Township approves land purchase for new business park in Fergus

ELORA – The first ever Centre Wellington Business Park is on track for Fergus.

On Jan. 27, township council approved the purchase of 6518 1st Line in Fergus, owned by Brian Ausman and Christine Stec.

The land, located beside the current industrial area in the north east corner of Fergus, is also known as Dickson Drive Site 1.

The township purchased the 58 acres of land for $2,233,200.

With fees and commissions, the total cost is $2,347,200.

“We’ve been working on this file for several years and through our economic development action committee as well as our economic development action plan that we had prepared. This is one of our top priorities,” said CAO Andy Goldie.

“We are nearly out of … employment land currently, so it does put us in an awkward position of not being able to encourage and allow businesses to expand or come to Centre Wellington.”

The goal is to service the property by 2022, but begin selling parcels by late 2021.

Currently, Centre Wellington has one parcel of employment land left to sell at the Fergus Industrial Park on Gregson Court.

“Between 2016 and 2041 Centre Wellington’s employment base is forecasted to grow by an additional 11,000 jobs, so we know that we need to do something,” councillor Steven VanLeeuwen said at the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Mayor’s Breakfast in Elora on Jan. 29.

“We need to be active and we need to be leaders in this direction. So we need this land and we need to move forward.”

The township wants to help balance growth between residential and employment lands.

“It provides a live/work opportunity for the township,” VanLeeuwen said, “which allows people to bike to work or walk on the trails.”

It also generates local tax revenue and reduces the dependency on residential taxes.

“If we don’t create jobs, we don’t have business in this local economy and in the tax revenues, the residential taxpayers pay for everything,” VanLeeuwen explained.

“This is very important because we want to have an affordable place to live as well.”

VanLeeuwen explained the township seeking employment lands to service and sell is different from a private developer.

“A private developer, just like every other business person in this room, would like to see some funds at the end, and rightly so,” VanLeeuwen said.

“For us though, for the community, we can also look at it a little bit differently.

“We can add to our win chart, not necessarily funds but local jobs, cash goes to the market.”

He also pointed out that having ongoing employment opportunities in Centre Wellington also means the volunteer fire department remains viable.

The firefighters need to work in Centre Wellington because they have to respond to calls within a certain amount of time.

“If we didn’t have that local economy we wouldn’t have a volunteer fire department,” VanLeeuwen said.

“The ability to have local jobs also saves this municipality a lot of funds and a lot of costs and we get an incredible fire department for a very affordable fee.

“We really appreciate the local fire department.”

Lot sizes in the new business park will vary.

“We want to make sure this is not an industrial park where we make a whole bunch of manufacturing lots and that’s all we have,” VanLeeuwen said.

“We know that we have different industries with different employment skills in this community.

“We want it to be flexible; different lot sizes; we’re going to be looking at light, medium, heavy manufacturing, office space, agri-food, automotive, some commercial, institutional, we really want to make this into a good business park.”

Van Leeuwen, who chaired the Jan. 27 meeting for Mayor Kelly Linton (he was hospitalized at the time due to a bacterial infection), asked for a recorded vote on the land purchase.

Council unanimously passed the resolution authorizing staff to purchase the land.

The township will borrow from Infrastructure Ontario with some economic development funds from OLG revenues and eventual employment land revenues going towards debt repayment.

Once the first phase is complete and the plots are sold, those revenues will be used to develop the rest of the lands.

“The overall intent is to break even over the long term (on) employment land related initiatives,” the report to council states.