Wellesley village the focus of township’s boundary rationalization process
REDRAWING THE BOUNDARIES OF its settlements, Wellesley is likely to assign the lion’s share of new development lands to the Wellesley village.
The plan wasn’t without its detractors, however, as councillors discussed the issues at a special meeting Tuesday night at the Wellesley Community Centre.
The process, underway since 2015, is literally redrawing the map, deciding which pieces of land are brought inside the borders and which are cut loose to await a future decision on development potential. That means there are some property owners unhappy to be on the outside looking in, development plans for their land on hold until the maps are redrawn to their liking. For now, the township can only shift lines, as for every acre brought into the fold, another has to be dropped somewhere.
Under the direction of the Region of Waterloo, the exercise requires no net increases in the total size of settlement areas in the township.
The goal is to expand the size of the township’s largest community to
allow for residential and employment lands, while removing land unlikely to be developed within some of the smaller settlements. Land in the Wellesley village urban area is seen to have more potential than other rural settlement areas where land is on private services and growth is limited.
No formal decision was made this week, however, with councillors instead asking township staff to take comments from the meeting and return with updated recommendations.
Settlement areas do not normally change, but the local municipalities in the region are being given a one-time opportunity to redraw the lines. The decision, when it is finally made, will in effect decide how the township might look decades from now, by deciding where new homes, offices and industrial buildings will be constructed.
However, the total amount of developable land cannot be changed, leading to trade-offs.
The new plan presented to councillors on Tuesday will see the villages of Bamberg, Crosshill, Linwood, and St. Clements lose a total of 50 acres of developable land. A further 15 acres of employment lands are being removed from a property along Hutchinson Road, with township staff saying the lands could not be developed due to environmental restrictions.
Wellesley village, meanwhile, is planned to have 24 acres removed from part of the settlement area. Township staff claimed that the lands, situated in the northern parts of Wellesley village, were unfit for development – a claim that was strongly contested by the landowners.
While Wellesley village will be trimmed on its northern edges, township staff recommended adding another 90 acres of development land, composed of large parcels that flank the village on its western and eastern sides.
On the west end of town, staff are proposing to add a 41-acre lot of farmland on the northwest corner of Gerber Road and Lawrence Street to the settlement area. Owner Strohvest Holdings has expressed an interest in developing the lands, say township staff, while the farmlands themselves are adjacent to residential areas in Wellesley, meaning they would be relatively inexpensive to service.
Similarly, on the east side of town, a further 48 acres were proposed for future residential development.
Not everyone was happy with the proposed plan. Owners of land currently in the settlement areas were not eager to see them removed and their ability to develop on their properties lost. Landowners outside the settlement areas interested in development, meanwhile, sought to sway council to include their properties within the boundaries
Members of the public also raised concerns of having the rural charm of Wellesley village eroded through over-development. Residents with homes backing onto open farmlands voiced their objections to having subdivisions spring up in their place. A Linwood resident, by contrast, questioned removing lands from his village, constricting the community’s growth potential.
Ward 3 Coun. Peter van der Maas spoke to the audiences’ comments. While empathizing with their concerns, he said that Wellesley needs to accommodate an increasing population.
“I remember when there was a bush behind my place that the kids would play in. Everybody wants to have a park in the backyard. [But] people need a place to live. This a wonderful area, and I don’t just mean Wellesley, but I mean the whole Waterloo Region, that’s drawing talent, that’s drawing enterprise, and that’s becoming a bit of a showcase and an excellent place to live.”
Ward 2 Coun. Herb Neher, however, challenged the need for growth.
“I’ve said over the years a lot of people move out of the city to get away from the city,” he said.
“There’s a fine line between expanding and giving other people the opportunity to also take advantage of this small rural community. But pretty soon if we keep going and rationalizing and rationalizing, it’s not going to be a small community anymore. It’s going to become a city.”
In the end, after analyzing the proposed plan piece by piece, councillors asked the township staff to return with an updated plan addressing the concerns raised. While no deadline was set, the township’s planner noted that it might take a month to come back with a revised proposal.