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Developer seeks boundary expansion in Waterford

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A long-term vision for the future of Waterford was unveiled on Nov. 5, one that includes as many as 1,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

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Tom O’Hara, co-owner of The Villages of Waterford subdivision in the north end of town, says demand for the new homes has been surprisingly strong.

O’Hara told Norfolk council that as many as 60 homes could be built and sold in the current phase by this time next year. Twenty years from now, O’Hara said as many as 1,000 more units could be built and sold on 158 acres of vacant land between the north end of Waterford and Townsend Road 7.

For this to happen, O’Hara needs an expansion of the urban boundary on the west side of Old Highway 24. And for that to happen, O’Hara will need Norfolk council’s support.

O’Hara shared his plan because the studies needed to support a boundary adjustment could cost as much as $50,000. O’Hara wanted to see council’s reaction. As it happens, there were no immediate objections.

“We’ll go to the next level,” O’Hara said afterward. “We’ll include planning staff and public works and any NGOs (non-governmental organizations) we should consult to ensure we have a comprehensive plan; so we can bring an informed position back to council.”

The Villages of Waterford may have its work cut out for it.

Recent governments at Queen’s Park have made urban boundary expansions more difficult to obtain. The goal is to encourage infilling, densification and the efficient use of existing infrastructure while limiting sprawl and the loss of agricultural land.

The former Town of Simcoe ran into these obstacles more than 20 years ago when it explored extending the eastern boundary of Simcoe to Blue Line Road.

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In recent years, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has reminded Norfolk council of these priorities during discussions of the county’s official plan and the potential expansion of urban and hamlet boundaries.

What’s changed is the election of the Ford government last year with its pro-business, pro-investment, anti-red tape agenda. A shortage of affordable housing in Ontario has also been identified. To that end, O’Hara is prepared to devote a significant percentage of new development to family-friendly homes at a modest price.

Construction of The Villages of Waterford subdivision now underway is occurring in the area of the former Hare farm in the north end of town.

If Norfolk County obtains a boundary adjustment on the developer’s behalf, Phase I of the new development would occur immediately west of it while Phases II, III, IV and V would proceed north to Townsend Road 7.

In his presentation, O’Hara said his vision fully realized by 2040 would generate about $320 million in local spending while adding about $4 million a year in tax revenue to county coffers.

The population of Waterford – currently 3,150 – would increase significantly. Walking and cycling paths heading south, O’Hara said, would encourage investment and revitalization of the downtown.

Home options include smaller, two-storey houses with secondary suites, row housing with or without secondary suites, low-rise condominiums, low-rise rental units, and post-secondary housing units depending on the future needs of Fanshawe College in Simcoe.

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If a boundary expansion is approved, O’Hara says construction in the new phases could begin as early as 2024 and last through 2040

Jason Godby, Norfolk’s interim general manager of public works, was told to stay on top of the development’s water and sewage demands to ensure Waterford’s infrastructure has the capacity to handle it.

Construction of the 154-unit Villages subdivision now underway was delayed several years for this reason. This aspect of the Villages was approved in 2013 but the former Norfolk council was forced to impose a moratorium on new construction in Waterford for several years while it arranged an expansion of the town’s sewage-treatment plant.

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