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OMB appeal attempts to break Breslau stalemate

The development picture in Breslau got a little more convoluted last week, as a developer launched an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, citing delays to its plans for expansion in the village. The delays, however, stem in part from a series of other legal wranglings.

Thomasfield Homes is fast running out of space at its current subdivision in Breslau, Hopewell Heights. Its plans for development on adjacent land, in the works for more than half a dozen years, have been stalled during more than two years of legal battles over how much new development should take place in Waterloo Region.

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.

Thomasfield hoped to get its next project going by applying for an amendment to the existing ROPP, but that too was challenged at the provincial tribunal by the same group of developers looking for much more residential development in the region, principally in southwest Kitchener.

On June 28, Thomasfield Homes launched its own legal bid at the OMB, arguing its planning application has been dragging on far too long.

“Under the Planning Act, they (the municipality) have 180 days from the time an application is deemed complete to give us an answer – it’s been 690 days since we filed,” company president Tom Krizsan said this week.”

The last of the new homes in the Hopewell Heights subdivision will be built by the end of the year, after which work crews will be idle if the next phase of development on Thomasfield’s lands doesn’t get moving, he said.

“I basically don’t have any work for my employees and tradespeople in Waterloo Region.”

Under the new ROP passed by regional council in 2010, the Official Plan and zone change amendments Thomasfield has filed with Woolwich Township would be fine, Krizsan noted, adding the legal challenges have effectively put Breslau on hold.

Empire Communities, which earlier this year filed for its next development adjacent to the Riverland subdivision, is in the same state of limbo.

Both projects, along with any other significant development in the village, are also tied as the township carries out 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.

While Woolwich had put the secondary plan on the backburner during the legal battle over the ROP, it has now opted to push ahead.

“You can only wait around so long,” said John Scarfone, the township’s manager of planning. “Any sort of resolution with the region … isn’t going to happen any time soon.”

He said there’s some risk that the secondary plan may require changes once the ROP is finally approved in its ultimate form, the township will just have to “adjust accordingly” if that’s the case.

A victory by developers in the first phase of the OMB hearing over the region’s land-use restrictions – gaining some 2,500 acres of new development land versus the 200 outlined in the region’s growth strategy – could have significant impacts on the timing of expansion in Breslau, said Scarfone. Some of those contingencies, including proposals for new industrial land to the east and south of the village and the eventual construction of a new Highway 7, will have to be taken into account in creating the secondary plan.

“There are a lot of moving parts.”

With the review back on track, he said he hopes to have a list of recommended options available for public input by late fall.

That timing would seem to work for Thomasfield. Krizan expects it will be late this year or early next year before there’s any movement on his OMB appeal, so the secondary plan is likely to be completed before there’s a resolution.

Thomasfield has the township’s support for its request for an amendment to the ROP, but Woolwich wants to finish its secondary plan before making a decision on the specifics of the company’s development plans.

On the specifics of the proposed development, Krizsan said there are some issues to be ironed out with both the region and the township. He expects to keep moving forward on that front while the other matters are being addressed.

“We’re hopeful that we can resolve any issues that still may be outstanding with the region and the township.”

Given how convoluted the situation has become – OMB appeals, counter-appeals and court challenges – Krizsan argued “the system is somewhat broken.”

In the absence of any reforms, he said he’ll continue to keep things moving under the current system.

“We need to move forward … because all the legal issues might not be resolved for years to come,” he said. “The delay … is costing the region jobs and prosperity.”

Thomasfield’s project would bring 2,300 new residents and 3,330 jobs to the area. Proposed is a combination of residential (single-family, semis, townhouses and apartment buildings), commercial space, offices, retail stores, industrial uses, schools, open space, trails and wetlands extending over more than 335 acres east of the company’s current development, the Hopewell Heights subdivision. The development would cover two pieces of land, 226 acres immediately east of the subdivision and 109 acres east of Greenhouse Road, the site of much of the proposed industrial land. There would be 865 residential units; 53 acres of employment land; 15 acres set aside at the sound end of the western property, adjacent to the CN rail line, set aside for a GO station; and substantial amounts of protected wetlands and extensive trailways.

Empire, meanwhile, 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.

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  1. Oh for goodness sake, just let them develop!! It will be done eventually and it’s wonderful for the region and property values over here. Our legal system is flawed and costing us jobs…

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