Woodstock eyes urban growth boundary changes for housing push

·2 min read

Politicians in Woodstock are reaching out to neighbouring municipalities as they mull boundary adjustments to clear the path for increased home construction.

Mayor Jerry Acchione is set to invite East Zorra-Tavistock and Norwich Township to create a committee from their local politicians amid pressure from the province to keep a 25-year residential land supply.

“When it comes to especially residential land, we absolutely do not have that window,” Acchione said, adding it’s crucial to work with nearby communities on changes to the urban growth boundary.

“I've always been of the opinion, let's be amicable. Let's talk amongst ourselves. Let's talk as neighbours. 'What is going to be good for you? What is going to be good for us?'" he said. “And obviously, there are going to be some financial arrangements that our neighbours are . . . going to enjoy for their tax base for the future.”

Virtually all the vacant land within Woodstock’s boundary that’s slated for residential homes is spoken for. While there are infill opportunities, city staff don’t expect to have a 25-year supply as per the Queen’s Park demand.

“We've done three plans of subdivisions in four and a half months,” Acchione said. “You're looking at 3,000 units designated for the next few years, but any other larger projects than that, we simply don’t have. So, we have to start that discussion now.”

Entering into boundary adjustments does not mean shifting away from the focus on intensification and achieving density goals, Coun. Bernia Wheaton said. “The two go hand in hand.”

Boosting housing supply is required to keep up with the pace of industrial growth in the region, she said, citing the case in St. Thomas, where Volkswagen is building a new electric-vehicle battery manufacturing plant.

“While I recognize that taking land out of agricultural production, it's not the long term, ongoing goal,” Wheaton said. “It is one step that we need to take in order to achieve our housing goals that benefit our rural community and rural employers as well as our urban employers.”

Coun. Mark Schadenberg highlighted infill projects that council approved in recent months while Coun. Deb Tait warned expanding the growth boundary would come with other costs and that “residential does not pay its way.”

“Our roads still are not urbanized out that way, for the amount of traffic we have,” she said. “The roads are in bad condition and other costs associated with residential are quite high.”

Acchione said council is committed to supporting the development of a range of housing options, “so people can choose Woodstock, no matter what their age or stage of life.”

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press