Developing businesses in rural and agricultural areas may become easier through proposed changes to the Official Plan

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In the past preserving agricultural land, while at the same encouraging local business, has been a bit of balancing act for local municipalities.

But proposed changes to Oxford's Official Plan may be sowing the seeds for an increased economy in rural areas or on agricultural land.

Paul Michiels, manager of planning for Oxford County, explained 90 per cent of county land is located outside of settlement areas and proposed changes are due to the “recognition of a need for more diversity.”

“The process will be clearer and more flexible than in the past,” he said. “It is trying to both protect agricultural land and give the flexibility to establish secondary businesses.”

Key components of the proposed changes would replace the requirement to demonstrate farm viability prior to allowing construction of agricultural building and/or accessory dwelling on undersized agricultural lots with new policies.

The new policies would allow for the construction of a dwelling on a small portion of an existing undersized agricultural lot providing the remaining lands are consolidated with a farm parcel, as well as other criteria are met.

“There would be more flexibility to establish a small business as a secondary business,” Michiels said. “It allows a farmer… to supplement his income or support the farming operation.”

County staff is also proposing to maintain the minimum agricultural lot size at 30 ha (75 aces) but remove the option to consider the creation of smaller lots through the submission of a farm plan.

Michiels said the next step is to consult with local municipalities and the Province of Ontario.

“Following that we will go out into the broader community,” he said.

HRivers@postmedia.com

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