A longtime friend of mine has owned a farm on the border of Fonthill. A farm that has been in their family for generations.
Aside from a few country properties across from and neighboring them, they enjoy wide-open spaces in a wonderful rural setting.
Well, they did until a few years ago.
A farm down the road sold to a developer and because this particular area is not within the Greenbelt protections, the developer had no trouble changing the zoning and building a subdivision.
My friend and her husband had not seen this coming. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is extremely difficult to guarantee that your rural property will be safe from nearby development.
But, arming yourself with knowledge on the area you are buying in could help mitigate SOME of the risk.
Here are some tips.
Living in Protected Areas
Buying a country home in a protected area like the GreenBelt could thwart some of the risk of waking up to bulldozers on the property beside you.
Of course, this could change at any time but we hope not.
Properties protected under the Niagara Escarpment Commission or Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan may provide you some protection as well.
Again, it is impossible to give you a guarantee that things will not change in the future. Take a look at this MAP showing over 600 requests and accompanying reasons to remove specific sections of land from the Greenbelt.
Now, bear in mind that living in these areas may also make it difficult to make changes to the home and property itself.
You will likely need permission and approval from conservation authorities and environmental protection agencies to add extensions, build new buildings and even remove trees on the property.
Contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to get more information on types of property protections and how these can help you.
Connect With The Local Municipality
The local municipality should be able to confirm current land zoning, future use and planning allowances for your property of interest and the properties surrounding it.
Investigate to see if there are any applications to change the zoning of properties near your home of interest and go from there.
Be Wary of Buying near Major Highway Corridors
Towns along the 401 and 400 highways have been seeing a large amount of development over the last number of years.
The 401 towards London, in towns such as Woostock and Ingersoll, have seen growth in the number of subdivisions being built.
Interestingly, Stratford and St. Mary’s – two quaint towns set a little ways back from the highway – are seeing an increase in the rezoning of agricultural land on the outskirts of town as well. All to accommodate more housing developments.
New Techumseth, recently making the ‘Top 25 places to live in Canada’ list, is definitely one to watch. Most of the community is outside of the Greenbelt protection and only just a 1hr drive to Mississauga and 1hr30 minutes to downtown Toronto.
Be Wary of Buying Country Homes on The Edge of Town
This is best described with an example. We’ll use Niagara.
Generally, the Niagara Region has a tight plan when it comes to development.
The municipality has been consistent with protecting agricultural land and conservation areas from housing developments.
However, the 2013 Niagara’s GreenBelt Review Summary presented questions as to why First Street Louth and Fourth Avenue (where the new St Catharines General Hospital was built) were still included in the Greenbelt despite the growing amount of development surrounding these streets.
The Louth neighbourhood that encompasses these streets – just on the southeastern outskirts of St Catharines – is primarily dominated by agricultural properties, wineries and a number of country homes as well.
As far as I know, there are NO plans in place for developers to buy up the land here.
But without a crystal ball (and maybe even with one) it is tough to tell what could happen with so much development just a stone throws away from these streets.
Investigate The Growth Plan & Unprotected Lands in the “WhiteBelt”.
The WhiteBelt includes sections of undeveloped land that lie between existing urban settlement and the greenbelt. This land is currently being used for agricultural and rural uses. See below in Red.
The Growth Plan 2017, is a strategic policy set out as a sort of blueprint for urban and economic growth around the Golden Horse Shoe. This is a Map excerpt from the 2017 Growth Plan document showing the potential use of the Whitebelt for urban growth and expansion.
Currently, these lands have not been designated for urban use but they do not have the protection of being in the Greenbelt either. If you are buying a country home within or bordering on the Whitebelt, investigate with municipalities, environmental agencies and conservation authorities to see what the future may hold for these properties.
It is easy to speculate about future development but difficult to get it exactly right 100% of the time. The tips given above are just that, tips. Many country properties are located within protected areas and frankly, the chance of having a subdivision spring up next door is relatively slim.
But it doesn’t hurt to do your due diligence before you buy any property.
Let these tips serve as a simple guide to help you decide where the best place to buy a country home might be for you.