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Ability to build on ag land could benefit Puslinch, says mayor

While James Seeley had some concerns with proposed provincial planning policy changes, the mayor said loosening rules to be able to grow into farmland helps the township's financial stability in the long run

PUSLINCH – Puslinch council pushed back on some proposed provincial planning policy that would impact agriculture land, but it wasn’t total doom and gloom as the mayor pointed out some loosening of rules around building on agricultural land could benefit Puslinch. 

It took going through a few delegates and a few hours of discussion for Puslinch council to land on how it would respond to a proposed new provincial planning policy statement at a Wednesday meeting. 

Among the extensive list of proposed changes include allowing the creation of three residential lots through severances on land zoned prime agriculture and allows for expansion of settlement areas outside of a municipal comprehensive review. 

Numerous agricultural organizations such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, National Farmers Union Ontario and Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario have spoken out against this proposal as they claim it will weaken farmland protections and put the province’s food security at risk.

“It’s pretty staggering what they’re proposing to us as an agricultural community,” said Steve McCabe, in a delegation as the region’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) representative. 

“We take farmland away to the tune of 12,000 acres just in Wellington County and you multiply that to all of Ontario, where are we going to get our food … our next generation of farmers won’t be able to farm if this goes through and every house that is a possibility of getting built is built.”

John McNie, of the Mill Creek Stewards, said in his delegation he’s been ashamed of actions by the provincial government and this proposal hasn’t swayed his opinion. He reiterated similar concerns as the agricultural organizations about loss of farmland and challenged Puslinch council to push back on the province in its comments.

“Will our township’s response settle for just concerned? I hope not, this is really critical,” McNie said. 

Mayor James Seeley said he does have some concerns over severances on prime agricultural land but noted Puslinch is mostly secondary agriculture. 

“Loosening some of these rules is a benefit to this community,” Seeley said, because otherwise Puslinch is very limited in how much it can grow in population and housing, and therefore ensure more financial stability in the long term.

“I am supportive of some growth in Puslinch on farms, capping the severances. Is three too much? Probably.” 

After being taken through the potential impacts by a consultant and a long discussion on exact wording, Puslinch council settled on asking the province to consider limiting the amount of additional lots on agricultural lots to one and to have the province consider a maximum lot size. 

In the comments, Puslinch council also noted the amount of newly created lots and additional residential units on subdivided lots as a communal total are a concern to them. 

“The last thing we desire is to have little towns every hundred acres,” Seeley said.

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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