by Brandon Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville held a virtual Public Meeting on Tuesday to discuss key planning amendments to the Official Plan for the United Counties. The specific purpose of the meeting was to consider the issue of accessible and affordable housing, which has been affecting the region for many months.
A proposal has been made to increase the number of additional residential units, or ARUs, which are permitted for detached houses, semi-detached houses, and row houses in Leeds and Grenville. This move comes in response to legislative changes made by the Ontario government in 2019 with the passing of Bill 108, the so-called “More Homes, More Choices Act.” Specifically, the Counties state, the Amendment will modify Section 2.7.4 of the Official Plan to replace the term “secondary dwelling units” with “additional dwelling units”. Previously, only one ARU was allowed for each existing dwelling, and it had to be in the main dwelling unit. Now, up to two ARUs will be permitted for each detached or semi-detached house, and each row house, subject to the policies and regulations of the local municipal Official Plan and zoning by-law. What is significant is that one of these ARUs can be located in an ancillary building or structure, such as a shed or a barn.
The policy change may encourage property owners to transform an ancillary building into a self-contained residential unit, perhaps creating additional housing in the region. Issues with housing have been at the forefront of many discussions in the North Grenville area, both recently and dating back years, with a special housing task force commissioned by Mayor Peckford which presented a final report to Council in March of 2020.
In recent issues, the Times has explored how different elements impact the availability and affordability of housing, both locally and nationally. Inflated house prices and rising rent costs have posed difficulties for many local residents since early 2021, and issues such as bad landlord-tenant relations, and zoning and land severance challenges, have also contributed to an increasingly difficult market for many individuals and families.
The other proposed amendment under discussion by the United Counties relates to mapping aggregate resources, such as bedrock, sand, and gravel which are used in making roads, homes, and in other construction projects. The Amendment, the Counties state, will add bedrock resource mapping and refine sand and gravel resource mapping; enable certain types of development in proximity to mapped aggregate resources; require specific assessments for other non-aggregate development in proximity to mapped aggregate resources; and add policies that apply to new or expanded aggregate resource extraction operations.
A Counties Official Plan Amendment will not be required for new or expanding resource extraction operations, however, a local Official Plan Amendment may be required depending on the policies of the local Official Plan.
The amendment would also amend rules regarding development near mapped aggregate resources.
Subject to the comments heard at the public meetings, the Planning Advisory Committee may choose to make a recommendation to the next Counties Council Meeting for a decision by Counties Council on the matters. Those who wish to appeal the amendments must make written submissions to the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville before the relevant proposed Official Plan Amendment is adopted. For more information, contact Cherie Mills, Manager of Planning Services, at 613-342-3840 ext 2419, or by email at [email protected].