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Township eyes growth potential in Wellesley Village

The proposed urban settlement area expansion in Wellesley.
The proposed urban settlement area expansion in Wellesley.

Seeing development potential in the village of Wellesley, the township is concentrating on redrawing the urban map there as it does a boundary review of its settlements.

The goal is to expand the size of the township’s largest community to allow for residential and employment lands, while removing land unlikely to be developed within some of the smaller settlements.

That plan was not universally embraced, however, at a public meeting June 20 in Crosshill council chambers.

Township officials stressed that it’s an ongoing process, with public input playing a part in the final decision. Wellesley has in fact been at this for two years, taking advantage of a one-time opportunity under the Region of Waterloo’s new official plan to rationalize settlement boundaries – making changes to the land within the settlement areas to better reflect opportunities for growth and development.

It’s a net-zero process, however, as the overall amount of land within settlements must remain the same: land added somewhere must be taken from somewhere else, whether within the same settlement or from another part of the township.

As a formal amendment to Wellesley’s own official plan, the process involves mandatory public meetings such as the one held last week. Things got rolling in June 2015, with planning staff contacting landowners for each of the properties affected by the proposed rationalization for feedback.

The process will take time, said township planner Geoff VanderBaaren.

“It is not something that we are going to rush through, it has significant implication to a lot of people you know both positive and negative so we want to make sure that we give everyone the opportunity to have their say,” he explained.

Currently, the township sees realignments that would remove several blocks throughout the township to make way for expansion on the lands to the west of Lawrence Street and lands on the east side of Greenwood Hill Road to direct the majority of additional growth to the urban settlement area of Wellesley.

When evaluating the removal of lands from settlement, staff looked to establish that there is no long-term need for the lands, current use is unlikely to change, the land has servicing limitations, lands are impacted by future roads and they must lay on the outer limits of the settlement.

When looking at lands to add to the settlement, the criteria include that developmental potential exists, land-use compatibility is achievable, servicing is available, use is appropriate in both the short and long term, and the land satisfies a long-term employment need.

The expansion would increase Wellesley village’s borders by 85 acres, with 18 acres of employment land and the rest designated as residential lands to yield approximately 1,100 additional residents.

The goal also is to further focus growth in the Wellesley urban area to take away from rural settlement areas where land is on private services and growth is limited.

The report indicates that the Wellesley sewage treatment plant has a capacity to service an additional 1,300 people, while the water supply system can accommodate an additional 5,600 persons.

Despite the information presented, residents remained skeptical.

Joyce Barker, a licensed realtor, is opposed to either of the developments.

“We were told that there was a limit of water and waste available and it would limit the growth within the village unless there were improvements made at the plant behind the Home Hardware,” Barker said, noting the addition of many new developments in the area besides those in question at the meeting. “How will that not put additional strain on the current waste and water available if there is expansion made? I would expect that would come regionally and then, ultimately, all of the taxpayers of the region will pay for the expansion, and for that reason I am opposed to the expansion in the village.”

Although no decisions or answers came from the informational public hearing, Mayor Joe Nowak said answers are on the horizon.

“I know there are a lot of questions with regards to capacity and I believe that they will all be answered in good time.”

The land to the east of Greenwood Hill Road is considered by staff as appropriate for future development since there are no environmental constraints, the landowner is interested in developing the land, it is adjacent to the existing built up area making it easy to service, and a large portion of the overall property can be brought into the settlement to allow for the development of a complete community with the rest of Wellesley.

Much the same applies to the land west of Lawrence Street, where the entire plot is to be brought into the settlement.

Strohuest Ont Inc., a builder in the area and owner of the eastern lot, is hoping to build a variety of single-family, semi-detached and townhomes to increase the urban Wellesley area.

Opposed to that proposed development was Alan Jones, a resident of Lawrence Street who wrote a letter prior to the meeting including the signature of all 34 homeowners who would be directly affected by the new development. Jones is asking that only single-family homes be built backing onto the current homes like his own.

Lawrence Park of Greenwood Hill Road echoed concerns about the lack information provided to those affected by the changes proposed in the early stages of planning.

“I realize that development is inevitable. The region is growing and we have to take some of this growth here in Wellesley, as much as we don’t want it,” said Park noting that he hopes the next meeting will present accurate timelines for current residents to be kept in the loop on what is going on. “I would like a clear picture the next time that we get together.”

More information will be presented at the next public meeting, said VanderBaaren.

“We are planning on having a second public meeting. As I have mentioned, we have had a number of submissions both written and verbal to me, and I intend to meet with anyone who wishes to over the summer and into the fall. In probably late fall or early 2018, I would come back with a recommendation report and hold a second public meeting, and then we would see what transpires following that,” he said.

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