Welles­ley vil­lage the fo­cus of town­ship’s bound­ary ra­tio­nal­iza­tion process

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

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.

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