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Development options in the toilet

Just how much intensification can take place in St. Jacobs’ core boils down to the number of toilets allowed. Sewage capacity is the number-one stumbling block in a Mercedes Corp. plan to develop a residential project on Front Street.

A 14-unit townhouse project was discussed Tuesday night at a public meeting in Woolwich council chambers, but the company would prefer to see something closer to a 70-unit condo apartment building. But with only a handful of available connections to the St. Jacobs wastewater treatment plant, that idea is a no-go.

Based on numbers from Waterloo Region, which operates the treatment plant, there are only 42 connections available at this time. That’s down from 63 last year and 70 in 2007. The allotment fluctuates due to the amount of inflow and infiltration (I&I) reaching the plant. Steps to control water leaking into the sewage infrastructure have seen the capacity grow from just three in 2005, for instance.

Still, the current capacity isn’t anywhere near enough to cover all the potential development in the village, said senior planner Jeremy Vink, who prepared the report give to councillors this week.

For Marcus Shantz of Mercedes Corp., the restrictions have meant scaling back the residential project planned for lots at 10 Front St. and 1441 King St. N. in St. Jacobs. Originally looking at 70 units, he scaled back to 46 before dropping the size down to the 14 townhouses proposed today.

That said, there is no final plan for developing the site. The official plan and zoning changes Mercedes is seeking pave the way for a range of residential options.

“We’re basically tidying up the property … in terms of zoning,” he said in an interview.

Like Mercedes, the township would like to see increased density in the core, said Vink, noting that is also regional policy.

“We’d like to see some intensification downtown – it’s good for the businesses, and it keeps more people using the downtown,” he said, adding “but with sewage limits … we couldn’t give Mercedes what they were looking for.”
As it now stands, the 14 townhomes would take up most of the 19 allocation units Vink has suggested be earmarked for new projects. Of the total of 42, 20 have been set aside for the possibility homes at the south end of the village might be connected to municipal services.

The township needs to keep the capacity in reserve if, for instance, the province decides water standards demand the homes be connected to the system, he explained.
“We have to make sure there is capacity if we have to do those hook-ups.”

The remaining three are to be used in case of change of use, such as subdividing a house lot or the creation of a duplex.

Coun. Mark Bauman, however, called the allocation of 20 units to the south end “premature,” asking staff to determine if there is in fact a need for the capacity.

Even if that capacity was reassigned, the number of sanitary sewer hookups would still be far below what Mercedes and others, including the Valleyview Heights developers, could make use of.

With the Front Street project adjacent to the old mill, which will be maintained in its historic form, capacity and how quickly it increases – the region isn’t planning any upgrades to the plant until 2014 – will determine the final configuration.

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