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Development potential in Woolwich’s settlements

Call it growth without growing. Looking to make better use of developable land, Woolwich proposes to rationalize the boundaries of settlement areas. The Official Plan amendment discussed at council June 12 essentially hopes to remove some land from the settlements, replacing it with other properties with great development potential. The net totals are to remain the same across the township.

Sounds simple enough, but there were plenty of people at council chambers this week worried about the impact on their properties. From minor tweaks in Conestogo to large-scale development in Breslau, they were standing room only for the first public meeting of what promises to be a long process.

The exercise is a one-time rationalization of settlement boundaries though township’s Official Plan review process, made necessary by changes to the Regional Official Plan, explained Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning.

The goal is to revamp the settlement boundaries to make better use of developable land. Land currently within the settlement boundaries but deemed to have little development potential would be dropped in favour of using the allocation elsewhere.

The review applies to the three types of settlements in Woolwich:

Rural settlements with limited potential growth. That list includes most of the communities in the township, such as Conestogo, Floradale, Maryhill and Winterbourne. Township urban areas, Elmira and St. Jacobs. Urban areas (cities), which includes Breslau and the stockyards lands on the Waterloo border.

Of all the areas, the greatest diversity of future change will be found in Breslau, which is earmarked by Waterloo Region a s growth centre, fueled by future industrial land development. New homes, offices and retail space are also on the horizon, with some of the rationalization changes currently proposed playing a part in that. Smart Centres, for instance, is hoping to include the entire area of a proposed retail development within the settlement area. Through Breslau North Developments Inc., it wants to consolidate land north of Victoria Street and east of Ebycrest Road, adding 37 acres to the 22 acres that are already inside the settlement boundary, said representative Brent Clarkson of MHBC Planning.
Thomasfield Homes, a major developer in the Breslau area, raised a number of concerns, opposing the township’s plan to remove one of its holdings – a 77-acre parcel on the east edge of the village, south of the railroad tracks – from the settlement area.

Township planner Jeremy Vink said the land is unlikely to be developed in the near future, making the allotment of space more useful elsewhere, adding that land and others are likely to be brought into the settlement area down the road, as development spreads east of Breslau.

But owner Tom Krizsan argued the property is of interest to GO Transit, which is planning a park-and-ride GO Train station in that area. At the very least, he added, the allocation should be considered for other Thomasfield properties. Of an adjacent property, Paul Puopolo of the IBI Group said owners Breslau Developments would like a portion of its land in the settlement area moved to the south, to a spot along Menno Street. The French Catholic school board, he noted, is also interested in perhaps six to eight acres of land at Menno and Fountain streets, the potential site of a high school to serve K-W, Cambridge and Guelph.

In Elmira, the proposed changes primarily address consolidation of future industrial land to south or, more likely, the east side of the town. Conceptual maps presented at the meeting also include options for a bypass road that would route traffic, especially trucks, well east of the downtown core, an alternative to Arthur Street.

West Montrose: No potential for rationalization.

Crowsfoot: Staff sees no need for rationalization, but a property owner has proposed adding 20 acres to the settlement in order to develop the property.
Heidelberg: Proposes to eliminate a 1.2-acre landlocked portion of a farm parcel.

Winterbourne: Two properties totaling less than 10 acres have limited development potential and should be dropped, the township feels.
Conestogo: Township-owned open space parkland on River Run Place would be removed, as it cannot be developed.

Maryhill: a 4.9-acre landlocked and environmentally constrained property would be dropped, while some 12 acres of land west of the park would be included, to essentially “fill the hole in the donut,” said Vink.

Bloomingdale: A less-than-one-acre portion of farm parcel to be removed.

Floradale: Nothing to be removed or added, but boundaries to be adjusted to allow for development along Westview Court and Ruggles Road.

Shantz Station: The township proposes to remove from the settlement boundary lands that have been identified as part of the future new Highway 7 corridor.

A full outline of the rationalization review can be found at the township’s website, www.woolwich.ca.

Both Kennaley and Vink stressed, however, that the process is still in the preliminary stages, despite having got underway more than a year ago. Property owners still have plenty of time for input.

Reacting to a question from Coun. Mark Bauman, Kennaley noted the changes are at the discretion of the township and do not require consent from the owners, but that a consultative approach is being taken. Any decision could be taken to the Ontario Municipal Board on appeal.

Fearing the township would start to look like “Big Brother” and eager to avoid the costs of OMB legal action, Bauman pressed for a staff to work with landowners to ensure “a fair and democratic process.”

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