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Update - Farm Diversified Uses By-law Amendments

Project Status: 


The City of Ottawa is proposing several regulatory amendments to permit small-scale commercial and industrial businesses in the rural area that are secondary to farming operations.

This will permit farmers to branch out and add to their income. These uses must be compatible with and not hinder local agricultural practices.

Examples of farm diversified uses may include, but are not limited to:

  • Small-Scale Retail Shop
  • Yoga Classes
  • Furniture Maker or Artist Studio
  • Small-Scale Restaurant or Bakery
  • Small-Scale Weddings
  • Eco-Tourism
  • Cold or Dry Storage for local farmers
  • Value-added cider or wine production and sales

Why are we proposing these amendments?

All municipalities in Ontario are required to review and update their Official Plans and Zoning By-Laws to conform to provincial policies and plans, including the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS was updated in 2014 to include permissions for diversified uses on prime agricultural lands, with the intent of supporting local economies and small business in a manner that is compatible with existing farm uses.

In advance of the current study, Council adopted very limited interim zoning provisions for “on-farm diversified uses, limited to a place of assembly” in early 2019, following Official Plan revisions in November of 2017. Staff subsequently initiated a more detailed study to expand the zoning permissions in fall of 2019.

Summary of Amendments

The proposed amendments take direction primarily from the Provincial guideline document produced in 2016 for municipalities, as well as from stakeholder engagement and consultation undertaken to inform Ottawa’s Rural Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan, which was approved in spring of 2020 (ACS2020-PIE-EDP-0009). The focus of the amendments is to regulate size rather than individual business types, in order to facilitate innovation.

Revisions to the following documents are proposed:

  1. City of Ottawa Official Plan (2003-203)
  2. City of Ottawa Zoning By-Law (2008-250)
  3. Site Plan Control By-Law (2014-256)
  4. Parkland Dedication By-Law (2009-95)

What these amendments will do

They will result in:

  • Limited lot coverage that includes new well and septic, parking, laneways and landscaping (2% of lot area to a maximum of 1 hectare)
  • Limited interior floor area for weddings, restaurants and fitness classes, taking into consideration building code requirements and impacts to water and wastewater, traffic and parking, noise and nuisance (max 150 square metres)
  • Limited, but larger, floor area for uses such as retail, food service, and agri-tourism, while encouraging reuse of existing farm buildings (300 square metres for new buildings; 600 square metres for conversions)
  • Policies to facilitate establishment of wineries, breweries, cideries, and similar non-alcoholic beverage production, which may incorporate off-site inputs
  • Review of water and wastewater impacts
  • Policies to incubate small businesses and ensure commercial and industrial uses remain at a size where they can be considered compatible with surrounding rural context.
  • At the point where a business outgrows the size limitations, they will need to move to a more appropriate site
  • Policies that permit a limited number of accommodations for overnight guests, including limited parking of recreational vehicles
  • Apply standard parking requirements per Section 101 of the Zoning By-Law, and Minimum Distance Separation requirements (MDS I & MDS II)
  • Policies that encourage clustering of buildings and laneways
  • Reuse of existing farm buildings will be encouraged through increased floor area permissions
  • Removal of parkland dedication fees for small-scale commercial and industrial diversified uses
  • Be supported by the City’s ‘small scale on-farm business property tax subclass’, which reduces the first $50,000 of commercial use land value by 75 percent
  • Ensuring appropriate site-specific review, particularly of water and wastewater impacts, through a rural small site plan control application process

They will not result in: 

  • Commercial or industrial uses that are more than 1 hectare in area (includes parking, well and septic, laneways and landscaping)
  • Large scale wedding venues, restaurants or gyms
  • Establishment of commercial or industrial uses on small (<2ha) lots, except as home-based businesses (max GFA 150 square metres)
  • Policies that facilitate on-site growth of commercial or industrial businesses beyond the size permitted in the zoning by-law
  • Permissions for large-scale overnight accommodations
  • Removal of standard existing regulatory requirements
  • Removal of provisions that already permit farm tourism uses such as wagon rides or corn mazes
  • Removal of all development-related fees such as development changes
  • Removal of development application review, which is a necessary tool for ensuring compatibility with rural context

Key Definitions

On-farm diversified use means a use that is ancillary to the principal agricultural use of a property, and includes but is not limited to educational displays, veterinary clinic, restaurant, bakery, retail store, retail food store, micro-brewery, micro-distillery, place of assembly, solar installations, agri-tourism uses, and uses that produce value-added agricultural products.

