Woolwich calls for local control

Its nose still firmly planted in Woolwich’s business, the regional government should go back to the drawing board with its new official plan. And stop taking advice from the busybodies in the City of Waterloo while they’re at it, say township councillors.

Reacting to the second draft of the proposed new regional official plan (ROP), council this week deemed the document too heavy handed across the board, but especially so in the restriction it imposes on development in Breslau and the stockyards area of St. Jacobs.

Having asked for more local control in last fall’s review of the first draft of the ROP, the township saw only some of its demands reflected in the new version. Most gallingly, the region appears to be siding with the City of Waterloo’s demand for more restrictions on the stockyard land, noted director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley at Monday’s council meeting.

Coun. Mark Bauman chafed at the idea that the city seems to be “dictating” terms on the stockyards development.

Why choose the city’s views over the township’s? he asked.

He was joined by Coun. Ruby Weber in calling for the cities to stay out of Woolwich’s planning issues.

“It’s incredible that they want that much control,” she said.

For Marcus Shantz of Mercedes Corp., which controls much of the land in the stockyards area, the controls listed in the ROP are far too restrictive, essentially removing the ability of landowners to initiate changes there. Instead, an official plan change, launched by the municipality, would have to precede any new development.

Like the township, he said the planning of the stockyards lands should rest with Woolwich council, not Waterloo Region.

Most pressingly, said Shantz, his company wants to ensure that both the power centre lands – the King/86 development – and the rest of the stockyard lands get treated equally under the ROP.

“As I read this right now … I think the King/86 development will have the capacity to do things that we can’t do.”

He also challenged the township’s position, which calls for a comprehensive review in advance of any new development in the area. While less onerous than the official plan amendments proposed by the region, the Woolwich plan is too restrictive.

“I don’t see the need for it,” said Shantz, noting that the piecemeal form of development the township wants to change has worked well for years.
Kennaley, however, maintained that a comprehensive review is needed to organize stockyards development, while looking at its impact on the overall commercial picture in the township, especially on the Elmira core.

While he doesn’t expect this week’s comments to make a dent in the final draft of the ROP before it’s presented to regional councillors next week, Kennaley said the final document will see more tweaking before being sent to the province for approval.

In response to a question from Coun. Murray Martin, he said Woolwich does have some recourse if the region fails to heed the township’s input, as it can comment directly to provincial officials.

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