Wellesley looking at loosening some rules governing on-farm businesses
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Wellesley looking at loosening some rules governing on-farm businesses

Wellesley council is considering increasing the number of off-farm employees eligible to work on a farm shop from two to five, part of a housekeeping zoning bylaw amendment brought forward by planner Geoff VanderBaaren at a public meeting Tuesday.

“There are quite a few tweaks and changes to the definitions that are in the bylaw,” VanderBaaren said. “There are a number of general provisions that we are proposing to change. There are changes to the regulations around the on farm business uses, as well as I’m proposing to add two new residential zones in the bylaw.”

The increase to five off-farm employees is based on the fact septic systems for farm shops are designed to accommodate five people. It’s also based off a survey done in the township of local businesses this year.

The report says the limit of two off-farm employees can cause health and safety issues. They’re suggesting to keep the maximum size of any farm shop to 6,000 square feet, which will ensure they remain secondary to farming operations.

“I’m not sure five is the right number, but I’m certainly sure we should be flexible on that,” Mayor Joe Nowak said.

There would continue to be no limit on the number of employees who live on the property permanently working on farm-related operations.

“We’re talking about increasing non-family employees from two to five. These are almost factories now if you’ve got four sons and five employees. Shouldn’t they be in an industrial area?” Coun. Carl Smit asked.

They’re looking to change the definition of a farm-related occupation from “a trade, occupation or service which is located on a parcel of land having an area of not less than eight hectares (20 acres), as a use clearly secondary to the main use of farming, and which is minor in nature compared to the farming operation” to “a trade, occupation or service which is located on a parcel of land, as a use clearly secondary to the ongoing farm operation and whose owner is eligible for farm business registration.”

Staff says the reason for the change would be because requiring a minimum of 20 acres to be a farm property doesn’t recognize all the undersized lots where agricultural operations are already happening, and they want to permit other on-farm occupations to give farmers a way to supplement their income.

Staff also suggested they allow farm shops to sell products related to what they produce. For example, a shop could sell fasteners for siding if they manufacture siding.

They’re proposing people who work out of their homes, like hairdressers or bookkeepers, be permitted one small sign on their property, which doesn’t have to be attached to their home. The maximum size would be 5.4 square feet.

The proposed new residential zones are ‘urban residential two,’ which would allow for additional medium density residential type use (townhouses, semi-detached, triplex and fourplex dwellings). The proposed new ‘urban residential three’ zone would allow for apartment uses only.

VanderBaaren’s proposing they add a definition for drive-throughs and dry cleaners, since neither are under the current bylaw.

Many of the other proposed changes in the report are just wording changes, and simplified definitions. VanderBaaren said they decided to amend them now because otherwise they have to come to council to ask for an amendment, every time there’s a typo.

Councillors deferred the amendment to give themselves time to review the proposed changes.

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