County set to seek input on proposed official plan amendment

Land needs assessment projects urban boundary expansion will be needed to facilitate growth

GUELPH – Developments in Wellington County’s ongoing municipal comprehensive review (MCR) process show urban boundary expansion will be necessary in some municipalities to accommodate the latest growth projections.

The county is set to solicit public comment on a new official plan amendment (OPA) impacting growth allocations across the county.

At the Sept. 27 meeting, county council approved a plan to circulate OPA 120 to county departments, member municipalities, Indigenous communities and various commenting agencies and organizations.

Council also directed staff to schedule an open house under the Planning Act to provide the public with opportunities to review and comment on the amendment.

The county is in the midst of a municipal comprehensive review process and the proposed amendment will update the growth forecast for Wellington County and member municipalities to 2051. Previous forecasts only projected as far as 2041.

In 2020, the provincial government approved an amendment to its 2019 growth plan.

The amendment revised population and employment forecasts for all Greater Golden Horseshoe area municipalities, including Wellington County to the year 2051, explains a report from county manager of policy planning Sarah Wilhelm.

The forecasts for Wellington County project a minimum population of 160,000 and employment of 70,000, the report notes.

This represents an increase of over 59,000 people and almost 27,000 jobs over the next 30 years.

The growth plan requires the county to distribute this growth across Wellington.

“The forecasts which are part of this amendment are being used to plan for land needs to support growth through the county’s ongoing MCR,” Wilhelm states in the report.

“The forecasts are also used by the county, member municipalities, school boards and others to plan for infrastructure and servicing to support growth, municipal financing, public services, economic development and tourism, and transportation planning.”

The extended forecast projects a higher percentage of the local population in urban centres by 2051 (66% in 2051 versus 62% in 2041).

And a higher percentage of population growth in Wellington is expected to take place in urban centres (89% in 2051 versus and 82% in 2041).

As part of the MCR, the county is also completing a land needs assessment to determine the:

  • amount of land required to accommodate the provincially-projected growth to 2051;
  • need for any land designated as employment areas to be converted to non-industrial uses;
  • need for any urban settlement area boundary expansions; and
  • quantity of any excess lands.

Councillor Allan Alls, who chairs the county’s planning committee, noted the assessment shows a shortfall within the county of designated urban land required to meet growth targets.

“Only thirty per cent (of the shortfall) can be accommodated within the current urban boundary,” said Alls.

“Which means there will be be expansions of some of the urban settlements boundaries in order to accommodate that other 70 per cent.”

A staff report indicates the county has an overall shortfall of about 677 hectares (1,700 acres) of designated land to meet urban growth forecasts to 2051.

The shortfall is divided into two broad categories: community area land (mainly residential, but also commercial, office and institutional) and employment area land (industrial).

The report indicates the community area land shortfall is approximately 485 ha (1,200 ac) and can partially be addressed by redesignating 195 ha (480 ac) of future development lands in urban settlement areas in Erin, Mapleton, Minto and Wellington North.

The remaining 290 ha (700 ac) community area land shortfall will need to be addressed by expanding urban settlement boundaries in Centre Wellington, Mapleton and Minto.

For employment area lands, the county has an overall shortfall of about 192 ha (475 ac) for growth to 2051 and will need to expand its urban settlement area boundaries in Centre Wellington, Erin and Mapleton.

The report notes the land needs assessment focuses on urban land requirements and “rural residential potential and rural employment lands will be further reviewed as part of the ongoing MCR.”

Council approved the urban land needs assessment final report in principle and directed staff to bring forward a draft official plan amendment to implement the policy recommendations in the report as part of the MCR.