public transit is also encouraged.

Agriculture uses were also updated. Agri-tourism is encouraged.

A list of diversified farm units was not included, but instead there was a list of criteria to be considered a diversified use: outside a settlement area; clearly secondary to the principal agricultural use of the lands; limited in size and lot coverage; and shall be compatible with and shall not hinder neighbouring agricultural operations, or conflict with adjacent sensitive uses.

A lot of rules and required studies were taken out when it comes to allowing wind farms. In their place was “The Municipality shall encourage the development of alternative and renewable energy systems, as a source of energy for the economic and environmental benefit of the Municipality and the Province of Ontario. These systems significantly reduce the amount of harmful emissions to the environment when compared to conventional energy systems. The Municipality encourages the use of wind, water, biomass, methane, solar, and geothermal energy. Alternative and Renewable Energy Systems should be designed and constructed with appropriate setbacks from sensitive land uses and cultural heritage resources to minimize impacts.”

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner