This letter is intended to clarify the City of Hamilton’s position on the new Rural Zoning By-law due to some inaccuracies attributed to the  Glanbrook Chamber of Commerce in a previous article.

Please note, the City has always been more than willing to communicate this information to all key rural stakeholders such as conducting a number of well attended open houses in Glanbrook, Flamborough and Ancaster, working with  both the Hamilton Wentworth Federation‎ of Farmers as well as our own Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee to ensure the agriculture community was heard.‎ We have also spent a considerable amount of time presenting the draft plans to all Chamber of Commerces and we will continue in our efforts to clarify any confusion that may arise.

Since amalgamation in 2000, we as a city have both celebrated and struggled with 6 former municipalities who operated under 6 sets of zoning by-laws. For example, in some former municipalities, kennels and cottage/home industries were permitted, but not in other former municipalities. ‎We also have to comply with the Greenbelt that was enacted by the Province in 2005. ‎As you can imagine, these inconsistencies were frustrating to both residents and businesses.

The new Rural Zoning was devised to harmonize all 5 former rural municipalities while respecting the Greenbelt Legislation in an effort to clear up those inconsistencies.

First and foremost, any thought that the new rural zoning provides for fewer business opportunities is incorrect. In fact it is just the opposite, it will provide more economic opportunities that were not available before.

The examples are plenty. For instance, the definition of agriculture has been expanded to include the washing, sorting and selling of agriculture produce not just growing. Further, the definition of manufacturing has evolved – the zoning by-law does not differentiate between manufacturing catch basins and clothing. The type of uses that are related to  and support agriculture (e.g. Cold storage warehouses) and other secondary uses (e.g. agritourism, home industries, brewery/cidery/winery) have also been broadened to benefit land and business owners. As stated earlier, some of the previous by-laws, kennels and cottage/home industries were permitted in certain areas, but not in others. This inconsistency has now been addressed and the regulations are now the same and have been simplified for the entire rural area.

In another example, in the former by-laws, depending on the municipality, greenhouses could have buildings that covered between 1% to 70% of the total lot area; the new regulation allows for a 70% lot coverage for greenhouses throughout the Rural Area of Hamilton. This consistency is important for that industry.

Some commercial and industrial zones under the former by-laws either had a wide range of uses, or were very specific in the range of uses permitted (such as a sit down restaurant but not a fast food take-out restaurant), many of which did not exist on the property. The new zoning by-law is more flexible by not differentiating between sub-categories of uses and provides broader definitions which provide more flexibility for businesses to grow and adapt to changing market conditions.

The Provincial Greenbelt Plan only permits uses that currently exist and the new By-law reflects this requirement.  The City of Hamilton has asked the Province to review these restrictions and if the Greenbelt Plan is changed, the City will review and amend the by—law accordingly.

It is important to note that existing uses that were legally established under the former Zoning By-laws will not be affected by this by-law; in fact they may have more flexibility.  Many properties that had specific zoning have had their special permissions (some refer to this as “grandparenting”‎), and will continue to do so.

Conversely, if a use was illegal under the former municipalities Zoning By-law, it remains as an illegal use under the new Zoning By-law. More specially, landscape operations were not permitted under any of the former Zoning by-laws, except for a few special exceptions in Flamborough. Important here is that the by-law does  not take away any permited uses that were legally permitted by the former municipalities.  They will continue to be “grandparented” In some cases, a use may have greater opportunities because the definition of the use has been broadened under the new Zoning By-law and allows for more activities.

In addition, a greater number of agricultural and agricultural related uses create the potential for new investment and growth. Overall, the new Rural Zoning  By-law has many economic benefits to the rural community.

Lastly, to clarify for those business and rural residents who are worried about the date this takes effect, it does not affect uses that were legally in existence as of July 10, 2015, contrary to what the article states.

Simply put, if your business was legal  before, your business will continue to be legal now.

More communication will follow in the coming months, but City staff are always available to address any inquiries and clarify the bylaw. For more information, you are encouraged to contact: Joanne Hickey-Evans at 905.546.2424 ext. 1282 or joanne.hickey-evans@hamilton.ca

Read More