Farm organizations and planning officials are pleased the Ontario government has backed down on a controversial part of its effort to accelerate residential development across the province.

The new Provincial Planning Statement (PPS) and Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act proposes a series of amendments to the Planning Act, including allowing up to three lots to be severed from designated agricultural properties for residential development. Ontario’s three main farm organizations, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), the National Farmers Union-Ontario (NFU-O), and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) had formed a united opposition to the proposals.

On May 30, the provincial government announced it was removing the three-lot severance provision from the new PPS and would be extending the public consultation period on the new document, which will serve as the guiding policy for municipal and regional planners across the province for land use planning and development.

A joint statement from the OFA, NFU-O, CFFO, and several commodity organizations welcomed the government’s decision.

“We understand — and support — the need to increase the housing supply in Ontario, but we also want to ensure that housing is developed without encroaching on Ontario’s farmland, which is our most precious natural resource,” the statement reads.

“We recognize that Ontario is facing an affordable housing crisis and that solutions must be found, and we’re more than willing to be part of that process. Ontario’s farmers are not opposed to urban growth and development – we also want housing options to support youth, seniors, fam­ilies, workers, and newcomers in our communities,” said OFA President Peggy Brekveld in a separate statement.

The farm organizations are encouraged that the Government is committed to continuing to work with Ontario’s farming community to find solutions. Local farm leaders across the province are looking forward to engaging in the extended consultations on the proposed PPS. United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) Director of Planning and Forestry Louis Prévost is also pleased with the provincial government’s decision. Prévost had already objected to what the province was originally proposing because allowing residential lot severances defied the long-standing policy of preserving agricultural land across the counties. UCPR council had also endorsed a report where Prévost outlined objections to the provincial proposal.

“The fact that it (the government) is extending the commenting period is also good news,” Prévost said.

“It will allow municipal governments and organizations of all kinds additional time to provide comments on this very important document,” he added.