Concerns about museum lands changing

Nearly 100 people attended a public meeting here on Oct. 19 to hear the proposals for the Wellington Place lands – and their ideas about the proposal appear to be changing.

So have some of the county’s plans since the last meeting in May.

Planner Bernie Hermsen explained the site being considered. The property is generally bounded by Colborne Street (north), the Elora Cataract Trail (northeast), Beatty Line (east), Trestle Bridge Trail (south) and the Grand River (southwest).

The total property is approximately 235 acres, including the existing county facilities and open space at Wellington Place

The lands contain the county museum and archives, county library headquarters, a new OPP station and Wellington Terrace Home for the aged. The site will also be home to a new hospital that will use 34 acres.

The official plan amendment would recognize institutional and medical uses and that land is currently being used for agriculture. The rest of the land would be recognized as special policy area and for institutional uses.

Hermsen said 45 per cent of the lands would remain open space and natural area. There would be a commons area of six acres in the middle of the property and a possible helicopter landing area on the hospital lands, perhaps to the northeast of that part of the property.

Hermsen said the goal is to preserve the cultural heritage of the area, including the museum and cemetery that was used for those living in the former County Poor House.

He added the trails would also be protected. There are several running through the property, including the Elora to Cataract Trail to the north, and the Trestle Bridge Trail running over the Grand River and northeast into Fergus.

He said a museum trail could also connect to those, and others designed on the lands, with enhanced views.

Hermsen said there is the possibility of a satellite campus, possibly for nursing, and also it is possible to place student housing on the lands, as well as a large project for township economic development. The lands to the east of the museum could also be used for social housing, such as special needs or seniors housing. It is the county mandate to provide social housing.

Residents heard that the county has dropped its plan for an entrance to the hospital grounds by extending Garafraxa Street.

Many residents had stated their opposition to that proposal at a previous public meeting. Some were neighbours living in the area, and others were concerned about another road crossing the Elora to Cataract Trail again. The county had already built one service road off Colborne Street across the trail, against much opposition.

Instead, the hospital entrance will come off Beatty Line, in between the current trails on the property.

Hermsen also noted there is enough land on the property of the seniors’ home to double the size of Wellington Terrace if and when the demand warrants that.

Several residents who live in the old golf course subdivision across County Road 18 have concerns about water and sewage. One member of the audience said when services came to the museum a few years ago, that area’s water changed, and not for the better.

That subdivision is one of about a dozen fringe areas that were built abutting Fergus and Elora well before amalgamation. Those developments have no municipal water or sewage, and, in most cases, no sidewalks or catch basins, or any other amenities that most municipalities insist today that developers must provide.

Elora resident Toni Ellis told the meeting she hopes anything dealing with the trail system receives maximum protection in the plan.

She pointed out that six acres for a Commons is not even the regular five per cent given by developers for parks.

Hermsen said that size is normal and adequate. He noted the University of Toronto campus has 5.2 acres, and Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, well known as a “people place” has 6.7 acres.

He said 107 acres of the project areas will also remain green space.

Ian Rankine read a lengthy critique of the proposal, and charged that the county is not following the provincial policy statement for the protection of cultural and heritage lands.

He also said, “The county is making decision for Centre Wellington and our officials are silent.”

He charged the proposed campus would impact taxes in the township and the county, and that the official plan amendment being considered will “reduce to a remnant the rural landscape.

Citizens also had concerns about when Garafraxa Street will be repaired. The west end of that street, which contains old rail crossings, is one of the worst stretches of roads in Fergus, if not the township.

They heard that once the hospital is built, that road will have to receive an upgrade because it is one of the roads leading to the hospital entrance on Beatty Line. The upgrade for Garafraxa would take place between Maiden Lane and Beatty Line. There is no water and sewer on that stretch of road right now, and it would be done and the road upgraded before the hospital is built. Those services would go in before the road is rebuilt.

Groves Hospital chief executive officer Jerome Quenneville told the audience that if all goes well, work could commence at the hospital in 2014 or 2015.

Another resident wondered if the county would consider having some housing near the hospital for people who are visiting sick children and want to stay nearby over night.

The results of the meeting will now return to the county planning committee for further refinements.