Former Councillor David Mitchell's Severance Overturned by OMB

The long saga of former Ward 11 City Councillor David Mitchell’s severance request closed another chapter this week as the Ontario Municipal Board denied a request for severance on the property formerly owned by Mitchell.

(Full OMB Ruling Dated September 14, 2014)

Short Version

Mitchell sold his farm property and sought to sever off a small portion of the property which contains a home occupied by his sister.

What makes this severance newsworthy are Mitchell’s ethical violations in 2007 when he originally applied for a severance.

Mitchell discussed the matter with other Councillors, and some Councillors felt he was lobbying for his severance. He was censured by Council. (Background on Censure here)

His severance request was approved by the Committee of Adjustment in 2007. The decision was appealed. Prior to the OMB hearing, Mitchell withdrew his application.

In 2011, Mitchell applied again to Committee of Adjustment for severance. The Committee approved.

City staff appealed and the matter was heard by the OMB.

The OMB ruled against the severance.

The denial was solely related to the minimal distance separation requirements of provincial planning policies, the OMB stated the severance met all other requirements for a rural severance of former farm houses after consolidation of a farm property.

The house is 15 metres from a nearby barn which can be used for livestock. Provincial planning policies require between 190 to 250 metres.

More Background

The farm, which was a dairy operation until 2001, was sold by Mitchell in 2012.

The home was built by Mitchell in 1999 for his sister, whom continues to reside in the house.

When the home was built in 1999, his sister assisted with the dairy farm operations and the home was allowed as housing for farm help under provincial policies.

Provincial planning policies for agricultural areas allow for severing farm homes when farm properties are sold as agricultural consolidation continues to be a trend.

Large farms can achieve an economy of scale which enables continuation of farming of agricultural lands. The OMB heard testimony during this hearing which states 15% of Ontario’s farms are large consolidated operations, but they account for 72% of gross receipts.

The goal is to allow farmers to remain in their homes after they sell their growing area.

Dave Mitchell’s Judgement Lapses

This severance application was a fairly routine application.

The reason it is newsworthy, and became an OMB battle, was the decision of then-City Councillor Dave Mitchell to discuss the matter with other Councillors, some of whom felt he was lobbying them.

He was censured for the actions. It was not his first censure. He had been previously censured for trying to use his position as a City Councillor to get out of a speeding ticket. (Background on Censure here)

Due to his behaviour, and the appearances of impropriety it could cause, the City fought the severances. There was potential for compromise or agreement after the Committee of Adjustment decision.

What’s Next?

With the minimal distance separation being the only reason the severance was denied by the OMB, and the barn is vacant, I’ll watch for the demolition of the barn to be followed by another severance application to the Committee of Adjustment.

If the barn is demolished, the severance will likely be approved.