Ontario Barn Preservation

Surplus Farm Dwelling Severance

We need your input! what does your municipality do with bank barns and severances? Review the issues and help us help your municipality find alternative solutions!

We Need your input! What does your municipality do?

If you haven’t heard about surplus farm dwelling severance you are probably living under a rock. This is a planning policy enacted a few years ago to rectify a situation where non agriculture zoned lands were permitted to be severed from a lot than was 50 acres or less. This left many farmhouse to ruin as farmers purchased more land and had additional farmhouses, no renters( or didn’t want to deal with renters), and no one to live in them.

Policy was put in place by the province to allow severances of these “surplus dwellings” and have them rezoned to “non-farm” residential. The non’farm designation is a result of concerns over compatibility of farmers “right-to-farm” and potentially non-farmers living next door. These small severed lots are being created everywhere now, but the by-product of this policy requires that farm buildings be demolished on either the large farm lot and/or the “non-farm” residential to alleviate the concerns over compatibility. This result of the policy is decimating our bank barn stock in many municipalities.

The policy has been in place for about 3 years in many municipalities. And some are realizing the damage it has done (along with the benefits of saving farmhouse and tax paying residents). Many municipalities are reviewing the policy and we hope that we can influence some change, so that we aren’t paddling upstream!

Here are some of our reasons that the bank barns should stay and perhaps even be included in the smaller “non’farm” lots rather than the larger lots.

  • farmers hold large land are unlikely to ever use the bank barn as animal storage as it doesn’t meet good animal health and welfare standards, therefore barns left on large lands are unlikely to ever be used and could be put to much better use on the smaller severed lots
  • change of uses to anything other than accessory uses is not feasible nor practical for most barn owners. These barns make good small equipment storage for non-farm uses.
  • residents living/purchasing the smaller farm lots are likely to have more disposable incomes to maintain, reuse, re-purpose, and repair these historic cathedrals
  • “non-farm” lots are likely to still be used for some agriculture and small scale farm operations by nature of the size and location of these lots. Is the non’farm designation appropriate to a rural area surrounded by agriculture uses? I think the designation in of itself is problematic and causes compatibility issues.
  • Use of these barns for animal habitation would require Nutrient Management Strategy if larger than 5 Nutrient Units where owners would need to prove manure was being properly handled on their own land or contracting with other landowners for removal
  • Barns can be designated under the Historical Act, but this process is lengthy and costly to undertake now, and puts significant restrictions on the use and look of the building, and significantly increases repair costs.
  • Just as we we designate and preserve historic post offices, houses, downtowns, etc. these barns also have historical value, and they contribute to the rural built heritage landscape we all love.

We want to hear from you. What does your municipality do?

We are actively looking for alternative policies to share with municipalities to help them look at the issue differently, give them precedent for alternative solutions. And hopefully not require barns to be demolished, or we will have lost the battle before we’ve even begun. Leave a comment below, send us an email or visit us on facebook!

4 thoughts on “Surplus Farm Dwelling Severance

  1. I am a member of Municipal Council and as such sit on the Planning Advisory Committee. We see a number of these severance applications a year, and I would like to know what the vision of the OBP is on how these should be handled. I live on an 8 acre severed lot with a bank barn. I have larger acreage nearby but use this property for small scale farming, and do keep hay and a few animals in the barn.

    1. Dave, sorry for the delay on the response. We are working on a letter to send to all the municipalities. But our vision would be to see the barns severed with the house as we feel that is the best chance of survival. We also feel that these small lots and barns should remain for agriculture use (with reasonable limits). They are great start-ups for farmers, CSAs, diversified uses, etc. When they get designated as not for farm use, we feel that is an incompatible use for the agriculture neighbors. if you would like to get a copy of the letter please send us an email info@ontariobarnpreservation.com and we will add you to the list when its ready (hopefully soon, not that it matters at the moment due to the world-wide situation).

  2. The rural land use policies of Pennsylvania are worth reviewing for barn preservation, value added industries utilizing historic structures and capitalizing on integration of agriculture, tourism and rural residences. Wellesley township in Ontario is also an interesting model for rural land use policies.

    1. Thanks for the leads! Are there specific examples in Wellesley you might be referring to? We are looking for rural/agriculture zoning policies more so than settlement area like the village of Wellesley.

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