Minto seeking clarity around boundaries from official plan review

MINTO – Council here wants to see clear policies around urban boundary expansion emerge from an ongoing review of the County of Wellington Official Plan.

Following a report from Triton Engineering planning consultant Bill White at the July 13 meeting, council approved a motion offering the following comments for county consideration:

– that Minto urban area mapping be updated to reflect changes approved by the county in recent official plan amendments;

– clear polices come forward from the comprehensive review around urban boundary expansions up to 40 hectares and where there is no net increase in land supply to encourage flexibility, reduce boundary rigidity and to increase land development opportunity;

– policies be provided to allow minor rounding out and infilling in rural settlements such as Drew, Teviotdale and other small housing or commercial clusters;

– policy be included to allow urban areas to be easily expanded where population and employment targets are exceeded, including re-allocation of surplus growth from municipalities not meeting targets; and

– that the county continues to use a technical engagement committee during the remainder of the comprehensive review process.

White noted Minto has identified several issues for consideration in the review.

“In short, they are community economic development, urban boundary expansion infrastructure funding and planning, surface water flooding and affordability of housing,” said White.

Achieving housing affordability will be challenging, given growth forecasts for the region, White pointed out.

“Just keep in mind that Wellington County itself is going from ninth in the Golden Horseshoe, in terms of growth, to third. So the province is focusing a lot of growth on the county over the next 30 years, and we’re talking about to 2051,” he explained.

White told council Minto is “lucky enough” to have been so far allocated “its fair share” of projected growth.

“They’re imagining Clifford going from 900 to roughly 1,400 people, and Harrison from 2,200 to 3,500, and Palmerston almost doubling from 2,900 to 6,100 and the rural population growing by 1,000. So Minto is projected to grow … to over 15,000 people,” said White.

“That’s a fairly sizable growth that’s about … 1.5 per cent per year,” he added.

White, a former Minto CAO, said the amount of new housing required  to match that population growth is around 63 units per year.

“When I was working for the town, we’ve got up to around 50 or so. I haven’t looked at your last year or two statistics, but I’m gathering they’re higher than that. But, 63 units a year would be very good years for Minto. And the idea is that would be sustained primarily in the urban areas,” he explained.

While noting most of the growth in the projections is targeted to urban areas with municipal water and sewage systems, White said growth is projected to decline in rural areas.

“In terms of preserving agriculture and so forth, I think that’s important,” he observed. “But little settlement areas that are in rural locations, I think they’re going to be a lot tighter as far as any infilling or rounding out in those areas,” he added, suggesting Minto should pay close attention to plans as they involve small rural settlements.

“We need to keep a careful eye on this growth. I think it’s healthy in terms of residential. But if things start happening at a higher rate, then that is when … we may need a bigger urban area to grow it. And so part of this will be about making sure that there’s more flexibility in this process, to expand urban boundaries if need be,” he explained.

White said rural areas such as Teviotdale, Drew or Greenbush “should be allowed to round out and infill. That’s specifically allowed in provincial policy. And I’m not sure how that’s going to materialize in the county’s official plan.”

Councillor Ron Elliott asked if Minto had the water and sewage capacity to handle projected growth.

“Overall, I think the county will say to you that, in terms of Minto’s municipal water and sewer, it’s good and you can meet your targets and that will not be a reason to restrict growth,” White replied

Noting the province has been working on loosening restrictions around development, Mayor George Bridge commented, “I would hate the county to bring restrictions and rules in.

“I don’t want to slam planners … but they tend to want to put rules into things,” he added.

“I think there’s great opportunities and the county is doing two things, they’re doing this official plan, and trying to do that and work with the new province rules. At the same time we’ve got an attainable housing strategy going and trying to get that going as well. So we know we’re going to issues coming forward and I think those two have to be tied in,” Bridge stated.

The motion to forward the comments outlined in the report to Wellington County was approved unopposed.

North Wellington Community News