Introduction to Severing Land

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A land severance is the authorized separation of a portion of an existing parcel or lot of land to form a new lot or parcel of land.  In most circumstances, the consent of the municipality in which the land lies will be required to sever the land or change the existing property boundaries.  Most municipalities with an approved official plan, including London, have set out specific policies and procedures for land severance.

If you are intending to sever the land multiple times, a plan of subdivision may be more appropriate.  A plan of subdivision would divide the land into multiple portions simultaneously.  Again, it will be up to the municipality to determine how the property will be divided.

Why is the municipality’s consent required?

The municipality’s consent is required to make sure that:

  1. Land severances are considered within the context of community planning;
  2. New lots and new land uses do not conflict with the overall future planning goals and policies of the community; and,
  3. Consideration is given to the effects of the division of land on the land itself, on the neighbours, and on the community as a whole.

Once the severance is approved, the divided land may be sold or resold without further approval unless further approval was a condition of the consent.

The process for obtaining consent varies by municipality and Lerners LLP can help you through the process. 

You will likely be required to submit an application with supporting material.  There will likely be a charge for filing the application.  The consent-granting authority will have 90 days to process your application to determine if it is complete.  If the consent-granting authority determines that your application is incomplete, you may make a motion to the Ontario Municipal Board to make a determination on the matter.  The decision of the Ontario Municipal Board is final.

The consent-granting authority must give the public notice of the application before a decision can be made.  This must be done at least 14 days in advance of a decision.  Any person or public body is then able to submit his or her views to the consent-granting authority.  The consent-granting authority may also consult with agencies, boards, authorities, or commissions before making a decision.

Once the decision has been made, the consent-granting authority must send notice of their decision to you without 15 days.  You will then have 20 days to appeal this decision, if necessary, to a local appeal body or the Ontario Municipal Board.

How is the severance application considered?

The consent-granting authority will take into account the following:

  • Conformity with the official plan and compatibility with the uses of the adjacent land;
  • Compliance with local zoning by-laws;
  • Suitability of the land for the proposed purposes (including the size and shape of the lots being created);
  • Adequacy of vehicular access, water supply, and sewage disposal; and,
  • The need to ensure protection from potential flooding.

Conditions of Severance Approval

The consent-granting authority may grant approval to sever the land subject to certain conditions.  Examples of the types of conditions imposed include: road widenings, parkland designations, or rezoning.  The severance conditions must be met within one year.  The severance will not go into effect until the conditions have been met and the severance has been registered in the land registry office.

If the severance applied for related to a particular transaction, e.g. the sale of property, and the transaction does not take place within two years of the date the severance is granted, the severance will lapse.

Conclusion

The severance application process may be lengthy and time-consuming.  Potential buyers and sellers of land should be aware of this process before entering into an agreement of purchase and sale that requires that the land be severed.  Keep in mind that the municipality will have to approve of the proposed severance, not just the parties to the sale.