Economic development committee says township running out of commercial land

Within mere months of Wellington North council choosing to re­zone and sell off a 76-acre property to Avila Investments Ltd., the township’s economic development committee is suggesting the township is running out of municipally owned in­dustrial and commercial land.

In the minutes of the May 20 economic development com­mittee, members indicated the municipally-owned inventory of such land is getting low and needs to be addressed. Ear­lier this year, council began the pro­cess of rezoning the Mur­phy lands (76 acres) at the south end of Mount Forest from industrial to mixed residential and commercial uses.

The change was needed as a condition of sale to the pro­spective developer. Avila is proposing to develop the land with various types of housing and commercial uses. That re­zoning is still awaiting final approval from Wellington Coun­ty.

The history of the property has seen it rezoned from agricultural, to residential, to industrial – each time to meet the needs of prospective buyers.

When the sale is finalized, the municipally-owned inventory of industrial land will drop to about seven acres.

The economic development committee report included a notation of the township’s 2005 resolution stating proceeds from township land sales should be placed into a reserve to purchase more land.

When the Murphy land sale is finalized, the committee said money would be available to buy more land. Committee member Jim Taylor volunteered to be the committee champion for land development. However, a lack of municipally-owned industrial and commercial land does not mean the township as a whole is running out of such properties.

A public meeting was held in April to consider if the township had sufficient commercial and industrial lands to justify the rezoning of the Murphy lands. The study examined industrial, commercial, and residential land needs, both current and projected for the next 25 years.

At that meeting, Wellington County planning director Gary Cousins explained the farm property was first bought by Mount Forest in 1998 for economic development. In 2000, the lands were designated and rezoned for industrial use to accommodate a prospective auto parts plant. At the time, the municipality had no other large industrial sites it could offer the industry.

He explained the most re­cent study was to determine if that zoning was still needed.

In 2008, the township un­der­took an annexation of 196 acres in the northeast part of Mount Forest. That property is now designated and zoned for industrial uses.

Therefore, Cousins said, “the township has a substantial block of industrial land in the northeast and the township does not need the land.”

As it stands, there is still a substantial block of land designated for industrial and commercial growth – it just is not owned by the municipality.