What is an Old Barn?

Definitions (including explanations) of old barn, heritage barn, obsolete barn and relocated old barn terms and how these definitions could be utilized in Ontario’s planning documents affecting existing barns.

An old barn is an agricultural structure (or part of an agricultural structure) that was built before 1961.

An obsolete barn is an unmodified old barn that is currently housing less than 5 Nutrient Units (NU) of animals.

A relocated old barn is an old barn that has been moved. The original structure of the old barn was kept in the new construction.

A heritage barn is an old barn or relocated old barn with specific features that make the structure important for local, regional or national interests.

Why are these definition needed?

  • for planning purposes. The definition is needed to help develop criteria to avoid unnecessary removal of a structure that has low probability of causing animal related nuisance issues. Other planning or permitting processes may also use this definition.
  • for funding/support purposes. For example, a future program may exist where owners of an old barn may be able to access support to offset the cost of maintenance.
  • for documentation purposes. For example, to create a data base of old barns in a geographical area.

Alternative title for old?

Options could include antique, vintage, historical or heritage.

Antique is often defined as over 100 years old which could lead to confusion w.r.t. barns since some barns less than 100 years old should qualify.

Vintage tends to refer to smaller non structural items and may imply less than 100 years old.

Heritage may give the impression to landowners that the structures should/must be kept. This could create resistance by some barn owners because they don’t want the possibility of retention rules for barns.

Historical title creates the same concern as heritage.

In summary, for the present situation the old barn title seems most appropriate.

What should be considered for these definitions?

Ideally the definition should not need a determination by an expert. To achieve this, the choice should be based on information from available data bases (ie from building permits, tax records, aerial photos and standard historical documents).

The definitions should be short and of the type to be incorporated into planning and funding documents. Ideally the definition should be the same for all needs.

How have older barns previously been treated in planning documents in Ontario?

Currently all livestock barns are assumed to have capacity to hold livestock in the future. Generally this assumption only can be changed if the structure is renovated (with a building permit) to be a non-livestock structure (generally a machinery storage). This approach tends to encourage the removal of the barn due to the cost of changes plus it eliminates the barn from legally being used to house a small number of animals.

Discussion on the age part of the definition

Age since construction or modification is generally definable as it is commonly found in municipal databases. If no such information exists, historical records (such as Tweedsmuir History https://fwio.on.ca/tweedsmuir-history-books/ ) may substitute for municipal documents. In this document, 1960 is used as the threshold for determination of old barn. It was determined that 1960 technology for barns tended to change significantly. For example, liquid manure systems where installed after 1960. Also 1960 is just prior to a Canadian census completed in 1961 which helps determine numbers of farms affected.

Discussion on the livestock threshold in the obsolete barn definition

The current usage criteria of 5 NU of livestock (using calculator in the Nutrient Management Regulation (Ont.Reg. 267)) limits the possibility of an odour conflict occurring in the future. This effectively addresses the issue of building permits not being obtained for past modernization of the barn.

Use of obsolete barn definition in planning documents

It is recommended that an obsolete barn would be exempt from setback requirements for MDS calculations.

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