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Greater Golden Horseshoe map will restrict local planning efforts

by Patrick Raftis

GUELPH - Agricultural and natural heritage systems will be less pervasive  than originally feared, in local municipalities under the final mapping for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area. But county officials believe they will still handcuff municipalities on local planning matters.

“Land division committee meetings are getting longer every month and they’re bound to now become shorter because the province has laid prime agriculture and natural heritage over most of Erin, Puslinch and Minto so it’s maybe going to help our meetings get shorter,” said planning committee chair councillor Allan Alls at the March 29 Wellington County council meeting.

“Although reduced from their drafts and mapping, it’s still going to be very restrictive, particularly for Minto Erin and Puslinch,” Alls added. “In essence, land severances will be reduced considerably.”

Last fall, the county expressed concern during the commenting period for proposed changes to the province’s growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe area with the approach to existing designated areas of non-agricultural land uses.

The proposals would have automatically changed small areas of non-agricultural land use designation (such as rural employment area, recreation area, lifestyle communities, or other site specific areas) to prime agricultural areas with no option for the county to retain current designations.

At the March 29 meeting, council received a report from manager of planning policy Mark Paoli indicating changes in the final version “have somewhat reduced the extent of the Prime Agricultural Area relative to what was shown in the Draft Agricultural System for which we provided comments in the fall of 2017.”

The report also notes  Candidate Areas that could be added to Prime Agricultural Areas or Rural Lands through the municipal comprehensive review process have been added in some municipalities.

In the original draft, the only Candidate Areas were in Puslinch. There are now Candidate Areas in all of the municipalities in the county except for Mapleton, and the extent of Candidate Area in Puslinch has increased.

“Most, but not all, of the lands designated Rural Employment Area are now excluded from the Prime Agricultural Area,” Pasoli noted, adding about half of the lands designated Recreational Area are still included in the Prime Agricultural Area and a few are now Candidate Areas.

The Natural Heritage System appears to be “largely unchanged” from the draft, Paoli states in the report.

Paoli indicated staff would circulate the report to member municipalities and are also developing mapping tools to assist in the review of applications and to share with member municipalities, the public and applicants.


April 13, 2018


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