September 15, 2008
The July issue of Horticulture Review featured the story “Can Halton landscape contractors operate on rural land?” by Stuart Service. Questions sent to Stirling Todd, senior planner for the Municipality of Halton, were received after the article was published. His response follows.

The Region, in response to a request from the City of Burlington, and since supported by the Towns of Milton and Halton Hills, has initiated a study that will look at the landscape services sector in the Region with the objective of providing increased clarity on where these types of uses should be located. In order to understand this industry better we sought direction from Landscape Ontario.

The Region of Halton has made it clear, through presentations made at the public information sessions, that we are researching this dynamic and important sector of our local economy. We are looking to those operating businesses in this sector to assist us in understanding the nature of the businesses, the types of services offered both in the summer and winter months, why the operators of these businesses have predominantly decided to locate in the rural areas of the Region where they are generally not permitted and what are the obstacles to locating in an urban industrial area where they would generally be permitted by the local zoning by-laws.

We understand that some of the landscape businesses operating in the rural area have an agricultural component to their operation. Let us be clear, those operations which solely grow nursery stock are considered agriculture in nature and are already generally permitted throughout the rural areas of the Region. Those operations that are more commercial or industrial in nature or are considered to be a contractor’s yard, as defined by the applicable zoning bylaw, are not currently permitted in the rural areas of the Region.

The Region, with the assistance of our consultants, municipal partners, Landscape Ontario and the landscape industry, is trying to understand the policy regime as it exists today and the nature of the businesses operating in the rural areas. This assessment will ultimately result in a policy position here at the Region which will provide direction on where these types of uses should be located.

At the current time, local municipalities can prosecute operators of businesses which are by their nature deemed not in conformity with the municipality’s zoning bylaw. The approach used is under the discretion of the municipality in which the use is operating. It is the intent of this study to provide clear land use policy direction on where the various types of landscape businesses should be located within the Region. The Region is actively advancing this study and hopes to have a formal position sometime before the end of the year. Until such time, we encourage your industry representatives to continue offering opinions to Landscape Ontario and to us directly.

Here is an update on where we are now. Since our completion of the public information sessions in late June, we have been working on reviewing our notes and dealing with vacations by several of our team members. Over the next month or so, the project team will be getting together to determine where we go from here. I would expect that we will want to meet with Landscape Ontario in the early fall to discuss our initial thoughts on how we may proceed. We appreciate your industry’s patience as this study potentially has significant implications to your industry and to others who live in the rural areas and North Aldershot. We are not going to rush to any conclusions. Please also be reassured our cautious approach will only better serve your industry, as we will have a more thorough understanding of your business and the role it plays in our communities.

Finally, we expect to have recommended policy approaches from our planning consultants this fall and once this has been provided, the Region of Halton will need to determine how best to proceed. Once we make our decision, the local municipalities can decide their preferred course of action.

I hope this provides you with what you are looking for. If this does not, please do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience and I will do my best to provide the information you need. Thank you for your interest in this study and for assisting us keep your industry informed.

Stirling Todd