Woolwich backs decreased land allocation as region moves on needs
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Woolwich backs decreased land allocation as region moves on needs assessment

Higher densities and less land designated for development are targets in the latest version of Waterloo Region’s growth forecast for the next 30 years.

In Woolwich, where councillors this week endorsed the revisions, that means the allocation of some 560 acres of land for development of residential, commercial and industrial projects instead of the 1,165 acres earmarked in the draft from just two months ago.

The region’s land needs assessment (LNA) is part of the latest review of the Regional Official Plan (ROP), the overarching document that guides growth in the municipality.

In the version of the LNA endorsed Monday night by Woolwich council, the township would see about 128 acres allocated to what’s referred to as the “community area” – residential and related commercial space – and 432 designated for the “employment area.” Most of the intensified development is slated for built-up areas in Elmira, St. Jacobs and Breslau, where employment land is concentrated.

The township would also be aiming at the region’s “15-minute community” target, in which residents would be within that timeframe for walking or cycling to access day-to-day services.

That’s a region-wide goal, Rod Regier, commissioner of planning, development and legislative services, told township councillors.

“It’s a design idea that we think is really important,” he said, pointing to the ability of residents to walk or cycle to work, to pick up groceries or to a dental appointment.

“We see it applying right across the region.”

The policy also calls for direct access to public transit beyond the 15-minute distances.

That’s not a situation that today applies to most of Woolwich outside of Elmira, noted Deanne Friess, the township’s director of development services.

New land-use policies come in a framework that sees the addition of more than 300,000 people to the region by 2051. Of that, 22,500 are expected in Woolwich, bringing the population to 51,200 from 28,700. The region is estimating that 17,800 new jobs would be created in Woolwich, bringing the total to 35,100 in 30 years’ time from 17,300.

The Breslau area has long been slated for employment lands. In response to a question from Mayor Sandy Shantz as to why Conestoga Meat Packers, an agricultural-industry operation, will be included in the redrawn Breslau urban area, Regier said the land around Menno and Fountain streets has been deemed an “employment area” with industrial development beyond the meat-packing plant. Future development will make use of an extension of municipal services.

What won’t be included is the  27-acre property at 1700 Kramp Rd. owned by Lion’s Mane Ministry, which has been looking into development potential, including a future GO Transit station.

Organization president Kunle Oluwojure said the organization had been looking into options for the past five years, the idea of including the land having first been considered by the region but then reversed at the end of June.

He argued the site made sense given that the area’s largest landowner and developer, Thomasfield Homes, has said it’s no longer interested in the project after Metrolinx  changed the financial model to one where the developer would pay for the GO station.

There is no timeline for the station, however, with the region estimating the project is at least a decade away.

“There were other, higher-priority sites for inclusion of new employment areas in the township,” said Regier of the decision to exclude the Lion’s Mane property.

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