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Woolwich still refining stockyards plan

Beyond the farmers’ market and the livestock exchange, Woolwich sees the opportunity for a broader range of retail, office space and light industrial uses in the stockyards area south of St. Jacobs.

With that in mind, it’s been carrying out a so-called secondary review of the area for several years, inching closer to new planning rules for land there. The review could see Woolwich get a piece of the action as the area undergoes something of a boom in new office space. There’s already been some movement there, and more is likely to follow if full municipal services are extended to lands surrounding the farmers’ market and the power centre.

The township is looking to expand the available uses of land in the area, from an office campus to mixed commercial applications. There’s also a bid to make the area more attractive and friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

The latest round of public hearings on the secondary plan took place last week in council chambers, with landowners there looking for yet more tweaks to the plan in order to maximize their returns.

The owners of the Walmart-anchored big-box development, Smart Centres, for instance, wants to see the township lift restrictions on the minimum size of retail operations, throwing out the prospect of residential development as well.

Allowing for smaller store sizes would be in keeping with current market demand, said Eldon Theodore, a planner with MHBC, which represents Smart Centres.

The company has 180,000 square feet of retail space, but another 124,000 sq. ft. sits unused. The last development on the site was five years ago, he said, noting nothing new is likely to happen without changes by the township.

While Woolwich is looking at store sizes, there’s currently no provision for residential uses in the stockyards area, nor is that likely, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

Noting the township has been working on the secondary plan for at least four or five years, Coun. Patrick Merlihan asked why the company was just now bringing up the prospect of residential development, suggesting the idea was interesting but perhaps ill-timed.

Ron Palmer of the Planning Partnership, the firm handling the secondary review for the township, noted the process is looking to provide more opportunities for landowners in the stockyards area. That includes a broader retail range, along with commercial and industrial uses.

By 2031, the area could see some 185,000 square metres of floor space, up from less than 90,000 today, he said.

Still under construction, the secondary plan would ultimately determine the planned function of the stockyards, as well as address other land-use, servicing transportation and environmental issues. It would be a way to finally determine how the stockyards should develop and grow.


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