Stalled residential development in Breslau may be back on the table in 2016 as the Region of Waterloo and a group of developers that challenged the municipality’s attempts to limit development on west side agricultural land reached a settlement this week.The agreement on the new regional official plan (ROP) will be presented to the Ontario Municipal Board in June.
The developers launched a legal challenge against the new ROP in 2011, claiming the plan did not provide for enough land for new urban development.
“In 2013 the Ontario Municipal Board heard from the region and a number of appellants who were challenging the growth forecast and land needs for the region, and at that time the region said 85 additional hectares of land would be needed by the year 2031, in addition to all of the vacant land that was already existing and hadn’t been built on yet in the subdivisions,” Rob Horne, commissioner of planning, development and legislative services for the region said.
The appellants said they needed 1,053 hectares. The Region of Waterloo then entered into a number of legal actions, one to ask the Ontario Municipal Board to reconsider its decision, and then two court actions were launched.
Now, both parties agreed to ask the OMB for 255 hectares of additional land for urban development to be effective immediately, with 200 more hectares designated between 2016 and 2019. This is to meet higher provincial growth forecasts for the region since the plan was first approved in 2009.
“The region and the growth-related appellants have entered into a formal agreement,” Horne said. “They will make representation in front of the Ontario Municipal Board in support of this settlement. I firmly believe that regional council is satisfied with the agreement. They haven’t compromised the future and arriving at a local solution is better than additional costs and the risks associated with litigation.”
The new plan is supposed to create more compact development, greater protection of the environment, improved integration of transit, and the creation of new strategic employment lands.
While most of the attention is focused on the lands west of Kitchener and Waterloo, delays in approving the new ROP have tied up potential development in Breslau and the stockyards area in St. Jacobs, two areas currently under planning review by Woolwich Township.
“One is an area west of Fountain Street and north of the future Ottawa Street extension,” Horne said. “There’s 55 hectares in that area that would be eligible for development and the whole development application process would begin in 2016. There’s an additional 10 hectares at the corner of Northfield and Benjamin, often known as the geese lands.”
Dan Kennaley, director of engineering and planning for Woolwich, said several policies in the ROP relate to Breslau. In particular, they anticipate Breslau growing and this paves the way for the community to grow beyond the previous population restrictions.
“Approval of the regional official plan was a precondition to enabling Breslau to grow,” Kennaley said. “While it was under appeal Breslau couldn’t grow in any substantial way, so this clears the way for that future growth.”
That is, if the OMB approves it.
Thomasfield Homes and Empire Communities, for example, both have large development proposals that have been put on hold, despite attempts to get around the roadblock.
“Empire and Thomasfield processed an amendment to the old regional official plan that was going to take the policies that were under appeal in the new regional official plan – they were trying to get around the logjam created by the appeals,” Kennaley said. “They proposed to amend the old regional official plan and by replicating the same policies in the old regional official plan, by dealing with them separately they would escape the fact that the new regional official plan was under appeal.”
That amendment subsequently drew a legal challenge from the group of developers involved in the ROP dispute.
If the settlement is approved the two developers won’t have to proceed with this regional official plan amendment. The previous plan the ROP will replace, the Regional Official Policies Plan, limited growth in Breslau to 1,250 residential units and 7.5 acres of commercial development lands.
“Based on the speed with which sales occurred in the developers’ previous phases for residential development, judging by that I suspect what the appeal of the regional official plan has done has created a pent up demand. We don’t know exactly how many people are out there waiting for this development to occur,” Kennaley said.
He adds, one of the things that hasn’t been dealt with in the ROP are the new aggregate policies. Certain aspects of the new mineral aggregate policies in the plan have been deferred.
Tony Giovinazzo, president of Activa, one of the appellants says they’re satisfied with the settlement.
“We’re happy that we’ve been able to find a mutually acceptable resolution and that we’re able to move forward in a collaborative way and put this behind us, put our resources and concentration on this community and continue to build it,” Giovinazzo said.
He says the new plan will act as a map on how the community will grow and establish the necessary development lands to accommodate growth.
“That is our goal, to do what’s best for this region,” Giovinazzo said. “Being able to sit down and resolve this I think and it’s also I would call a Waterloo-originated solution, which is always the best way.”