Redrawing the maps of the township’s villages has proven to be a labourious task for Wellesley councillors, who last week struggled with removing chunks of land as potential sites of future development.
The one-time-only boundary rationalization process permitted by the Region of Waterloo has officials looking to identify the best prospects for near- and mid-term development, changing the shape and size of settlement areas in the process. The exercise must be net-zero: for every acre of land added one place, an acre must be removed from somewhere else in the township.
The goal is to in effect reshuffle the deck to align the potential of future residential, commercial and industrial development with areas where demand and need are most likely to be met.
Parcel by parcel, council voted last week to remove lands out of the settlement areas in Bamberg, Crosshill, Linwood and Wellesley village, effectively barring these lands from any future development as they would then fall outside the new lines on the map.
The next step is to identify where the newly claimed acres will be allotted, part of a slow, ongoing process unlikely to be finalized before the fall.
“This is tough, this is not easy,” said Mayor Joe Nowak May 29, addressing his fellow councillors and the audience, which included property owners and developers in the township eager to find out if their land made the cut. “It’s probably the most difficult thing we’ve dealt with [these past] four years.”
It’s been a matter of progress by degrees as councillors and planning staff have the challenging task of deciding where the next wave of development will be permitted.
The net-zero requirement means some property owners will inevitably come out as winners in the end, and others will be losers.
It’s a decision that will have lasting consequences, as by redrawing the map councillors will essentially be deciding how Wellesley might look decades from now by choosing where new homes and businesses will be built – and where they won’t.
A final decision won’t be ratified until later in the fall, but interim steps suggests that Wellesley village will receive the majority of the development lands available at the expense of the other settlements.
Councillors accepted, some grudgingly, that Wellesley village was where the township could expect to see the most growth over the next several years. It was also the village best equipped with the necessary infrastructure to support that growth, and therefore was where development lands should be focused.
However, they tussled over just how much land ought to be given to the township’s largest village.
A split frequently emerged between Nowak and Coun. Peter van der Maas of Ward 3 (covering Wellesley village) on one side, supporting more of a concentration in Wellesley village, and councillors Shelley Wagner, Herb Neher and Carl Smit, who preferred to leave more development lands to the other villages in the township.
In Bamberg, a total of 3.6 acres was removed from the settlement areas, principally on properties on the east side of Weimar Line/Moser Young Road intersection. In Crosshill, 9.3 acres was removed on lands just north and south of William Hastings Line, just southwest of the Hutchinson Road intersection.
Wellesley village also had some [CHECK]24 acres of lands removed along the northern edges of the village. However, the village will likely see much more settlement lands added to the southeast and western sections later in the process.
Linwood proved to be a flashpoint for councillors, with some opting for the total removal of a 19.6 acres-worth of land, southwest of the Ament Line/Manser Road intersection, and others opting to leave it in.
“The fact of the matter is not everybody is going to go home happy tonight, but we have to make a tough decision,” said Nowak, who supported removing all 19.6 acres.
Township staff noted that the land was originally slated for removal from the settlement areas back in 2001. However, the owner successfully persuaded the region and township to leave the lands in, expressing a commitment to build a subdivision there eventually.
But 17 years later, the lands have still not seen any development. In the interim, provincial planning regulations have moved away from allowing larger subdivisions to use private services – septic tanks and wells – in favour of demanding such projects be on full municipal services, which isn’t an option at that location.
Coun. Neher, however, questioned what was the “rush” in deciding the fate of that land.
“I don’t have a problem with that, personally. So it sits there. It’s his (Vincent Hergott’s) property, and let him build when he wants to build, whether he wants to build five years or ten years or 40 years or whatever,” said Neher.
Council remained divided on what to do, but ultimately opted to remove just half the lands from the settlement areas, though with Nowak and Van der Maas in opposition.
With most of the removals taken care of, the Township of Wellesley is closer to completing the boundary rationalization process, which will set the boundaries of the settlement areas permanently. The next step for councillors be to decide how those acres will be added back to the township.