They came expecting the development was a done deal. They left seeing there’s a good chance Victoria Glen Park will remain in its current state.
The impassioned pleas of residents who packed Woolwich council chambers Tuesday won the day, as the towns hip backed away from its original proposal for a residential subdivision in the park. The fallback plan all but ensures there will be no construction given the relatively small return on investment.
With the approval of Coun. Mark Bauman’s motion to remove the largest parcel of land from the development plans, councillors in essence reduced to $400,000 an expected return of $1.5 million. And even that scaled-back concept is contingent on obtaining two pieces of land from the Region of Waterloo.
At the end of two and half hours of public input and debate, staff was sent away to come up with revenue numbers for a smaller development. They’ll also look at other ways to finance a shortfall in funding for the township’s extensive capital building campaign: the current budget counts on developing Victoria Glen.
A new report will be tabled Tuesday night. Opponents of the development are expected back en masse to push for an end to any and all construction plans, which appears to be the likely outcome.
Even this week’s steps toward axing the project met with hearty applause from some 130 people in the audience. From the comments, many opponents expected the worst after reading the staff report firmly in favour of clearing the trees on 2.5 acres of land in favour of a new road and residential building lots.
“There’s a general feeling here that we’re wasting our time,” Elmira resident Jeff Seddon told councillors, expressing a widely held view the township had already made up its mind to go ahead with development.
Snyder Avenue resident Elin Edwards said people felt manipulated by the process, as if a decision has already been made, with planning staff dismissive of the public’s input, which was entirely against the proposal.
Chief administrative officer David Brenneman argued, however, that public comments were taken into consideration, changing the scale of the proposed development. In the end, staff made a recommendation and the elected officials made a decision more to the public’s liking.
Both Ward 1 councillors, Ruby Weber and Sandy Shantz, took positions against the proposal.
“I walked through there … in the summertime. The place is truly magical, a real gem,” said Weber, drawing a large round of applause from the gallery.
Bauman’s stance, which included a call to rezone at least part of the land in question as open space from the current residential designation, puts him closer to the opposition side. While he called for some development in the southern portion of the studied lands, Mayor Bill Strauss supported the compromise approved this week.
The original proposal involves land bounded by Victoria Glen Street, Snyder Avenue North and Dunke Street North. The Kissing Bridge Trail runs to the north. The parkland under discussion runs along a portion of the existing Victoria Glen Street, and would front on either side of that route’s extension on an unopened road allowance between Dunke Street and Snyder Avenue. The version tabled by Bauman removes 1.58 of the 2.55 acres, an area known as parcel 1 to the north of the unopened Victoria Glen Street road allowance.
The future of the proposal will be discussed when council meets again Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.