Its first Breslau subdivision almost built out, Empire Communities is looking for a larger development on a plot of adjacent land. The company faces a large hurdle, however, in the form of legal action that has effectively stalled growth in the village.
The same challenges at the Ontario Municipal Board that have tied up the Region of Waterloo’s new overarching planning document and a similar expansion bid on the northeast side of Breslau is likely to block Empire’s latest bid, but the company wants to move ahead nonetheless.
Plans unveiled at the public meeting Tuesday night show Empire hopes to build 531 units – a mix of single-detached houses and townhomes – on a 77-acre parcel to the west of the Riverland subdivision. The development would be home to an anticipated 1,636 people, with employment land in the mix adding another 76 employees, said John Scarfone, Woolwich’s manager of planning.
The plan also includes three parks and space for a new elementary school.
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To allow for the project to go ahead, Empire is seeking amendments to Woolwich’s Official Plan, as well as applicable zoning changes. That’s where things get complicated, said Scarfone.
The region’s newly-approved Official Plan (ROP) is the subject of an appeal at the OMB, meaning the previous Regional Official Policies Plan is still in force. That document limits growth in Breslau to 1,250 units, a number that has almost been maxed out by recent development in the village, including Empire Communities’ Riverland subdivision (495 units) and Thomasfield Homes’ subdivision to the north, Hopewell Heights (493 units). Until that provision is lifted – as it is under the new, as-yet-to-be-cleared ROP – there can be no significant expansion in Breslau.
Equally pressing are concerns about the ability to extend municipal services – water and sewers – to new subdivisions given limited capacity on servicing from the City of Kitchener, Scarfone noted.
Further complicating Empire’s bid is the fact the township is undertaking a comprehensive planning review in the area – a study known as the Breslau secondary plan – that officials want to complete before assessing any new growth. But that, too, is dependent on the new ROP becoming official, meaning the township’s plans are also on hold, he explained.
“While the township is prepared to process these applications to a degree concurrently with the Breslau secondary plan … the applications will ultimately have to wait until the Breslau secondary plan is completed,” he said in his report to councillors.
Empire Communities’ Stephen Armstrong challenged that timing, however, calling on the township to press ahead with the secondary plan while working with the region to find a way to let the development proceed despite the legal issues surrounding the ROP.
He noted that any efforts are likely to draw legal challenges of their own, just as was the case when Thomasfield Homes attempted to move forward with its Breslau lands by seeking an amendment to the older ROPP.
Developer Activa Holdings, involved in two of the OMB appeals, sent a letter to the township opposing Empire’s proposal, and indicating legal action could follow.
Activa seems determined to get its development projects cleared before any other companies move ahead with theirs, said Armstrong.
“It seems nobody goes in the region until Activa goes – that’s not fair.”
Given the demand for housing in Breslau – the Riverland subdivision proved to be Empire’s most successful – the company wants to press ahead quickly, even if that means another legal entanglement, he added.
Coun. Mark Bauman noted there’s a risk developers such as Empire could take their cases to the OMB if there are delays due to the Breslau secondary plan process, continuing the “vicious circle” of legal challenges tied to the ROP.
Acknowledging that, Scarfone said it could prove to be a waste of time and money if the secondary plan was rushed through on the assumption the new Regional Official Plan will eventually come into force only to find out that changes are required to that document, undermining the secondary plan.
There’s a risk either way, he said.
The meeting April 9 was simply a public information session. Councillors did not weigh in on the requested changes. Instead, planning staff will accept public input and draft a recommendation report before coming back to council at a later date.