by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario Municipal Board has dismissed an appeal by two municipalities in Perth County seeking an amendment to the county’s official plan that would allow severances of surplus farm dwellings.
There are agricultural-focused municipalities in nearby counties that permit severances of surplus farm dwellings through their official plans. But in Perth County’s case, with its single, county-wide official plan covering all of the lower tier municipalities, “the board finds that the refusal to approve an official plan amendment to permit severances of surplus farm dwellings is not unreasonable,” it says in the decision delivered by member J.G. Wong on Sept. 26.
The Municipality of West Perth and the Township of Perth South appealed Perth County council’s refusal to amend its official plan to permit the severances under certain conditions. The board says the municipalities’ proposed amendment is not appropriate and won’t require the county to amend the plan.
“We’re obviously a little disappointed,” says West Perth Mayor Walter McKenzie. “But we respect the decision that was made and appreciate the time that was put into it.”
McKenzie says it wasn’t so much a case of allowing surplus farm dwelling severances as it was determining that one part of the county couldn’t have a different set of rules than another part. The board took that matter into account and the answer is “no” there can’t be different sets of rules for different sections of the county.
McKenzie doubts there is a possibility of any further appeals after an OMB ruling. West Perth hasn’t yet had a council meeting to discuss the ruling but “our take on it is the decision has been made and we carry on.”
The two municipalities wanted the official plan changed to allow the severances because the county’s prohibition has led to a loss of population and a reduced property tax base. But the board didn’t find any evidence that on a county-wide basis or on a local level the existing prohibition on surplus farm dwelling severances “has negatively impacted the property tax rolls,” the decision says.
Perth Federation of Agriculture president Brent Royce says they’ve taken the position opposing the severances but many members are in favour of them. In general the federation is in favour of a uniform set of rules for the county.
The federation, which attended the board hearing as an observer and provided written submissions, is satisfied with the board’s decision. “We didn’t want to see divisions among lower tier municipalities.”
Royce says “this is an issue that won’t go away and will have to be readdressed at some other point in time” because there are people both in favour and against the severances. He notes it may come up again when the county reviews its official plan in a year or two. BF