Waterloo Region’s determination to maintain a hard divide between rural and urban areas – a sentiment shared by Woolwich – likely bodes ill for a development plan near St. Jacobs. The boundaries in the new regional plan do favour future development proposed for the Breslau area, however.
The separation of urban and rural areas – known as the countryside line – is part of the new regional official plan (ROP) adopted by council in the summer. But the issue is now a topic of discussion in a series of public meetings in the four townships, wrapping up in Elmira next Thursday evening.
Although the region sees no reason to change its protected countryside policies, when voting for the new ROP councillors did ask staff to seek public input, explained Kevin Curtis, the region’s manager of strategic policy development.
The policies are intended to protect farmland, wooded areas and watercourses from development by prohibiting the expansion of existing urban areas into the protected countryside.
Like the region, Woolwich Township is happy to keep those boundaries in place.
“We support the concept of a hard countryside line, a strong divide between urban and rural areas,” Dan Kennaley, director of engineering and planning, said in an interview.
That policy is likely to have the most significant impact on a proposal by engineering consultants Conestoga-Rovers & Associates (CRA) to build a business park on 107 acres near the intersection of King and Bridge streets, encompassing what is now much of the Kuntz gravel pit. In order to proceed, the development would overstep the hard boundary between the City of Waterloo’s urban space on one side of Bridge Street and the protected rural area that is Woolwich’s territory on the other.
In Breslau, meanwhile, the extension of the countryside line slightly north of Hwy. 7 to a point that includes what will be the new highway makes way for potential development. That includes future plans by Smart Centres for retail stores on some 50 acres of land north of Victoria Street, just east of Ebycrest Road.
“We think it’s a good and appropriate retail location in the long-term,” said Prakash David, the company’s director of land development, adding the Breslau area is almost bereft of retail even as it continues to grow.
While the land is now inside the countryside line, about 30 acres fall outside the current urban settlement boundary for Breslau. That will have to change before any development can go ahead. The same is true for part of Thomasfield Homes’ holdings.
The Guelph-based company, which is developing the Hopewell Heights subdivision, has extensive holdings in and around Breslau. President Tom Krizsan sees potential in the land between Victoria Street and what will be the new Hwy. 7. In the nearer-term, the company is looking to develop a mixed-use project on part of its 560 acres immediately east of the village.
The developer is currently working with regional and township staff on a proposal that would see a mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses on that site. The municipalities had been holding out for only industrial development, but there appears to be some movement on that front.
“Our goal is to have a concept plan and a complete application by December or January,” said Krizsan of the latest compromise.
Plans to build a GO Transit train station on his land bolster the case for mixed-land use, he suggested.
His vision calls for a model community that would see people living within walking distance of their workplaces, shopping and other amenities, providing both environmental and economic benefits. In conjunction with the train, the development would lessen dependence on cars, he added.
At the Smart Centres site, development is a long way off yet, but the company wants to begin the process. Given its experience with the King/86 project at the township’s north end, the company knows it can be a long process. That Wal-Mart-anchored project in St. Jacobs is on tap for some new retailers, including a Dollarama outlet, a Mark’s Work Wearhouse store, a First Choice Haircutters location and an Arby’s restaurant.