With the completion of the township’s Official Plan, you may think that rules surrounding what type of building is allowed where in the township are clear. Not quite. The Official Plan, approved in 2015 provides the general blueprint for land use in the township, but as usual, the devil is in the details. The Township must now complete a review of its Zoning By-law to ensure that it conforms to the policies of the new Official Plan. Last month, Director of Planning Karen Ellis hosted the first of two Open House events flanked by urban planning consultants who will spearhead this comprehensive project.
The Zoning By-Law project provides the opportunity for the Township to implement other community objectives and contemporary zoning tools, and address local issues, making the rules clear, consistent and easier to enforce. The current zoning by-law was established in 2004 and some updates will allow some modern sensibilities to be reflected in zoning regulations, for example, urban livestock. This update will prevent ongoing amendments to clarify what is permitted and avoid a multitude of amendments and minor variances which is not just a nuisance, but may also imply that the application of rules is occasionally subjective. It will incorporate a variety of local objectives into the mix, including the Corporate Strategic Plan, the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the Downtown Revitalization Plan, to name a few.
A Zoning By-Law contains maps and regulations that outline the use of land, building and structures, and dictate the size, type, character and location of different buildings and their uses. It establishes minimum and maximum densities, lot sizes and dimensions and parking requirements and defines area designations such as “hamlets”. These tools are used by a variety of people in making significant decisions, including planners, building officials, developers, architects and real estate agents, as well as landowners.
The new plan will address questions including the number and nature of building zones in the township. At the moment we have 26 different categories, including six residential zones, seven zones each in the commercial and environment categories, as well as agricultural, institutional and hazard, to name a few. After the review, there will probably be a few more.
Before your eyes glaze over and you turn the page, think about what could go wrong. One of the most common sources of trouble is accessory buildings. Current township regulations allow for a maximum height of 6 meters and a maximum lot coverage of 5% for these structures. What kind of businesses can be operated from the home without impinging on the rights of their neighbours? How much of the available floor space can it utilize?
In the end, the plan is about protecting everyone’s property rights by ensuring the land use decisions meet the needs and objectives of the community as established by their democratically elected representatives. Don’t wait until your neighbour starts raising donkeys, opens a reptile zoo, builds a practise track for her fleet of ATV’s or starts a homeless shelter before speaking up. The township is asking for your input, so this would be the time for that ounce of prevention. KG