By Chris Pickup

“Empire Homes is now the norm” (for housing in the county), Mike Evers, Haldimand County’s Manager of Planning and Development told councillors last Wednesday. “One acre lots?  … that ship has sailed and long gone.”

The province is riding municipalities hard on housing density and Haldimand’s overall density is barely half of what the province has mandated for the future.

The province’s 2017 growth plan requires municipalities to plan for 80 persons per hectare and 60 percent intensification within urban areas. This county is currently at 46 persons/32 percent, and the county will need to obtain approval for lower densities.

Densities in Empire have allowed more flex in smaller communities like Jarvis, Evers added.

The province has required all municipalities to plan for a 20 year land supply using provincially mandated processes, population, projections and density assumptions, according to Evers’ Growth Management Strategy report.

The province projected Haldimand’s 2041 population at 64,000, estimated 2017 population at 47,500 and additional population to plan for as 16,500.

The 2041 provincial employment projection is for 25,000 jobs, estimated 2017 jobs was 20,000, leaving 5000 additional jobs to plan for.

The presentation was barely into its first page before councillors were asking questions.

“There’s a bit of a disconnect between the projection by the province and what we’re seeing,” remarked mayor Hewitt. “It’s not lining up.

“The GTA is being forced to grow upwards and we’ll get developers looking at areas like ours.”

“There’s a 10% disconnect between housing and employment,” councillor Bartlett commented. “We already have social issues.”

The report noted current land use designations and supply are a legacy of decisions made 30 years ago, and they are not tied to servicing or demand. 

As a result the county has a significant surplus of designated urban lands, and the shape and location of some land supply doesn’t align with servicing capabilities. 

Nanticoke is also skewing figures as the number one base of employment in the county. Lake Erie industrial land is out of our control, Evers said. “We’re focusing on other forms of employment growth.”

“Continued existence of excess lands will present challenges moving forward with the province,” he added.

A preliminary survey of the county’s urban areas was outlined as a basis for moving forward with a detailed workplan to create justification with the province for boundary changes in specific urban areas.

Caledonia needs more of both residential and employment land.

Employment land interest is growing, Evers said, which aligns with the county’s economic development strategy of a new business park.  

The urban expansion study area is the north west quadrant which will need extension of services. The town also has constraints with floodplain and natural areas, as well as undermining. Additional wastewater capacity will be required, and staff recommended a new waste water treatment plant at a cost of $45 million, would make the most long-term sense.

Cayuga has uncertain demand. Significant residential lands remain available and supply for future projects is not constrained. It is a candidate for urban boundary compression, with removal of unserviced employment land as there is no demand for it. 

Hagersville is recommended to maintain its existing urban boundary. 73 hectares of agricultural designation in the urban boundary is to remain unchanged. Adequate residential lands are available. Hagersville is presently constrained by the LaFarge quarry.

Dunnville is an area with limited demand. The majority of available residential lands are under construction or under application. Frank Marshall Business Park stands virtually empty with no interest in sight. The county will look at possibly designating some of it as residential.

A large amount of Dunnville’s undeveloped land is constrained by floodplain or is GRCA regulated and should be taken out of the equation, making it a candidate for urban boundary compression.

Jarvis’ current land supply is in excess of demand and servicing ability. Additional wastewater treatment capacity is needed. Land reductions are suggested to align with sewage treatment capabilities. One possible solution is to take untapped wastewater treatment from Townsend to service Jarvis.

Townsend has very little historical demand, and as the majority of designated residential lands are owned by the province, it is a must for compression.

“Townsend is a big albatross” mayor Hewitt commented. “The province won’t release the land.”

Bartlett agreed. “Developers have enquired about Townsend. It’s constrained by the province and we have no control.

”Jarvis is always sitting on the edge of capacity and we’re restricted by that. So why are you compressing Jarvis urban boundary? We’re starting to grow again. It’s sacrificing one community for another.”

Corbett questioned whether the county is being proactive or reactive. “Growth in Caledonia … costs are astronomical.”

It’s a mathematical exercise, but we’re also looking at where the interest is, Evers said.

Hewitt concurred. “We can’t force growth to go where it doesn’t want to go. We have to recognize where growth wants to be.”

Grice was unhappy about Caledonia.  “Don’t expand the boundary”, he said. “Build out and take a breath. Residents don’t want expansion.”

Craig Manley noted “By law, we have to take our share of growth. There’s a whole bunch of work required to see whether it makes sense. There are environmental implications.

“At this stage it makes sense avoiding costly investments. It’s just the beginning of the conversation. We need to take the time to do it right.”

“Background work is going to guide what happens,” Karen General added. “There are many, many studies to be done.”