‘Puslinch by Design’: county, township to study employment lands in Puslinch

PUSLINCH – While other municipalities in Wellington County are planning for more housing and possibly expanding their urban boundaries, Puslinch Township hopes to add more industry to its tax base.

Wellington County director of planning Aldo Salis and manager of policy planning Sarah Wilhelm delegated to council on Dec. 20 to explain how the county will be proceeding with its Municipal Comprehensive Review and how that will shake out in Puslinch.

The county is working on setting the scope of work for consultants, who will undertake a review of Pusinch’s Regionally Significant Economic Development Study Area. But because that is a mouthful, the team is calling the project “Puslinch by Design.”

“Puslinch needs new industrial designation,” Wilhelm said as she introduced the study framework.

“It could be a new prestige industrial designation. Now is the time.”

Wilhelm said the county’s goals are that the study will: take a “made in Puslinch” approach; focus on the Highways 401 and 6 corridors; and favour high-quality, sustainable design.

The study, she said, will include discussion around finance, transportation and economic development, and will look at ways to take a phased approach to implementing an overarching vision.

Council had sought to provide input on the scope of the study, as often issues and concerns cannot be addressed once a study is underway.

Councillor Sara Bailey wanted to know how officials can design for a “diverse employment area.”

“How do we diverge from what we have?” she asked, noting currently there are a lot of trucking logistics companies in the industrial zone.

“We will take stock of what’s there, what’s under review and what’s available,” Wilhelm said. “And you can have more than one kind of industrial class.”

A “prestige” industrial zone could stipulate allowing a minimal number of trucks at a site, no truck or equipment storage, and other features that would spell out what businesses are allowed to set up shop there.

“It would roll out through the study how to control land uses,” Salis added.

“Part of that is the market, but we could create an environment that would attract the industries you want. This is achievable through design, policy and zoning.”

The property recently purchased by Jim Estill at Concession 4 and Sideroad 20 is on the study map. Estill wants the township to amend the zoning from agricultural to industrial so he can build an innovation centre.

Councillor Jessica Goyda recalled that Estill had hoped to get an off-ramp from Highway 6 south to serve the property and wanted to know the status of that request.

Mayor James Seeley said it’s his understanding that access would be closed from Highway 6, according to the Ministry of Transportation. So that would leave access from Concession 4 or Sideroad 20 only, which are currently rural roads and not built for truck traffic.

Seeley summarized concerns raised by councillors that they hope to see included in the employment lands study:

  • design around roads; consider roads and agricultural needs;
  • establish design criteria that makes factories and warehouses more attractive to look at;
  • road systems inside industrial parks should be designed so maintenance and snow removal are easier for township staff;
  • include space, like walking trails, for employees to use; and
  • ensure industrial lands are somehow connected with existing land uses.

Seeley also wanted to underscore how important employment lands are to the county and the township.

Not only do they bring jobs, “they reduce the burden to taxpayers,” Seeley said.

“It’s very important to the economy in Wellington County,” Salis agreed. “And down here, it’s proximity to the 401 corridor that makes these attractive locations.”

The county has identified that Puslinch needs another 30 hectares of land in its industrial zones.

The study will determine land use options, a preferred land use concept, and design guidance for the employment lands.

The study is to commence early in 2024 and conclude before year’s end.