The idea of spending some $30 million to build a road of unknown value saw Woolwich council this week put the project on hold.
The decision follows last week’s council discussion about a recently completed environmental assessment (EA) study for the so-called Breslau east connector road. The new route would run between a future Dolman Street extension at Fountain Street and Greenhouse Road to the east. An estimated $14.5 million would be needed simply for an overpass to span the railroad tracks, an oversized project that would cover potential future expansion of the Metrolinx/GO Transit line.
When built, the road would provide access to a new mixed-use neighbourhood known as the Thomasfield Homes Hopewell Crossing, which includes residential and commercial development, employment lands and parks/open space. A company representative last week said it was moving away from plans to include a GO station on its lands.
The EA study suggests the entire project would be paid for by development charges, additional fees placed on new homes to cover costs associated with growth. Thomasfield vice-president Tom McLaughlin last week estimated that would require applying the equivalent of the township’s current DC road levies, north of $4,500, on the next 5,800 homes built anywhere in the townships.
That had Coun. Patrick Merlihan questioning the rationale of charging Woolwich residents for a road of unknown usefulness that appears to be of larger benefit to the region and the province should a GO station be built someday.
“I really think this needs a much wider discussion – this is a $30 million road in today’s dollars, and it has huge implications on every home that’s going to be built in the next decade or so,” he said, suggesting the economics alone were something of a “deal-breaker.”
Given that there’s no existing downtown core in Breslau, just what would the route be connecting residents of the new subdivision to? he asked, adding the future commercial development will be north of Victoria Street at Ebycrest Road, the proposed site of a power centre.
In that vein, Coun. Scott McMillan questioned whether a connector road was the best use of $30 million to build a sense of community.
“Is this how we would do it?” he asked. “What are people going to get on the road for?
“We have created a just large Kitchener subdivision in Breslau. I question whether this is the solution or not.”
Merlihan argued the road might have limited local value, so shouldn’t be a funding priority.
“I don’t think one penny of that should be borne on future residents of Woolwich Township,” he said, noting it should be a provincial cost. “It’s just way too much money.”
For that reason, the process should be deferred, he added.
“For us to pass this tonight, we set everything in motion to start the next process, which is adding those DCs to homes immediately and starting to collect money for this. I don’t think we can do that, and I don’t think we should because we’ll lose any kind leverage about talking to the other interested parties,” said Merlihan, adding the region and province should be at the table.
“If we pass this tonight, we will have zero leverage to get the right people to be paying for this infrastructure.”
The costs prompted Coun. Larry Shantz to suggest the connection should be scaled back until the need for a road could be ascertained.
“When we entered this we weren’t thinking this was going to be a $30-million project, but it did creep up on us, for sure,” he said, suggesting the overpass be a pedestrian route.
“I’m not sure we need to explore future funding options until we know this road will actually connect the communities,” McMillan added.