The prospect of factories popping up on what is now agricultural land adjacent to their homes had residents of Crosshill and Hawkesville out in force Tuesday night, eager to let councillors know exactly what they thought of the plan.
The public meeting was part of a process that would see Wellesley expand the amount of available employment land in the township at the behest of Waterloo Region.
Township planner Geoff van der Baaren presented some scenarios before opening the floor to hear citizens’ concerns.
“The region prepared a land budget and identified the need for more employment lands in the township. Flowing out of that process the township and regional staff have prepared an employment land strategy. That strategy is still considered a draft document, it hasn’t been adopted by council and that documented a need for 12 new acres of employment land,” van der Baaren explained.
The three potential parcels of land township staff identified are 2.7 hectares in Crosshill across from the township building, 3.6 hectares in Hawkesville on Geddes Street, and 1.2 hectares in Wallenstein next to the Mennonite school.
Many residents spoke about their desire to keep the agricultural lands as such. They said they enjoy looking out their window to farmland, rather than an industrial business. As has been mentioned before, they said they moved to the township for a reason – the quiet country lifestyle – not to be inundated with factories and large-scale industry.
The Hawkesville parcel of land is behind Chervin Custom Woodworks and the plan is to expand the business. While residents commended Kevin Bauman on the success of his business, they also questioned when the growth of industry in a small village starts to negatively impact the quality of life for the residents.
Bauman said that he wants to work with the neighbours and negotiate with those who’ll be directly affected.
“I heard your concerns,” Bauman said.
Beth Frank’s home backs right on the property and says she’s spoken to Bauman in her home and she felt he was very open. Since then, she’s noticed roughly 19 trailers parked at the back of the business on a parcel of land that is still zoned as agricultural. That trust has diminished.
“I just would like everyone to do what’s right,” Frank said.
Kevin Hergott of Crosshill lives adjacent to where the proposed parcel of land is the village. He questioned whether, with 278 square kilometres in Wellesley Township, that was really an ideal location for industrial use.
Kevin Dombrowski lives on Lobsinger Line in Crosshill and the proposed employment land is right beside his house.
“I have concerns also with the water, the sewage, the higher traffic, the noise pollution. I’m up in my senior years. I’d like to sit on my back deck now and look out over the field. I don’t want to be looking at a factory. So I’m totally opposed to changing that land to industrial,” Dombrowski said.
John Bowman of Crosshill said he moved to the area 21 years ago and there were far fewer shops back then. He took issue with the township considering throwing an employment land designation in a residential area.
“Now almost every property you see there has another shop on there. I’ve got to listen to this noise first thing in the morning until late at night with the extra traffic of skid steers and all sorts of other equipment going up and down the road,” Bowman said.
Numerous residents who spoke said the township should look at putting these industrial areas in one location, so they’re not affecting residential areas, like St. Clements has done.
“I’m thoroughly disgusted that this would even happen. This is the second time a shop has been tried to be built with no information to the residents,” Bowman said.
The three parcels equal more than the 12 acres required by the region. All of the proposed lands are currently zoned as agricultural and will remain so until someone applies for a zoning change – if council approves them as acceptable parcels.
Coun. Herb Neher had an issue with the three parcels being all in settlement areas.
“I really, really understand how they feel about this. And I wouldn’t want to live beside all of a sudden a factory,” Neher said.
Coun. Shelley Wagner agreed.
“It’s concerning because residents are now coming forward more and saying enough is enough. It’s one thing to purchase your home beside a small business, but when that small business keeps expanding, it’s not something that you expected at the time,” Wagner said.
A final report is expected in October.