The adage about it being better to give than to receive isn’t on the radar as Woolwich looks at redrawing the boundaries of its settlement areas: there are plenty of people looking to have their land included inside the new lines, but very few willing to be on the outside.
That’s a problem for planning staff, as the exercise requires no net increases in the total size of settlement areas – hamlets, villages and towns – in the township. Some of the requests will have to go unfilled, and everyone wants somebody else to be on the outside looking in.
The process, the subject of a public meeting Tuesday night, has been underway since 2012, Woolwich looking to bring its planning documents into conformity with the new regional official plan (ROP). It’s the region that’s decreed no net gains as the township revises community boundaries in three classes: rural (the small centres such as Conestogo, Floradale and Maryhill), township urban (Elmira and St. Jacobs) and urban, the new designation for Breslau, where much of the growth, particularly industrial, is expected. The designation also applies to the stockyards area south of St. Jacobs on the Waterloo border.
Looking to make better use of developable land, Woolwich proposes to rationalize the boundaries of settlement areas. The official plan amendment discussed at council Tuesday night essentially proposes to remove some land from the settlements, replacing it with other properties with great development potential.
Of all the areas, the greatest diversity of future change will be found in Breslau, which is earmarked by Waterloo Region as a growth centre, fueled by future industrial land development. New homes, offices and retail space are also on the horizon, with some of the rationalization changes currently proposed playing a part in that.
In the near term, retail development is expected in the form of a power centre to be built by SmartREIT, which owns the big box project anchored by Walmart to the south of St. Jacobs.
The company owns land on the north side of Victoria Street, bounded by Ebycrest Road on the west side. The area is slated for commercial development.
Anne Messore of SmartREIT/Breslau North Development Inc. (BNDI) said the company’s holding originally totalled 57 acres, of which about 20 acres is inside the current settlement area. It lost nine acres expropriated by the province for the new Hwy. 7, bifurcating part of the land and making it unusable. They would like to see all of their property inside the settlement area, but would settle for a reworking of the parcels to maintain 20 acres in a more useful configuration.
Some of the company’s land falls outside the settlement area, and it would eventually like to see it included, she said.
Thomasfield Homes, a major developer in the Breslau area, is one group looking to give more than it gets. Seeing no short-term development on much of a 77-acre parcel east of the village, south of the railway line, it is willing to put that back into the pot, while asking for the inclusion of a pair of smaller properties to the north of Victoria Street, in the vicinity of Ebycrest Road and the new Highway 7 configuration, said planner Bill Green of the GSP Group.
In Elmira, the proposed changes primarily address consolidation of future industrial land to south or, more likely, the southeast side of the town. Conceptual maps presented at the meeting also include options for a bypass road that would route traffic, especially trucks, well east of the downtown core, an alternative to Arthur Street.
The requested additions outnumber the potential subtractions in St. Jacobs, as well, led by a request from Home Hardware for some 50 acres near its Henry Street headquarters to be made available.
“The need for the Home Hardware land is now,” said Scott Patterson of planners Labreche Patterson.
With others looking for their land to be included in the redrawing of St. Jacobs, and the township having identified some 68 acres with the potential to be removed from inside the village boundary, there’s another area where demands will have to be weighed, noted Woolwich senior planner Jeremy Vink.
“We’ll have to look at what’s the most appropriate to add in,” he said of the eventual process to decide what stays and what goes.
Though ongoing for a few years, the process is still in the early stages. Vink stressed that the suggested changes and accompanying maps presented this week are a starting point. Planners expect to receive plenty of input and go through at least one more public meeting before solidifying a plan and bringing recommendations back to council.