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Density increases could change face of Centre Wellington

Illustrating the possible impact of proposed density and in-fill development targets for Centre Wellington.

Density increases could change face of Centre Wellington

by Mike Robinson

ELORA - Centre Wellington councillors are concerned upgraded density policies proposed by the province could wipe out the small-town feel of the township.

Director of planning Brett Salmon’s told council on Sept. 19 the Greater Golden Horseshoe is expected to have 6.3 million jobs and another four million people over the next 25 years.

There are four provincial plans under review, include those covering the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Greenbelt Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

“Only the plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe affects Centre Wellington ... but there are parts of Wellington County in the Greenbelt,” said Salmon.

The province released proposed changes to the four land use plans in May and is accepting feedback on the proposed changes until Oct. 31.

Salmon said his primary concern is about proposed increases to intensification targets and greenfield density targets, which are important to Centre Wellington as it will receive the largest share of the growth proposed for Wellington County.

Achieving the intensification and density results will be complicated for Centre Wellington and many small towns in rural Ontario, he said.

Salmon explained the issue is the built-boundary and the greenfield (currently undeveloped) areas required to meet intensification and density requirements.

Those areas are based on 2006 mapping and since that time there has been significant growth within Centre Wellington. The built boundary is limited to the Fergus and Elora-Salem areas, which were developed as of June 2006.

The designated greenfield area is defined as the area between the built up area and the urban boundary, as mapped in 2006.

Currently the density target for greenfield areas in Wellington County is 40 people and jobs (units) per hectare. Proposed changes would double the target to 80 units per hectare.

To accommodate the new targets Salmon said new subdivisions and in-fill developments require significantly more townhouse and apartment dwellings and fewer single detached dwellings.

Salmon noted a significant portion of residential land designated as greenfield is already committed at densities needed to support 40 people and jobs per hectare.

He estimated that to meet the new requirement in the mapped out greenfield area, “accounting for existing development you would need numbers of 120 or 130 units per hectare to achieve that.”

In addition to proposed density increases, new provincial goals include upping intensification targets in existing built-up areas (as of 2006) which are proposed to increase from 40 to 60%.

The current County of Wellington target is 20%.

“Therefore the new proposed target is a tripling of required intensification levels,” said Salmon.

He noted that in 2015, the first year the intensification target took effect, Centre Wellington just met the 20% threshold.

“Achieving 60% intensification will be very difficult and will require a transformation in our built form,” said Salmon.

In addition, Salmon said there will be financial impacts for new infrastructure to accommodate increased growth. He anticipated intensification could negatively impact stable residential neighbourhoods and heritage character neighbourhoods within the built up area.

Salmon said “as a planner in a small municipality, we find it difficult to imagine how to accommodate that amount of density in our new developments.”

He added the township’s employment lands are not developed to a high density.

“We don’t have office parks or office towers, so if we want to make up levels to reach these targets, it will be the residential units which will have to go up substantially.”

Salmon believes it is important for the township to officially comment on the density and intensification targets.

CAO Andy Goldie said during the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, these concerns were relayed to the province.

Councillor Fred Morris asked how the municipality is expected to meet targets on currently unserviced land.

“Is the province going to allow us to go back to developing on septic systems and private wells?”

Morris said it is a major cost to install the infrastructure to accommodate this type of growth.

“There’s a lot of money at stake ... and where is it going to come from?”

Salmon said the province expects growth will be in fully-serviced settlement areas, noting, “You couldn’t achieve this density on unserviced land.”

Salmon said the priority of servicing the land at the south end of Fergus is something the growth strategy plan will need to address.

Councillor Mary Lloyd said Centre Wellington does not have a transit system and the proposed density targets are in the furthest areas from the urban downtown areas, which encourages more cars and more traffic.

Mayor Kelly Linton stated one of the things this shows more than ever before is that the province is getting very active in planning issues.

“We face some significant challenges as to what we can do as a municipality to retain our small-town feel,” said Linton, adding people move to Centre Wellington for its atmosphere and way of life.

“They don’t want an extension of what you see in the GTA ... there is nothing wrong with the GTA, it’s just not what we are about.”

Linton said Centre Wellington is having difficulty achieving its current density targets.

“When they talk about doubling or tripling those targets ... think of what that is going to look like in our town,” said Linton.

He noted that on one hand the province is asking municipalities to protect the trees, but at the same time pack as many people as possible within that space.

He stressed this is not just a Centre Wellington issue.

Linton said it is challenging to aim for smart, balanced growth, yet also meet provincial requirements.

“This will really make it difficult to maintain our quality of life,” he said.

Councillor Stephen Kitras said “we as a council need to speak very strongly on this.”

He considered the provincial proposal “about making a homogeneous community wherever you go - it will all be the same.

“That is not what small towns are about,” Kitras stressed.

He said he could literally see some areas being required to build skyscrapers to meet the targets.

Councillor Don Fisher stated “if these goes through even closely to what (the province) is suggesting, it really is a fatal threat to the small-town feel.”

“And once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

Morris said “it is unfortunate that the people in Toronto who make these ideas up, and present these policies ... don’t get out more.”

September 23, 2016

 
 

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