More than three years in the making, a decision on a St. Jacobs subdivision is needed soon, say Woolwich councillors, who this week put off voting on the plan.
Three years on, however, residents have many of the same concerns about traffic safety in their neighbourhoods.
The latest phase of the Valley View Heights development would add another 148 homes into the mix at the south end of the village – 88 single-family homes, 26 semis and 24 townhouses.
Still at odds with the developer over parkland, cost-sharing of road improvements and a technical issue over the construction of townhomes, township planning staff has been given a few more weeks to find common ground. Woolwich councillors are looking to make a decision prior to the summer break, which begins in mid-June.
They appeared unwilling to let the issue slide into August or September despite staff misgivings about the quick turnaround for a new report, concerned the developer could lose out on starting work this year if a decision isn’t made soon.
Both the configuration of parkland and road upgrades appear to be the biggest stumbling blocks, though residents’ concerns about traffic aren’t part of the divide between the planners and the developer.
Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, told councillors meeting May 26 that traffic is not expected to be an issue on any of the roads, with one exception: left turns from Printery Road onto King Street will be problematic at peak times on Saturdays when the farmers’ market and village are busiest. Traffic studies suggest those times will offer a “poor level of service,” otherwise all roads will be handling volumes within their capacity.
Where the township does have a problem is with the configuration of parkland to be turned over by the developer, a statutory five per cent of the developable land. Valley View Heights’ proposal would see the existing park in phase one of the subdivision doubled by adding land to the east, with the remainder of the requirement met by two blocks of open space immediately north of the subdivision, adjacent to the much larger floodplain/valley land.
The plan allows for a suitable “neighbourhood-scale park” and provides access to trailways and open space, with an additional 15 acres of land to be turned over to the township, said Steve Wever, a planner with GSP Group, representing the developer.
For its part, the township wants to see the developer concentrate the parkland around the existing park, providing more space for a proposed multi-purpose pad and other features, said senior planner Jeremy Vink.
The township wants “usable park space” rather than what’s offered, he said.
“Under the official plan, we don’t accept environmental features as parkland,” he added of the two blocks of land north of the subdivision.
Wever, however, argued the two blocks aren’t in the floodplain or steep valley, making them suitable for recreational use, adding the township accepted comparable parkland in the first phase – “this is not unusable land.”
More land around the existing park would eliminate lots for five or six semi-detached homes, he said, reducing revenue and future assessment to the township.
Some current residents were more concerned with improvements to the park.
Kelly Bebenek of the St. Jacobs Community Association, said the group wants to see more parkland in the existing location, arguing the northern blocks aren’t suitable for young children. Likewise, existing playgrounds elsewhere in St. Jacobs, including one at the school, aren’t accessible to young children in the subdivision, making its own park and its expansion a priority.
The new parkland should provide room to build a multi-use pad big enough to provide rink space, for instance, for both little kids and those wanting to play hockey, she said.
On the other hand, fellow resident Sandra Quehl said she’s in favour of the developer’s parkland proposal, putting more emphasis on traffic concerns.
“Traffic poses a serious safety issue for our families,” she said, adding traffic-calming measures should be part of the project.
“Speed continues to be an issue on Water Street.”
She suggested reducing the number of homes allowed in the subdivision to 75 or 100, as well as providing another exit from the subdivision so that not all of the traffic is funneled onto Printery Road.
Those traffic and speeding concerns were echoed by fellow resident Tracy Fleming, who pointed out the left-turn problems onto King Street extend to market days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as Saturdays, during the summer months.
Conditions are poor now and will only get worse when the new subdivision is built out, he noted.
The township does want to see improvements to Old Scout Place to encourage drivers to use it rather than Water Street, which would get a new stop sign at an intersection near the park to calm traffic, explained Kennaley. There is still a divide over how much of the cost the developer should pay in upgrading Old Scout Place.
Unwilling to make a decision Tuesday night, councillors asked staff to work on the impasse with the developer – some six of 114 township conditions outstanding – and come back with a new report in three weeks.