Making new employment lands available remains the priority for Woolwich planners as they look at redrawing the map of Elmira.
In St. Jacobs, the changes involve providing more room to expand the headquarters of Home Hardware.
The township is edging closer to reorganizing the settlement boundaries in both Elmira and St. Jacobs, juggling some parcels of land in and out of town based on development potential. The so-called boundary rationalization is underway in all the settlement areas, a one-time shift made possible under Waterloo Region’s new official plan, its overarching planning strategy.
The process has been underway at least in part since 2012, with Tuesday night’s council session being the latest in a series of public meetings. As before, a number of landowners made a pitch to have their properties included in the revamped settlement maps, a change that would allow them to exploit the development potential on hold for those on the outside looking in.
Under the regional official plan, 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. With more requests for inclusion than space available given the limitations, not everyone will come away happy, noted director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.
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. To that end, the township proposes to shift some land out of the northwest and down to the southeast part of town. The township will also draw on space from St. Jacobs to ensure there’s no net gain.
Similarly, planners want to expand the countryside line – the line in the sand between urban and rural areas – to clear the way for future growth of the settlement areas of Elmira (the east side) and St. Jacobs (adjacent to Home Hardware).
That expansion is especially important for a potential bypass route in Elmira, said Kennaley.
“Not all of the land in Elmira will fit under the settlement boundary expansion, but it can be designated for the countryside line.”
Responding to a question from Coun. Patrick Merlihan, Kennaley noted the bypass route is a long-term project.
“It’s going to be some time before we achieve the whole bypass. Certainly not overnight,” he said, noting simply getting another round of changes to the regional official plan wouldn’t happen until early in the next decade.
Still, the changes are necessary to help open up new industrial development.
“We’re critically short of employment lands in Elmira,” he stressed.
Having identified their priorities, planners face some challenges getting there, however.
Notably, there’s a long list of people jockeying for a chance to have their own projects move higher up the list.
In St. Jacobs, for instance, Mike Gillis wants to see part of his holdings adjacent to 118 Northside Dr. added to the settlement, pointing out the potential for a shared project with nearby Calvary United Church, which has talked about developing seniors’ housing.
Without bringing more of the land there into the settlement, such projects are unlikely to happen, he noted.
In Elmira, Stantec Consulting planner Jennifer Mondell pressed for an expansion of the countryside line, at a minimum, to encompass more of her client Ron Stroh’s property. Much of the eastside land – and potential bypass – already involves the 131-acre Stroh farmland.
Both the potential industrial land use and the bypass route were cited by MHBC planner Pierre Chauvin’s pitch to include at least some portion of his client’s land at 460 and 461 Arthur St. S.
The latest round of proposals is yet more food for thought for planners, who are aiming to bring a recommendation back to council in the fall.
With the rationalization process, Woolwich is looking to bring its planning documents into conformity with the new regional official plan. 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.