OMAFRA challenges Norfolk County on severed lot swap

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The local representative to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has sided with Norfolk County on the question of severed lot swaps.

Larry Davis of Burford — Norfolk, Haldimand and Brant’s representative to OFA — says Norfolk’s approach to lot swaps in the agricultural zone makes sense.

“It’s unfortunate that I have to step out and argue against OMAFRA because I’m normally on their side,” Davis said Feb. 21.

“But I think Norfolk has the right idea. You got me on the spot with this one. You can’t stand on this one with feet on either side of the line.”

The issue is back on the front burner now that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has objected to Norfolk’s approval of a lot swap. The matter has been referred to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

The swap in question involves shifting a two-acre severed parcel of prime land to a one-acre parcel of marginal land at Schuyler Farms east of Simcoe. Norfolk says farmers should be able to shift severed lots on their property so long as the move delivers a net benefit to agriculture.


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Norfolk council approved the swap in November. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has appealed the swap to LPAT.

Why this happened was a mystery until January’s annual general meeting of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association in Toronto. There, Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp raised the appeal with Steven Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Clark reportedly told Chopp his ministry is fine with lot swaps if they benefit agriculture. Chopp said Clark went on to say that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs will appeal a land-use decision if asked to by another cabinet minister. In this case, that would be Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, MPP for Oxford County.

“It was Ernie Hardeman,” Chopp told Norfolk council on Feb. 18. “I was perplexed why the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing would launch this appeal, given that there have been lot swaps in Oxford – Mr. Hardeman’s backyard – that weren’t even challenged.

“So, his argument is it doesn’t meet provincial policy. But I don’t understand how it wouldn’t. So here we are: I find it quite surprising that our Minister of Agriculture is going against farmers in a situation where even the Minister of Municipal Affairs agrees – and Coun. (Amy) Martin and Coun. (Tom) Masschaele were there with me and can attest – and he agrees that it makes perfect common sense. Even though it makes perfect common sense, they have found a reason to appeal.”

Chopp added that Norfolk so far has identified approved severed lot swaps in the agriculture zone in Brant County, Niagara Region, the City of Hamilton, Grey County and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell in eastern Ontario.


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Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett is parliamentary assistant to Hardeman. In an interview, Barrett was unsure why OMAFRA challenged Norfolk’s decision.

Barrett suggested there is more at stake than meets the eye. As an example, shifting a severed lot from prime agricultural land to an area near a woodlot will have implications for wildlife and stakeholders with an interest in the same.

“The last thing our hunters want to see is a house in a woodlot,” Barrett said. “Putting a house in a 50-acre woodlot ends hunting in that bush.”

Farming practices also vary from region to region. What makes sense in south-central Ontario, Barrett said, might have implications in eastern Ontario, Huron County or on “those large soybean acreages down in Essex County.”

“OMAFRA has to take the entire province into account,” Barrett said. “There are an awful lot of factors involved here. I’m heartened to see this is in the hands of Mr. Hardeman and Mr. Clark. They have so much experience. There’s more to this issue than one lot on one farm in Norfolk County.”

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