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Mix of housing proposed for new Elmira subdivision

A long-anticipated residential development on the west edge of Elmira now has some details, as Activa Holdings this week brought its plans to Woolwich council.

The Waterloo-based company is proposing to build 662 to 803 units on a 76-acre piece of land running west of Barnswallow Drive and south of Church Street. The property surrounds Gale Presbyterian Church on two sides.

As discussed Tuesday night, the developer is looking to build 337 to 410 single-detached homes and townhouses, with 325 to 393 multiple-residential units. To do that, Activa needs the township to approve increasing the density from the current 36.5 units per acre to 64 per acre as part of the required official plan amendment and zone changes.

Representing Activa, Pierre Chauvin of MHBC Planning said the proposed subdivision offers a good mix of housing.

“It’s well located relative to the existing settlement area of Elmira, adjacent to established residential on the east side of Barnswallow, south of First Street, as well as to the Eldale community to the north, so represents a logical extension of the existing established settlement area,” he told councillors.

The subdivision plan proposes connections to the existing neighbouring streets via an extension of Eagle and Muscovey drives. New streets are proposed to access Church Street West and Barnswallow Drive, across from Eldale Road, Bristow Creek Drive and Brookmead Street.

Although “providing a mix and range of housing within the subdivision,” the project doesn’t incorporate affordable housing per se, Chauvin said in response to a question from Coun. Fred Redekop. Rather, a range of options that includes stacked townhouses, back-to-back townhouses and four-storey apartment buildings, with some smaller units, should make for “attainable housing”

Likewise, an increased supply will provide competition in the market and perhaps drive down prices, he added.

While the public planning meeting didn’t include any other delegations, the township did receive some written comments expressing concerns, particularly about the suitability of the development, the density and the impact of increased traffic as Elmira adds yet more homes.

“We have tremendous growth going on in Elmira (i.e. over 2,500 units recently built, being built or being approved to be built in Birdland and north end of Elmira), but our main access to Kitchener-Waterloo (i.e. Arthur St. S./Hwy. 85) is currently only slated to be fixed over the course of the next 10 to 21 years, which will make the traffic between now and then horrendous, at best,” wrote resident Bill Scott, noting nothing has been done to speed up the widening of the route.

That issue was taken up by Ward 1 Coun. Patrick Merlihan, who noted the developer’s traffic studies show the potential for a 45 per cent increase in the traffic along the Arthur Street gateway to K-W at morning and evening peaks, which could lead to even more gridlock.

He also pointed out the potential impact on roads such as First Street, with its schools, where residents already complain of volumes and speeding.

Township manager of planning Jeremy Vink responded that a review of traffic studies would be carried out by both the township and Region of Waterloo as part of Activa’s application, adding that the in-town roads such as First Street and Whippoorwill Drive are expected to carry more traffic, and are currently underused.

“They are meant to handle that kind of capacity,” he said of the increases that  would come with the new subdivision.

Looking at the layout of the proposed development, Merlihan asked why two large stormwater management ponds would front on Barnswallow Drive, essentially dominating the view of the project from the street.

Vink noted the land drains from west to east, making the locations the “logical spots” for the ponds, prompting Merlihan to ask if the developer would be charged with making the outlets attractive, “manicured” features, perhaps as part of a trail system.

“Some sort of trail that would extend eventually all the way down Barnswallow and link up to some of those other trails would be nice. Now is the time, when you’re starting to dig in the dirt there that we can make those plans,” he said, noting there are longstanding plans to reconstruct Barnswallow Drive, irrespective of the Activa project.

“I think it’s important that we get a decent trail for cycling and walking on Barnswallow as part of the reconstruction,” agreed Mayor Sandy Shantz.

This week’s meeting was  the first mandatory public session, with councillors not making any decisions. The public now has time to comment on the detailed proposal, with planning staff reporting back to council at a later date.

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  1. Pretty wild that the Manager of Planning suggests we need more traffic on Whippoorwill, when a) it (and Barnswallow) are already two of the most poorly maintained stretches of road in WT, b) the township has poured more money into poorly planned (and obviously useless) traffic calming measures on it than probably anywhere else in the township in the last 5-to-10 years, and c) the sheer amount of waste in fixing and refixing poor paving work done by municipal workers and contractors on it is shameful. But it’s unsurprising the work gets done and re-done time and time again, because, well, the Mayor lives nearby, and we can’t have a mayor driving over potholes every other week. And d) he allowed a new development to get built against a road he knowingly accepts has traffic/speeding issues, but can’t be bothered to put a crosswalk in for kids who are trying to get to school at Park Manor. Why not just expropriate some backyards, and turn Whippoorwill into a four-lane highway? Better yet (and actually practical), put a plan in place that forces ALL of these new home owners to use the Floradale/Listowel Rd to exit town towards Waterloo.

    Hope everyone is looking forward to hour-long commutes home from Waterloo at rush hour.

  2. About the new subdivision, I would comment that it is not truly a “mix” of housing if does not include affordable housing. Council should make affordable, rental housing a requirement to be included in any new development in the Township. Our community wants to be an inclusive, compassionate force, and this is one way our township government can assist.

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