February 15, 2010
By Glenn J. Wellings, MCIP, RPP
On Dec. 16, 2009, Halton Regional Council adopted Official Plan Amendment No. 38 (ROPA 38). The comprehensive document deals with a variety of issues, including establishing future urban growth areas for the Region of Halton. Landscape Ontario members within Halton are very interested about the implementation of policies regarding Horticultural Trade Uses.

ROPA 38 defines Horticultural Trade Uses as essentially landscape companies involved in the growing, sale, supply, delivery, storage, distribution, installation, and/or maintenance of horticultural plants and products used in landscaping. It is important to note that nurseries, which specialize in the growing of plants, continue to be considered an agricultural pursuit and therefore unaffected by the new policies.

Subject to meeting local municipal policies, Horticultural Trade Uses are permitted in the Agricultural Rural Area designation under the following circumstances:
  • Farm property is at least four hectares in size
  • At least 70 per cent of the arable area of the farm property is dedicated to the growing of horticultural plants
  • Use is located within the existing farm building cluster with no tree removals
  • Gross floor area does not exceed 500 square metres.
  • Outdoor storage area does not exceed 1,000 square metres
  • Use, including buildings, outdoor storage, parking areas, and loading/unloading, is adequately screened
  • Use can be accommodated by on-site private water supply and wastewater treatment systems

ROPA 38 policy modifications

Throughout the Horticultural Trade Land Use Study and ROPA 38 process, Landscape Ontario and its members sought policy changes that would protect those who presently operate horticultural and landscape contractor businesses throughout Halton. The main issue was that many of the existing operations/businesses were not recognized under current official plan policies and local zoning bylaws, and did not meet the aforementioned criteria. This could have resulted in serious hardship by forcing closure and/or relocation. For example, many operators do not meet the minimum property size of four hectares to sustain such a Horticultural Trade Use.

Following presentations to Regional Planning and Public Works Committee and municipal council, as well as various meetings with regional staff, the LO contingent was able to agree on the inclusion of policies within ROPA 38. This would enable existing, non-compliant operations/businesses to be recognized as “existing uses” under the ROPA 38 policies, provided local planning applications are made within one year of Regional Council adoption of ROPA 38 (December 16, 2009), and that such permission is granted under local zoning bylaws within five years from adoption. Also worthy of note is that recognition of existing uses can be achieved without the benefit and expense of a Regional Plan Amendment. As well, the policies enable recognition of existing operations throughout Halton, including North Aldershot.

What’s next?

ROPA 38 is now in the hands of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH). Approval is expected by late spring or early summer, 2010. It is important to maintain contact with MMAH and request further notice to ensure the ROPA 38 policies do not undergo further modifications that could effectively undo the successful policy changes that LO has achieved to date.

Additionally, it is crucial that existing operators commence with the pre-consultation process with the local municipalities in order to ensure that applications are filed within the one-year limitation period, as noted above.
Halton Region extends along 25 kilometres of Lake Ontario shoreline. Included in the region are the cities of Burlington and Oakville, and the towns of Halton Hills and Milton.

For contact information, or to see the report, go to www.halton.ca. Stirling Todd, Senior Planner, is the key contact person at Halton. His telephone number is 905-825-6000, ext. 7186, or email Stirling.Todd@halton.ca
Contact details for MMAH follows:

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Municipal Services Office, Central Ontario, 777 Bay Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON M5G 2E5.
Glenn J. Wellings is president of Wellings Planning Consultants of Burlington.