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OMB decision clears way for development in Breslau

Two subdivisions proposed for Breslau that have been in limbo could be back on track following a decision by the Ontario Municipal Board.

The provincial agency last week sided with Thomasfield Homes and Empire Communities, dismissing a bid by other developers that would have swept the subdivision plans into a convoluted legal challenge of the Region of Waterloo’s new official plan. Instead, the projects can go ahead under the framework of the existing Regional Official Policies Plan (ROPP), still in force pending the outcome of the legal wrangling.

“For the most part, it was good news,” said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley in providing details of the case to Woolwich councillors Tuesday night.

The decision clears the way for the next phase in the development of both projects in the village, he noted. Now, the township and region can amend the existing ROPP to lift the cap that 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 Home’s subdivision to the north, Hopewell Heights (493 units). Until that provision is removed, there can be no significant expansion in Breslau.

Thomasfield had hoped to bypass the delays caused by the OMB challenge of the new official plan by applying for an amendment of the in-force 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.

Last June, Thomasfield Homes launched its own legal bid at the OMB. Empire Communities was in the same state of limbo. Both projects, along with any other significant development in the village, were 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.

“This [OMB decision] gets us closer to approving the Breslau Secondary Plan, with movement on the development front,” said Kennaley.

Along with Thomasfield and Empire, the township and region argued longstanding growth plans for Breslau, including the fact both subdivisions are already inside the existing urban boundary, made the changes needed minor technical amendments, suitable under the current ROPP.

OMB member Reid Rossi agreed, ruling against arguments made by Activa Holdings and Breslau Properties, among others, who sought to halt development in Breslau.

“The board has no intention of halting every legitimate planning application until, as Breslau Properties has argued, the ROP hearing is finalized, which all parties agreed will take several years,” he wrote in his decision.

“Stated simply, there are no good planning grounds offered by Activa and Breslau Properties to suspend planning within the region for years while the ROP appeals determine how much expansion to the settlement area is required and whether it should expand to their lands. They have not made a case for halting development within the settlement area, which would effectively prevent increases in density and in the board’s view such an approach is contrary to the principles of good planning.”

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