Centre Wellington”™s population projected to top 52,000 in 25 years

Councillor Fred Morris seemed to ask the right question last week as Centre Wellington discussed its growth management plan for the next 25 years.

“Is Centre Wellington prepared to become a small city?” Morris asked at the May 30 meeting.

Growth projections for the township clearly indicate life here will be slightly more crowded over the next  quarter of a century.

According to Centre Wellington’s growth management plan presented to council by Krista Walkey, senior planner with Stantec, the township population is expected to top 52,000 by 2041.

To look at things from a different perspective, the potential population growth would bring Centre Wellington to the same population as the City of Guelph in the mid-1960s. Today Guelph’s population tops 121,000 and could reach 191,000 by 2041.

As council reviewed the background report for Centre Wellington’s growth management strategy, Mayor Kelly Linton said he was excited to see the document.

Linton indicated he considered the strategy “one of the most important things council is doing.”

He said there are many residents interested in finding out how, when and where the township will grow.

“This is the mechanism we will use to take a very positive approach to answering those questions and ensuring the community of the future is one we can be proud of,” said Linton.

Walkey noted she is also a resident of Centre Wellington.

“This is where I live, my kids live and where I hope future generations will live,” she said.

What is the growth

management strategy?

Walkey said the strategy results from a provincial directive from the Places to Grow Act, which recognizes that to accommodate future growth and support economic prosperity in the province, planning must happen in a rational and strategic way.

She said the province sets out policies to direct balanced decisions on growth, community priorities, strengths and opportunities, make efficient use infrastructure and intigrate across natural and municipal boundaries.

Walkey said this involves long-term vision and goals.

In Centre Wellington, the strategy is intended to help council in its planning and development decision making.

It would consider land use planning, infrastructure planning and financial planning.

“This will be a long-term growth outlook … and look at a sustainable infrastructure approach,” Walkey said, adding the intent is to:

– determine a defined growth capacity for the township;

– determine servicing for intensification and growth;

– define the capacity for growth in the Fergus; and

– have effective and sustainable municipal government to implement the plan.

Project schedule

Walkey said consultation began in the spring with stakeholder consultations and the creation of a background report.

The intent is to hold public meetings this June in anticipation of drafting alternate scenarios over the summer, additional consultation in early fall and having a draft and final report for council by the end of 2016.

Background report

Walkey noted Wellington County recent adopted growth forecasts that provide population and employment forecasts to 2041 for both the county and local municipalities.

“The numbers are somewhat significant,” Walkey explained.

“Approximately 50 per cent of the resident population growth for Wellington County is allocated to Centre Wellington.”

She said this means that between now and 2041, Centre Wellington will need to accommodate more than 20,000 additional residents and nearly 11,000 new jobs.

“It is a big number, but it is incremental over time. It is not 20,000 people coming tomorrow …

“In 2041 we are looking at 52,310 people and 22,780 jobs.”

Further breaking the numbers down, Walkey said most of the growth will be in Fergus – where the population will reach roughly 31,600 by 2041 with the Elora/Salem area reaching roughly 13,000.

However, given existing provincial policies and regulations, little of the increased population will be in Centre Wellington’s rural areas.

“We are really looking at intensification and growth within the Fergus/Elora urban areas.”

Walkey said Centre Wellington needs to determine how it can grow differently to provide timely and cost-effective extension of municipal services, support financially affordable growth, optimize existing services and facilities, support the development of sufficient land to meet population and economic objectives, support existing development, and maintain lot and land supply consistent with provincial policies.

Walkey foresees further growth in high-rise style developments.

To achieve provincial targets for housing density, Walkey said Centre Wellington will have to look closely at efficient land development.

She said there needs to be a review of how employment lands are being looked at from single occupancy lands to multi-tenant buildings.

Walkey said the township needs to be aware of development standards, adding, “We still want this to be a great place to live, work and play.”

She noted, “There is still the desire to keep the small-town feel, recognizing the community will be growing to about 50,000 people.”

Walkey said the heritage aspects of Centre Wellington are being recognized.

Some of the comments Walkey has heard thus far include:

– township-owned employment lands, for the most part, are not serviced, nor on good transportation routes;

– there is a lack of 10,000 to 20,000 square foot space in the township.

– existing recreation facilities are already at capacity;

– the desire to retain the small-town feel; and

– new subdivisions should be mixed-use, have a community feel and allow opportunities for commercial use.

In looking at the implications of this growth, Walkey said the township is anticipated to grow to 52,000 over the next 25 years.

“The challenge will be to accommodate this growth in a way that promotes a high quality of life while preserving the natural features and small-town feel of Centre Wellington, including heritage and rural character,” Walkey said.

“Centre Wellington is going to have to change and provide a greater mix of dwelling units in the future.”

Some of that transition has started over the past five years, she noted.

“In order achieve ‘complete communities’ employment opportunities across Centre Wellington, among other factors, are required.”


Linton reminded council this was a background report with no recommendations, and “There will be lots of opportunity for discussion.”

Councillor Fred Morris asked if the current urban boundary of Fergus/Elora is large enough to accommodate this growth.

Walkey responded, “It may not be. We may have to look at urban area expansion … if required. While the overall population and employment numbers are known, it is not known whether existing lands would accommodate that growth – in the current urban area.”

Morris then asked “would you be looking at where the next commercial centres will be located … obviously the current downtown cores will not be able to handle this projected population.”

He asked if new commercial centres would be located throughout the community.

Walkey said the strategy will look at commercial land currently designated and whether is it sufficient.

Morris then said, “We are basically on our way to becoming a small city.” He said 50,000 plus might have been the population of Guelph when he first moved to this area.

“At what point does the community need to reach out and forge partnerships with the upper levels of government to address the financial needs that this kind of growth is going to produce? I am not sure Centre Wellington alone has the resources to pay for all of this.”

Walkey said partnerships could be created at any time. She then pointed to provincial funding the township is getting for work on the St. David Street bridge in Fergus.

“That’s their bridge,” Morris pointed out.

Walkey said part of this process includes a financial plan.

Linton agreed that having the township grow without looking at the financial implications “is not doing us a whole lot of good.” The mayor said the growth strategy will look at the costs associated with infrastructure.

“I would imagine when we look at options, some will differ as a result of potential costs.”

Walkey agreed. “Costing elements will appear in the options.”

Councillor Steve Kitras asked how growth will be accommodated without the land.

CAO Andy Goldie said, “at the end of the day, the province dictates how much growth it wants to see.” He said at this stage, county-wide there is an over-abundance of employment land.

“And that is part of the struggle … we need to look at this … not from a county perspective … but a Centre Wellington one … to determine what we can accommodate and what we cannot.” Goldie expected a back-and-forth with the county and the province on the issue.

Linton said the numbers are a baseline the township has to work with. “We did not choose these numbers, these were the numbers handed to us.”

He said the growth strategy will determine whether those numbers are realistic.

Council received the background report as information.