A wrinkle has appeared in South Dundas’ ongoing project to expand the Morrisburg’s commercial business park.
South Dundas council decided that offering more readily accessible commercial land in the Morrisburg Industrial Park was a priority, so this summer they broke ground on a project that has been in the works for several years.
The $535,000 road extension to extend roadway 500 metres north and 400 metres east to complete a loop to Prospect Road is underway and will make available municipally-owned commercial properties, located on the west and north sides of the new road.
“When South Dundas decided on constructing the road it was with the understanding that the wetland was not a current issue but may impact us down the road,” said South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds. “However, now it may become an issue sooner.”
Local councils and municipal officials have known for many years that the Provincial Government (MNR) had intended to designate part of South Dundas’ holdings of municipal land in the Morrisburg industrial park as a provincially-significant wetland, but a loop-hole meant that the designation had not been made officially thus leaving open one last opportunity for the municipality to open up access to the lands, allowing them to be properly marketed for economic growth.
“South Dundas is still allowed to do what we want, within reason, in the area,” said Byvelds.
That is why South Dundas undertook the study of the area and moved forward with the road project.
“None of the roadway and adjacent lands are in the wetland but they are within the 120 meter buffer area. One can develop that area with a study that proves the proposed development does not impact the wetland.”
In advance of this project, South Dundas and the United Counties had agreed that any employment lands that would eventually be lost to the PSW designation, would be shifted west of Morrisburg, through an expanded settlement area designation.
SDG is the planning authority for the region, by virtue of the Official Plan. A recent report to Counties Council revealed that, the province will not agree with the compromise.
“When this was put to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, they said we needed to do a study to determine what the future needs were and what was available to justify the proposal,” explained Byvelds. “The study indicated that there is enough vacant land throughout SDG to accommodate any growth for the next 20 years and as such, MMAH were not going to allow any expansion unless vacant land was traded off to do so.”
A trade off could mean that South Dundas loses potential employment lands completely, if the trade off is for land in another municipality within SDG.
South Stormont council is pushing the issue by passing a resolution supporting a proposed 260 hectare planning expansion of employment lands in South Stormont.
If approved by counties council, South Dundas would lose 160 hectares of potential employment lands and the other 100 hectares would come from other, much smaller vacant land parcels from all the other municipalities in SDG.
Counties council has made no decision on the matter, but it is expected that South Stormont will continue to push the issue.
“I acknowledge that some of the Morrisburg employment lands are wetland, however, I want to make sure the line is in the right place,” said Byvelds. The lines already exist on a map, and Byvelds is of the opinion that the designation extends too far to the south.
If the lines were a little further north, it would move the buffer area away from the commercial properties South Dundas will market for commercial growth.
Byvelds would like to see some of the vacant land being lost in South Dundas move to another area of South Dundas.
“I want to protect what we have and what we may be able to use in the future,” said Byvelds. “I am willing to work with our partners at SDG but it needs to be fair to South Dundas and all the townships.”
South Dundas and Counties staff will meet soon to determine a course of action.
“If it looks like things are changing, I would recommend South Dundas hires a firm to study the area and delineate the boundaries,” said Byvelds. “I strongly feel that there are less lands in the proposed wetland and it will be up to South Dundas to prove it, not MNR. I know this does not sound right but it is the way it is for now.”