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Plan for Breslau development continues to evolve

Changes fueled by residential subdivisions, a new provincial highway, a GO Transit station and commercial development are set to reshape Breslau. The timing remains up in the air, however.

Getting a handle on all of that growth is the purpose of a planning review of the village, the Breslau secondary plan, launched in 2012 and now nearing completion.

The growth that has reshaped Breslau over the past decade has been slowed of late due to legal wrangling involving the Region of Waterloo’s new official plan (ROP). Now, with a settlement reached last month, the way is clear to amend Woolwich’s own official plan as it pertains to Breslau and perhaps clear up some of the backlog.

Still, the developer of the largest area of land, Thomasfield Homes, isn’t likely to see any new construction until two years from now. The next phase of the Empire Communities subdivision in the south end also remains up in the air, as both developers have appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, launched when the OMB and legal challenges of the ROP brought much development to a halt.

Completion of the secondary plan will allow the township to better assess proposed development in Breslau, says the township’s manager of planning.

Following a public meeting June 25, Woolwich will be taking public input into the current version of the plan, reporting back to council in the fall, John Scarfone said this week.

“We’re confident we can bring our amendments for consideration by the fourth quarter of this year.”

Before then, there are some hurdles to clear, with the larger developers still looking for changes on some fronts. Among the concerns are the pace of growth (not surprisingly, the township proposes to go slower than the developers), the buffer zone around the many environmental features identified in the area, and a road connection from Fountain Street to the Thomasfield lands via a flyover to clear the railway line.

“We’re trying to work through those issues,” said Scarfone.

Much of the growth addressed in the plan will come via a mixed-use (residential, commercial and industrial) development to the east of the village, expansion of a residential project at the south end, and new commercial development to the north, on the other side of Victoria Street. Developers for each of those projects were on hand to pitch their visions. Likewise, developers seeking inclusion in the planning area also made their cases, hoping to turn land into bankable projects.

Both Thomasfield Homes and Empire Communities, builders of subdivisions on the east and south sides of Breslau respectively, are looking to move forward with the next phases of their developments, each needing new lots to build on.

Empire Communities hopes to build 531 units – a mix of single-detached houses and townhomes – on a 77-acre parcel to the west of its existing Riverland subdivision. The development would be home to an anticipated 1,636 people, with employment land in the mix adding another 76 employees. The plan also includes three parks and space for a new elementary school.

Thomasfield’s latest bid for its eastside lands 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 south end of the western property, adjacent to the CN rail line, set aside for a GO Transit station; and substantial amounts of protected wetlands and extensive trailways.

Even if things go fairly smoothly, however, Thomasfield owner Tom Krizsan predicts it will be two years before any new homes appear on the landscape.

Along with comments on the secondary plan, the next step for Thomasfield involves the OMB process. A prehearing conference is set for July 30.

“We wish to make our plan conform as much as possible with what [the township] is doing,” said Krizsan, noting a settlement over the ROP should help with the logjam. “We are very pleased that the regional official plan has been settled.”

While Thomasfield’s project predates the secondary plan, and thus enjoys some grandfathering aspects, the company is working with the township on the planning aspects.

If the planning aspects move along as hoped, the site could see some grading work next summer, servicing that fall, and some new buildings in the summer of 2017. The first phase is likely to be somewhere in the middle of the block of land where Kramp Road meets Greenhouse Road.

Preparations for residential and employment lands will be done simultaneously, with Krizsan seeing the areas around the GO station as prime locations for industrial/commercial development.

“We have a fair bit of interest in some of the employment land out there. We would always have some employment lands available,” he added of the staging of development at the site.

For Scarfone, the mix of residential versus industrial development is another facet of the secondary plan to be negotiated.

“The percentages are still being worked out,” he said.

Thomasfield and the township may be farther apart on the issue of a flyover route crossing the rail line, however. While some changes were discussed at last week’s meeting, the cost of an overpass remains an issue.

“That’s a $6-million job … the traffic just doesn’t warrant,” said Krizsan, noting an at-grade crossing was approved for the development to the south of the village.

As well, Thomasfield joins all of the developers with concerns about a proposed 30-metre buffer zone around an extensive network of environmental features identified by the study. That, they say, would severely limit options on many parcels in and around the village.

Scarfone, however, notes the buffer zone is simply a “high level” protection, with each plan to be judged on its merits should developers request a reduction in the buffer space.

“We understand. We’re trying to work through those issues.”

Also on the township’s radar is a cross-border servicing agreement to extend water and sewer services from Kitchener. Breslau is currently allocated 25 per cent of the capacity of a pumping station on the city’s side of the river, with officials there willing to offer up another 25 per cent, allowing for the new development to proceed.

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