Slow, managed growth will be the focus in Breslau, despite the protests of developers looking to build new subdivisions in the village.
As the major players called for no staging restrictions on new home construction, councillors meeting Tuesday night were unmoved. Unanimously, they backed a cap of 100 units a year as outlined in a new planning document governing the village, the so-called Breslau secondary plan.
Previous development in the village, notably Thomasfield Homes’ Hopewell Heights and Empire Communities’ Riverland subdivisions, had no restrictions. Now, the plan is to adopt a formula in effect in Elmira and St. Jacobs.
Between 2007 and 2012, for instance, new home construction typically ran well over 100 units, hitting a peak of 238 units one year, reported director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley. The township wants to avoid the scenario in the next phases of the two subdivisions, for which applications are now under review.
“Our experience in Elmira has generally been good,” he said of the staging policy.
The developers and their representatives begged to differ, however.
“We have not seen any rationale that justifies the staging,” said Paul DeMelo, a lawyer for Empire Communities, adding there are no limitations, such as a lack of water and sewer infrastructure, that would restrict the pace of growth.
Acknowledging staging policies in Elmira, he argued Breslau is a different situation. A quick build-out would minimize the negative impacts of construction and allow for other amenities such as retail and commercial operations to come on stream as the population reaches sufficient side to attract businesses.
Bill Green, a planner with the GSP Group representing Thomasfield Homes, backed DeMelo’s position.
“We don’t believe there is a sound planning basis for this decision,” he said, arguing that the lack of staging restrictions on previous development created no problems for the township.
At the proposed rate of 100 total units each year, construction could drag out for upwards of 20 years, delaying the arrival of other amenities such as a grocery store. While Thomasfield has commercial land on offer for retail development, it has struggled to find takers as the population hasn’t achieved critical mass, Green explained.
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 2,200 new residents and 2,800 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.
With land in central Breslau but no existing developments, Breslau Properties is a developer concerned with access, both to municipal services and a portion of the units available for staged growth.
Paul Puopolo, a planner representing the company, said plans for a new subdivision should be moving forward in the next year. As with other developers, the staging restrictions are a concern, he noted.
Appearing sympathetic to some of the other concerns raised by the delegates at Tuesday night’s meeting, councillors unanimously supported the staged growth limits, however.
“I’m going to stand firm on the 100 units,” said Coun. Mark Bauman, calling for a go-slow approach to allow new residents to assimilate into the existing Breslau mix. “I think we can get a better community in the long run.”