Severances Conditional On A Well?

To say that last night’s Public Planning meeting was interesting would be a wild exaggeration.

Graphic shows an excerpt from the County's Official Plan illustrating how it works.

There was one issue, however, that is likely to spark further discussion when the draft of the new Official Plan comes up for approval later this year.

The conditions for most severances are standard and come up in connection with almost every application. These include a condition which says that a well with a minimum capacity of 3 gallons per minute (GPM) must be drilled or dug within a year to complete the severance.

One property owner objected to the requirement for a 3 GPM well on the basis that he could hire a driller and come up empty or find a well that was OK in March, but which dried up during the summer.

He argued that there are many dry areas in the County. In his opinion it was an unnecessary expense to require a well when a cistern (large water tank) would cost much less.

Many County homes have cisterns and rely on one of the water delivery services to fill them with municipal water.

Staff responded that the Official Plan specifies a well with 3 GPM for any residential lot severance and the Council decisions must follow the Official Plan. It was pointed out that Council will consider the draft of a new Official Plan later this year, and that would be the time to decide whether a well is still an appropriate condition.

Council did what it was supposed to do, followed the Plan and stuck to the well condition.

The discussion brought out two points.

First, it demonstrated the authority of the Official Plan. A lot of people think Council can ignore the Official Plan if it wants. In fact, the Official Plan has the force of law and Council must follow it or risk a costly appeal.

The Official Plan determines what the community will actually look like in the future, but it is pretty boring stuff and the citizen consultations required by the province are perfunctory and sparsely attended.

The Official Plan can be amended, but if you think that’s fun, you need psychiatric assistance.

That’s the first point. The second one is the issue raised by the landowner – should the County still require wells?

As the owner pointed out, the delivery trucks carry chlorinated municipal water, so the quality is assured.

Until persuaded otherwise, I tend to agree with him.

Sometimes people say that we should create lots where the homeowners will be dependent on outside support for the necessities of life, but that horse left the barn along time ago.

Most County homes have their heating fuel (propane) brought in from the outside, and electricity too (except for homes off the grid). When you think about it, most of us need a car to even get our food unless we farm it ourselves. In other words, all our necessities of life are delivered, save for water.

What’s so different about water that property owners should be required to “grow their own”.

The only persuasive counter-argument I can think of is that over the years, all the truck deliveries will produce a lot of unnecessary green house gases which contribute to global warming…an argument worth considering.

Bottom line: the Official Plan matters. Follow it closely or risk a nasty surprise.

Anyone who wants to listen to the discussion first-hand can find the video and the staff report at the County’s website.  The discussion was item 5.2 on the agenda and starts at 9:00 minutes on the video.