Picture of small retail shop located on a farm selling produce as well as value added products.

Agriculture-related use means those farm-related uses that that are intended to provide direct products and/or services to farm operations as a primary activity, are compatible with local farm operations, and are limited to:

  • non-accessory storage of farm produce and farm related machinery;
  • sorting or packing of farm produce

Picture of grain silos

Agricultural use means the cultivation of the soil to produce crops and the raising of farm animals, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing includes:

  1. the growing of crops;
  2. nurseries, greenhouses, market gardens, orchards, vineyards, agro-forestry operations and maple syrup production;
  3. the keeping and raising of livestock, fowl, fish, bees or fur or wool bearing animals;
  4. farm-based home industry involving the production of value-added or value-retained products from produce grown or raised on-site;
  5. a farm produce outlet selling agricultural products produced on the premises

Picture of cows in a field

Key Amendments

Official Plan

  • On-farm diversified uses and agriculture-related uses will be permitted and limited in size in Agricultural Resource Areas and Rural Countryside Areas
  • A zoning by-law amendment application will be required for increases in size, or to add new uses, beyond what’s permitted in the zoning by-law.
  • In the General Rural Area, the severance of lots for small-scale farm-related industrial or commercial uses may be permitted in areas of poor soils.

Zoning By-Law

On-farm diversified uses will be:

  • Limited to properties with an active farm operation
  • Limited in lot area (2% of lot to a max of 1 ha)
    • Area limit includes home-based businesses, well and septic, parking, laneways, and buildings and structures for the use, with certain exemptions to encourage clustering of buildings and use of existing accesses.
  • Limited in floor area (to a max of 20% of the 2% above):
    • Floor area for wedding venues (place of assembly), restaurant, fitness classes, or similar – 150 square metre maximum
    • All other uses - 600 square metre maximum total, with 300 square metre maximum new floor area and 600 square metre maximum for farm building conversions 
  • Subject to setback and screening requirements
  • Limited to a maximum of 3 heavy vehicles (includes recreational vehicles)
  • Subject to minimum parking requirements of Section 101, according to the type of use

Agriculture-related uses will be:

  • Limited to a maximum area of 1 hectare (including any on-farm diversified uses, parking and outdoor storage)
    • Area limit includes on-farm diversified uses, home-based businesses, well and septic, parking, buildings and structures for the use
  • Permitted as a principal use of land where a minimum lot size is provided:
    • 2 hectares in RU zones
    • 10 hectares in AG zones

Site Plan Control By-Law

  • Rural Site Plan Control application will be required (see Site Plan Control - Fees related to Rural areas under Development Application Fees)
  • Requirement for SPC may be waived if there are no water, wastewater, or significant parking or site layout considerations requiring review

Parkland Dedication By-Law

  • Cash-in-Lieu of Parkland fees under the Parkland Dedication By-law will be waived for on-farm diversified uses and agriculture-related uses

Impacted Zones

The following zones permit agricultural uses and will therefore be addressed as part of the proposed amendments:

AG - Agricultural zone

RU - Rural Countryside zone

DR - Development Reserve zone

ME - Mineral Extraction zone

MR - Mineral Aggregate Reserve zone

RC10 - Rural Commercial Subzone 10

O1P Subzone - Hydro Corridor Subzone

O1O Subzone - Trans Canada Pipeline Subzone

Planning Your Project

Those wishing to start an on-farm diversified or agriculture-related business will be required to comply with existing municipal regulations. The City is producing a guide document to aid applicants in planning their on-farm diversified or agriculture-related use, which will include consideration of the following:

  • Zoning By-Law (including parking requirements)
  • Site plan control approval
  • Building permit
  • Septic permit
  • Private Approach Permit
  • Minimum Distance Separation calculation
  • Development Charges
  • Noise, Property Maintenance, and Site Alteration By-Law
  • Business Licensing
  • Taxes
  • Health and safety standards

The On-farm Diversified Guide Document will be available through this webpage following adoption of the proposed amendments.


The proposed timelines include, but are not limited to, the following actions:

2019 - 2020

Review of existing policies and uses

Public and technical consultation

Draft Strategy Report and circulation

Summer 2021

Proposed Amendments to Planning Committee and Council


For more information with respect to this study, or to be added to our notification list, please contact:

Marika Atfield
Zoning and Interpretation Unit
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa
613.580.2424 ext. 41488