In a final public meeting before going to council in January, Woolwich planners unveiled their proposed cultural heritage landscape (CHL) for West Montrose Tuesday night at an open house at township hall.
The township is putting the finishing touches on a list of recommendations to protect the area around the historic covered bridge.
The CHL is broken down into five main components: significant environmental features, significant views, significant pathways (or roads), significant parcel fabric of the ‘organic’ village of West Montrose, and significant structures.
“The entire cultural heritage landscape creates a feeling and scenario of the heritage of the area and how it all ties together,” explained senior planner Jeremy Vink. “All of these elements link together to create the landscape.”
Overall, through research and discussion with the public, the township has identified a 1,672-acre swath of land it wants to protect under a cultural heritage designation. That area ranges from approximately Northfield Drive to the west, Letson Drive to the south, Katherine Street to the east, and Line 86 to the north.
When the township held a preliminary open house in September, the proposed area included the new subdivision in the north of the village. After consultation with the public and by re-evaluating the site, the new area unveiled to the public on Tuesday excludes the modern subdivision and homes that comprise much of West Montrose today.
“The area isn’t significant, it’s like almost every other subdivision out there,” said Vink. “That doesn’t mean that if someone wants to make a significant change within that area, say build a feed mill, that we wouldn’t look at it and see if it impacted the area.”
Under the CHL, any applications for variances or zone changes would have to adhere to a stricter ruling than would be the case without the designation.
Vink said that the township is hoping for a conservation plan amendment to protect the features of the CHL, rather than an Official Plan amendment, because it would allow greater flexibility and interpretation on a case-by-case basis.
The concept of a CHL has been in the works since a Region of Waterloo study back in 2006, but the applications for a gravel pit license in the area by Guelph-based Capital Paving has fast-tracked the process. In February last year, council approved a one-year moratorium on development in the West Montrose area until the CHL study could be completed.
Vink said that township officials want to bring the proposed plan to council in January for public discussion, and hopes to have the entire process wrapped up by June of 2011.
Under the proposed plan, the township would move to protect 14 structures of significance in the area, as well as the significant roads and approaches into the town including Rivers Edge Drive off Line 86, Covered Bridge Drive to the United Church, and Hill Street out to Jigs Hollow Road.
The plan would also aim to protect the organic nature of the development of the original village, which was not laid out according to the traditional grid pattern that we see today, as parcels were sold off and given away in chunks. The CHL would also protect the views associated with the area, concentrating mainly on the valley and the West Montrose covered bridge, as well as the environmental features of the river.
“We want to protect farming and the rural landscape in this vicinity as much as we can. That’s not to say people can’t build a barn, but what we don’t want is someone to buy the land and build a big house,” said Vink.
“We want to preserve the rural feeling.”