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Woolwich at odds with region’s OP

Region of Waterloo efforts to draft a new Official Plan still gives short shrift to the township, butting in on territory that belongs under local control, says Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning.

For Dan Kennaley, the region’s latest revisions, now under review by the province, don’t address all of the township’s concerns. Planning staff have been commenting on the draft Regional Official Plan (ROP) throughout the lengthy process, winning some concessions. But more are needed, he said this week.

“There are still some outstanding matters – we want the region to make changes.”

Specifically, the township would like to see more local control over subdivision approvals, for instance. Likewise, municipalities should be able to adjust their own Official Plans without regional interference.

With growth coming to Breslau and the stockyard area south of St. Jacobs, Woolwich would prefer the region keep its nose out of the township’s business. Throughout the ROP review, council has been adamant decisions about land use in those areas are a local issue, albeit with regional input.

The current draft of the ROP takes a firm line on expansion of exiting urban boundaries, and calls for protection of the countryside line separating the rural and urban areas. It does, however, provide some flexibility for the Breslau area, which has been identified as home to future employment land development.

“During the preparation of the ROP, submissions were received from a number of developers and landowners in the Breslau area of the Township of Woolwich – including Empire Communities, Breslau Properties Limited, Dave Rutherford, and Breslau North Developments Inc. (Smart Centres) – that proposed some form of urban area expansion or rationalization of the proposed urban area boundary to accommodate the sale and/or development of their respective properties. Woolwich staff has expressed an interest in having the ability to consider such requests …,” reads a regional report filed with the province.

Kennaley said the changes to the ROP don’t go far enough, but do give Woolwich more say in the process. The township would prefer future decisions about development in Breslau and the stockyards area rest with local councillors.

In that light, Woolwich council recently approved fast-tracking the creation of a secondary plan of those two areas in tandem with the township’s review of its own OP.

“We want to get out in front of the issues, rather than be reactive. We want to take the lead on this,” Kennaley said, recognizing the region will still be involved in the process.

In the grip of a slew of gravel pit applications, the township would also like to push forward its own aggregate policies rather than following the region’s plan. Council has put in place more stringent requirements for gravel pit approvals. But even the region’s position is at odds with the province, which has historically been very lenient, rarely siding with local concerns and essentially rubber-stamping applications.

In regards to the ROP, the province has already opposed measures to protect groundwater sources on the west side of the region, where planners wants to halt development. Aggregate there, says a recent planning department report, acts as a filter for groundwater; its removal would threaten water quality.

Gravel pits may be one of the more contentious items if the province’s decision on the draft ROP – expected later this month or early in August – ends up in hearings before the Ontario Municipal Board.
Once the decision has been announced, interested parties will have 20 days to appeal. Woolwich is leaving its options open on that front, said Kennaley.

He’s planning to bring a report to township council outlining his concerns about the ROP, and recommending a course of action.

“Our intent will be to bring this report to council before the appeal period is up, he said, noting the township could seek standing at any subsequent OMB hearings to “safeguard our interests.”

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