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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex considering Official Plan and Zoning By-Law amendment for future sports fields

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

On Monday evening, Essex Council hosted a statutory special meeting regarding a Site-Specific Official Plan and Zoning Amendment proposed for the Essex Sports Field lands.

  The meeting was meant to inform Council and gather feedback from members of the public, before the matter will be brought back for an official decision at the February 5, 2024 meeting. At that time, Council can approve, defer, or deny the matter.

  If approved at the February 5 Meeting, the Official Plan Amendment will be submitted to the County of Essex for its decision, as it is also an approval authority.

  If there are no appeals after that point, the Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Amendment will be final and binding.

  Rita Jabbour, Manager of Planning Services for the Town of Essex, noted the Town of Essex purchased the subject lands – 66-acres, located at the intersection of North Malden and Batten Side Road on the southwest-side of Highway 3 – to develop a large-scale sports complex.

  The Town, she added, is interested in public private partnerships through lease or land sale to finance the development. Private entities would build facilities complementary to the recreational services provided by the Town, Jabbour added.

  These lands are located outside the Essex Centre Primary Settlement Area, where the Town is able to direct all of its residential, commercial, and industrial growth and development, in addition to land uses – like recreation – which help to support development and land use activity.

  Existing County of Essex and Town of Essex Official Plan Land Use Designations for the future sports fields is Agricultural, which pertains to agricultural uses and development, Jabbour explained, adding Essex’s Zoning By-Law categorizes the land as Agricultural District 1.1 (A1.1), permitting all types of agricultural uses.

  Jabbour noted the subject land does not have onsite natural heritage features, or within 120m. It is also not located in an ERCA regulated area, or in a highly vulnerable aquifer or significant groundwater recharge area.

  The land is located within 400m of a sewage treatment facility. Jabbour noted the Town’s Official Plan states development – like residential subdivisions – are not permitted within 400m of a sewage lagoon, unless there are certain engineering studies done to ensure there would be no negative impacts to anyone who would reside there.

  The Town has had an opportunity to speak with the Ministry of Environment, which Jabbour said considered the impact from the Essex Sewage Lagoons to be minimal and would look to Essex to ask for any engineering studies if development is ever proposed.

  There is a municipal water connection available, but not sanitary or stormwater connections.

Because the Town of Essex owns this land, Jabbour noted there are special provisions built into the Official Plan and the Zoning By-Law respecting uses. It states that the Town of Essex is permitted to use any lot, in any zoning district, for any municipal use, subject to meeting building regulations.

  Proposed Amendments to County and Town of Essex Official Plan is required to incorporate lands into Essex Centre Primary Settlement Area, in addition an amendment to Town of Essex Official Plan is required to re-designate Lands from “Agricultural” to “Parks and Open Space,” which would allow for recreational types of uses.

  In addition, amendments to Town of Essex Zoning Bylaw 1037 are required to incorporate lands into Essex Centre Primary Settlement Area, and an amendment to Town of Essex Zoning By-Law is required to re-designate Lands from Agricultural District 1.1 to new Green District 1.6, for major public and private recreational uses.

  The Town created the new Green District 1.6 for this site to permit recreational facilities, commercial outdoor recreational facilities, fairgrounds, greenways, public parks, and outdoor markets and temporary outdoor vendor markets.

  The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) requires Settlement Areas to focus on growth and development, Jabbour explained. Expansion of those boundaries should only be permitted at the time of a comprehensive review, undertaken by the County and Town every five-years to determine if more lands are needed in the Primary Settlement Area.

  The Town and County are currently undergoing that review.

  Jabbour added the proposed amendment will include a variety of recreational uses, to add to the deficient supply of recreational lands, be accessible to vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, and Essex and County residents – this is especially true since the Highway 3 expansion is completed in that area – and include public and private recreational uses.

  She noted information about this change was circulated to all property owners within a 120m radius of the lands, and posted in local newspapers. No formal comments were received from the public as of Thursday January 11, 2024.

  The Ministry of Transportation did note the subject land is located within the MTO permit control area, and pre consultation, review, and permits are required prior to any development of the site. Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) had no objection, but did request to be included in future circulation for Site Plan Control applications for stormwater management review.

  Ron McGuire spoke to the matter as a delegate. He noted he endorsed the plan, as someone who has been involved with travel and recreational sports for many years.

  McGuire spoke of the importance of branding, and recommended a brand to be considered in expansion for recreational facilities be “Welcome to Essex.”

  Glen Mills of the Essex County Ravens spoke of why it has taken two-and-a-half years to get to this point. He said he is in support of some type of complex. He noted Essex is growing, and local sports facilities are not adequate in regards to kids.

  The Town has one shot to get it right. He suggested Council go back and ask administration what is desired to be developed there.

  Essex Council received the presentation from administration and the delegates.


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