Township gives conditional support to Eden Mills land severance plan

BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa has provided a conditional endorsement for the creation of three new land lots in Eden Mills, as part of a plan to preserve a 37-acre natural area for public use.

At its Jan. 13 meeting, council went against the recommendations of Wellington County planner Meagan Ferris, who said she is obliged to recommend a deferral, pending completion of an ongoing Environmental Impact Study (EIS).

In August 2018, a group of Eden Mills residents purchased the land that included Camp Edgewood from the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The church had operated the camp since 1944.

The new owners want to divide the land to create two individual lots (which have existing houses), a third lot with the camp buildings, and a large retained parcel that has a walking trail and pond that would remain open to the public.

The sale of the residential lots would help the owners recoup the cost of the larger land purchase. They want to ensure no substantial housing development takes place in the area. The future use of the former camp lot has not been decided.

The plan is to protect the retained parcel as a natural area for future generations by putting it under the control of the RARE Charitable Research Reserve, an urban land trust and environmental institute in Waterloo Region and Wellington County.

Approval from the county land division committee is required, and the township is invited to make comments that could affect its decision.

At the urging of Mayor Chris White, council voted to support the application, subject to a list of conditions, including completion of the EIS with no substantial problems found.

White said he did not want to unnecessarily delay the approval process by requiring the land division issue to come back to council again.

The matter will still have to come to council for a future zoning change.

“It’s an incredible community benefit, at no cost to us,” said White.

As part of an arrangement negotiated with public works manager Harry Niemi, the township has been given ownership of two blocks of land needed for short extensions of Park Street and Memorial Street.

These would provide proper frontage for the two new residential lots and enable the creation of turnaround areas for snow plows. The township would pay for the base of the road extensions and the owner would pay for asphalt paving.

Located at the junction of the Blue Springs Creek and Eramosa River, the property includes land that is regulated as environmentally protected under the Grand River Conservation Authority.

To keep the trails and wetlands open to the community, the purchasing group got approval from the Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association (EMERCA), formerly the Eden Mills Millpond Conservation Association, to lease the environmentally-protected land and provide liability insurance under its umbrella.