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Woolwich continues to refine changes to its settlement maps

The ins and outs of redrawing settlement boundary lines – literally deciding which pieces of land are brought inside the borders and which are cut loose – is still an unsolved puzzle for Woolwich planners.

Judging from the reduced number of delegates out Tuesday night compared to past public meetings – the process has been underway since 2012 – the township is getting closer to a final configuration. The goal is to have things wrapped up by the fall.

There are, however, still some property owners unhappy to be on the outside looking in, development plans for their land on hold until the maps are redrawn to their liking. For now, the township can only shift lines, as for every acre brought into the fold, another has to be dropped somewhere. The whole 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.

Eyeing a solution to the longstanding need for a bypass route around Elmira, planning staff’s latest draft includes allocating space along the town’s east side, land that could eventually see a new road take shape as industrial development comes on stream, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

As drafted, the new boundaries could allow the township to get going on a bypass project even if the Region of Waterloo continues to drag its feet, he suggested.

“We’re worried that the region isn’t going to give consideration to the bypass.”

But Coun. Mark Bauman questioned the need to include what is largely floodplain land in the settlement area at the south end of Elmira. The bypass route – which is still some time off – could be realigned to begin farther to the north, he noted.

The bypass plan was also challenged by a planner for Home Hardware, who argued against reducing land allocations in St. Jacobs and applying the quota to the Elmira project.

Scott Patterson of planners Labreche Patterson said the township should bring into the village settlement more land adjacent to Home Hardware’s Henry Street headquarters, allowing room for a much needed expansion.

Hugh Handy, a planner with the GSP Group, pressed for a swap of land requests in Bloomingdale on behalf of the Stevanus family and their company, Van-Del Contracting.

Where previous meetings spent considerable time on Breslau’s settlement boundaries, there was much less talk this week, though issues remain, just as there are a few in nearby Shantz Station.

With the rationalization process, Woolwich is 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.

Kennaley said his staff will incorporate the latest round of suggestions into a new draft to be presented to council at another public meeting in the fall.

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