Land Evaluation & Area Review (LEAR)

There has been much discussion in recent weeks about the City of Ottawa’s update to its Land Evaluation & Area Review (LEAR). The purpose of a LEAR is to identify prime agricultural areas using several factors in addition to soil class, in order to establish an agricultural designation in the Official Plan. The LEAR is used as a tool to then help designate Agricultural Resource Areas across the City.

The Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton identified the existing Agricultural Resource Area in 1997 using a LEAR system. Key components of the LEAR system are soil capability for agriculture, land use and parcel size. New soils mapping and changes in land use and the size and nature of farms in the city over the last 20 years warrant re-examining and updating the existing LEAR system. The Ontario Municipal Board has also directed the City to complete this update.

The Statutory Public Meeting required by the Planning Act to consider the amendment and submissions from the public was held on the 22nd of November at Planning Committee. The report also came to the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on November 24th. The report will now rise to City Council at its meeting on December 14th. If you did not submit comments to either Committee, you can still do so up until the Council meeting. Council will be considering objections submitted in writing up until it makes a decision on December 14th.   Written submissions received before December 9th will be reviewed by staff and if agreed to motions for change will be presented to Council. All submissions must include the reasons why the existing or proposed designation should be changed - this should include soil sampling and independent assessment in accordance with the LEAR model.

There have been some changes in the LEAR system that the City is using now versus what was used in 1997. Some of the weighting has changed and the threshold for lands to be considered agriculture was lowered from 130 to 125. This was the recommendation from City staff. In their involvement through the LEAR update, they discovered that some lands were scored artificially higher in 1997. The idea was that, since the City lacks substantial Class 1 lands that the scores would reflect that and Class 2 and 3 lands were given higher scores and that trickled down somewhat. For this review, a more scientific approach was taken and it was determined that 125 was a more appropriate threshold. Ultimately, the difference in the LEAR mapping is negligible and much of the land proposed to be designated as Agricultural Resource Area actually ranks higher than 130 regardless. Having said that, lands that score below 125 can sometimes get bundled with lands that score much higher and the City evaluates the lands based on 250 hectare parcels, not individual properties.

Following the December 14th Council decision on LEAR, there are still opportunities to have appeals addressed. Request for changes to Agriculture designations can be submitted to staff with supporting material (soil sampling and independent assessment in accordance with the LEAR model). Staff would review and where they agree, these could be provided to Council for Council to make submissions to the Ministry before the Minister’s decision is given on OPA 2016. Any modifications to the Official Plan Amendment would have to be agreed to by the Minister. Once the Minister makes his/her decision, those wanting to appeal then have 20 days from the date the Minister issues the decision to register their appeal with the Minister and stating the reasons for the appeal.

To retain a right to appeal, written submissions must be provided to the City prior to Council making a decision on OPA 2016 on December 14, 2016. After an appeal is lodged there is a period where mediation is encouraged. This provides an opportunity for Council to consider additional information provided as part of the appeal and which may not have been available earlier.

Submissions can be made to planning@ottawa.ca and addressed to Bruce Finlay. Please contact me should you have any questions regarding the LEAR update and the recommended Agricultural Resource Area designations.

Dickinson House

On December 3rd and 4th, between 10:00am and 4:00pm, come and celebrate the Season by making a Victorian styled Christmas ornament at Dickinson House. Ideas and craft supplies are provided, and the young and young at heart can bring home a lovely memento. Admission to the House and the crafts are free of charge. Donations toward the upkeep of the House are always welcome. 

Continuing to celebrate an old time Christmas at the House, there will be a reading of A Christmas Carol at 2:00pm on December 11th and 18th; hot chocolate, shortbread and fruitcake will be served at intermission.  Tickets are $5.00, and children under 12 are free. To reserve a seat, please call 613-692-6455, or purchase your ticket at Manotick Office Pro. The House will open at 1:30pm on the days of the reading.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.

Coach Houses and Land Evaluation and Area Review (LEAR)

To begin this week, I just wanted to correct a comment that I have made in recent weeks.  When providing background on the stormwater issue, I had said that Council made the decision to shift all stormwater costs to the water and sewer rate in April of 2001.  In fact, it was the Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee that dealt with the issue in April. They ended up deferring the matter to their July 3rd meeting and Council did not approve it until their July 11th meeting.

The report was titled “Financing Methods – Funding City Services” and included two key points that led us to the situation we are in today.  One was that the General Tax Levy “include all services formerly included in the general levies of the area municipalities except…stormwater management.” Further along in the same motion, the Committee recommended to Council that “the stormwater management and sanitary sewerage programs be totally funded from sewer surcharges.” This passed at Committee and again at Council.  Interestingly enough, Councillor Janet Stavinga actually voted against the matter at Committee.  We are only dealing with this matter today because the rest of Council did not follow her lead. If you would be interested in reading the minutes or the report for yourself, please contact my office.

For those of you who have attended one of our Mid-Term Town Hall meetings, you will know that we discuss the stormwater issue there.  Although this item has been discussed at Committee this past Tuesday, I will continue to focus on the matter at future town hall meetings. With meetings in North Gower and Munster having occurred earlier this week, our next Town Hall meeting will take place at the Christ Church in Ashton on Wednesday, November 1st followed by our rural Stittsville meeting at the Goulbourn Town Hall on Monday, November 7th.  Both meetings will begin at 7:00pm.

Coach Houses

The report on Coach Houses came before the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Thursday, October 6th.  Some of the recommendations contained in the report stemmed from consultations in the urban area but the ensuing recommendation had a city-wide impact.  As a result, ARAC voted to alter a recommended decrease in accessory building heights because this was not a prevalent issue in the rural area.  Further, we discussed the minimum lot size for a coach house.  The recommendation calls for a minimum lot size of 2 acres on private services.  This is something that we are reviewing and, at the very least, members of ARAC will be pursuing a decrease in that minimum to 1 acre at the October 26th meeting of Council.

The main point, however, is that the City has developed a process that will permit the addition of coach houses in the rural area and across the city.  All that is left to work out are some fine details surrounding lot sizes and permitting.  I will keep you updated on the matter in future columns.

Land Evaluation and Area Review (LEAR)

In November, the updated report on LEAR will come to both the Planning Committee and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  As Chair of the LEAR Working Group, this is something we have been working on for the better part of four years.  The most interested parties in this endeavour would be landowners in or adjacent to lands already designated as Agricultural Resource Area on Schedule A of the City’s Official Plan.

The Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton identified the existing Agricultural Resource Area in 1997 using a Land Evaluation and Area Review (LEAR) system. Key components of the LEAR system are soil capability for agriculture, land use and parcel size. New soils mapping and changes in land use and the size and nature of farms in the city over the last 20 years warrant re-examining and updating the existing LEAR system.  The Ontario Municipal Board has also directed the City to complete this update. 

The LEAR Working Group is finalizing the changes to the LEAR system. Recommendations on possible changes, if any, to the Agricultural Resource Area will be made and notice of changes will be sent to all affected land owners. A draft Official Plan Amendment will be advertised, circulated and presented to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Planning Committees in November 2016 and Council in December 2016/ January 2017.

If you have any questions on this review, please contact Bruce Finlay, Planner, at 613-580-2424, ext. 21850 or by e-mail at planning@ottawa.ca.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491.