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Subdivision cleared for south end of St. Jacobs

The long-delayed next phase of a St. Jacobs subdivision will go ahead after the township and developer reached a compromise on some sticking points, including the provision of parkland.

However, the decision is unlikely to impress residents, particularly parents of young children, concerned about traffic dangers and a lack of amenities.

Woolwich and Valley View Heights still remain divided over cost-sharing for infrastructure such as improvements to Old Scout Place, but councillors meeting Tuesday night signed off on the development that will add 148 homes to the south end of the village. The dispute over the application of development charges – levies added to the price of each new home to cover the costs associated with growth – is expected to be settled over the next couple of months.

More pressing to residents are the deal’s parkland provisions. The existing park in phase one of the subdivision will be doubled by adding land to the east, with the remainder of the mandatory parkland dedication met by two blocks of open space immediately north of the subdivision, adjacent to the much larger floodplain/valley land. The township had been pushing for a larger allotment beside the current park, with the developer winning the battle to retain building lots for six semi-detached units.

Woolwich also wanted Valley View to build a multi-use sports pad in the new park. Instead, it will provide $20,000 towards a smaller project on the scaled-back parkland.

The compromise displeased parents looking for new facilities for young children. Nor were they happy with the lack of any measures to deal with increased traffic.

Others were mollified by the fact the developer will turn over to the township some 15 acres of otherwise unusable land in the floodplain, home to a well-used network of trails Valley View had threatened to cut off if the township did not agree to the company’s position on parkland.

Conflicting neighbourhood concerns were the subject of two hours of discussion at this week’s council meeting.

A group of neighbours calling themselves the St. Jacobs Community Association pushed for the larger park originally demanded by the township, citing the lack of nearby recreational space for young children.

“At this point in time in the neighbourhood, families and children are playing sports out in the street, mostly because there isn’t anywhere close for them to go and enjoy those activities. The rise in traffic in the last couple of years is making that increasingly difficult and dangerous,” said Melissa Fishman, adding that failing to get more useful parkland will “jeopardize the safety of children.”

“The increase in traffic and population in the area requires space that is useful for sports, activities for children, bike riding and whatnot.”

Not everyone was onside with the association, however, with some residents claiming the group failed to tell the whole story when circulating a petition signed by some 150 people.

“This has been a very, very frustrating process in the neighbourhood. There was a lot of miscommunication. I don’t think we were represented very well to council, and the communication to the neighbourhood could have been handled a lot better, said resident Susan Scurry, who brought a 21-name petition in support of the compromise proposal.

“The 16-acre trail is the most important to me in all of this mess,” said Marlene Meechan, who also praised the developer’s proposal.

St. Jacobs resident Tim Waters expressed frustration at the township’s “inability to work with the developer,” adding that the position staked by the community association and by the township in the earlier stages put the trail network at risk.

“Having to alter the trail system or cut it off is a huge detriment to my community. As an avid trail user, I would be disappointed to see it compromised in any way,” he said.

For another resident, the increased traffic the new subdivision will bring adds to the need to deal with what is already a problem with volume and speeds.

“We as a community are growing increasingly concerned about traffic,” Nicola Bywater told councillors.

She noted that a 2012 traffic study by the township showed traffic-calming measures weren’t warranted along the older stretches of Young and Water streets, where neighbours are worried about the safety of their children.

“Young Street and Water Street are used as main throughways for town people to bypass King Street. We see an increase of the use of these two roads in the evening commute hours and on the weekends, because people are bypassing the tourism, they’re bypassing the traffic,” said Bywater, adding she expects the situation to worsen next year when the region starts to reconstruct King Street.

“We feel we need your help now.”

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