Plans for sweeping changes to the look of Breslau took form this week as the developer rolled out details of a mixed-use project that would bring 2,300 new residents and 3,330 jobs to the area.
Thomasfield Homes envisions a combination of residential (single-family, semis, townhouses and apartment buildings), commercial space, offices, retail stores, industrial uses, schools, open space, trails and wetlands extending over more than 335 acres east of the company’s current development, the
Hopewell Heights subdivision.
The site also includes a proposed GO Transit station.
A series of Official Plan amendments and zoning changes necessary to make that happen were the topic of discussion Tuesday night at a public meeting in Woolwich council chambers.
“Imagine being able to walk to work from your home; imagine a stroll along the nature trails on a beautiful fall day; imagine walking to a café or restaurant and meeting up with friends and neighbours; imagine walking to the GO station to take in a hockey game or a show in Toronto; imagine the new high tech jobs created; imagine what an exciting community this will be,” Thomasfield president Tom Krizsan said, exhorting councillors to join in his vision.
The proposal detailed by planner Bill Green of the GSP Group is for a so-called complete community, one that integrates work, home, shopping and entertainment within walking distance of each other. The presentation put some meat on the bones of a plan Krizsan first began discussing with the township more than half a dozen years ago.
As presented this week, the development would cover two pieces of land, 226 acres immediately east of the Hopewell Heights subdivision and 109 acres east of Greenhouse Road, the site of much of the proposed industrial land. There would be 865 residential units; 53 acres of employment land; 15 acres set aside at the sound end of the western property, adjacent to the CN rail line, set aside for a GO station; and substantial amounts of protected wetlands and extensive trailways.
“This is a complete, compact, walkable community, that will also be home to Waterloo Region’s one and only suburban GO Transit station,” said Krizsan. “By the term complete, I mean a mixed-use community, one in which people can live, work, shop and play in one area; by compact, I mean that the mixed land uses are nearby and the densities represent efficient use of land, and by walkable I mean kilometres of nature trails and manmade trails, a pedestrian bridge over Hopewell Creek, and well connected street patterns giving people the opportunity to walk to work, walk to the GO station, walk to parks, cafes and restaurants and to walk to school.”
Permitting this project to go ahead would require changes to the township’s Official Plan, which currently caps the Breslau settlement area at 1,250 residential units, and to zoning in the area, which is largely designated dry industrial, manager of planning John Scarfone told councillors.
Extensive work would have to be done to provide municipal services – water and sewers – to the area, including arranging a new cross-border agreement with the City of Kitchener, which provides those services.
Nothing can be properly considered until the township completes a so-called secondary plan review, which would provide a detailed land-use plan for the entire area, not just the land involved with this project, he added. The township is currently in the process of hiring a consultant to lead that study, with work expected to be completed by the end of 2012 or early 2013.
As with this week’s planning meeting, the public will be part of the secondary review. Thomasfield Homes will certainly hope that process goes as smoothly as Tuesday’s meeting: some 20 people, many of them residents of the Thomasfield subdivision, spoke in favour of the plan, welcoming the mixed-use approach.
For Perry Grobe of neighbouring Grobe Nursery, the plan would bring proper development to the area, putting an end to illegal dumping and trespassing by off-road vehicles, a longtime complaint. In fact, many of the Hopewell Heights residents cited those issues as a reason to support the Thomasfield application.
More commonly, neighbours were encouraged by the prospect of being able to do some shopping without having to get in their cars and drive into Kitchener. The idea of a grocery store, pharmacy and restaurants, for instance, resonated with many.
The only negative comments came from a Kramp Road resident concerned about the development’s potential impact on those used to living a country lifestyle, especially the prospect of industrial uses nearby. One other delegate, representing Empire Communities, the developer of housing units in the south end of Breslau, called the project premature, arguing council should wait until the secondary plan, Waterloo Region Official Plan and new township Official Plan are completed before considering the proposal.
Familiar with the pace of development, Krizsan said in a later interview that he’s prepared to wait through the review process – he’s been calling for the secondary plan study for five years – but noted there is some urgency to getting plans in place to meet GO Transit’s plan to open a station in 2015.