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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex proposing amendments to the Official Plan, Zoning Bylaw for future Essex Sports Fields

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

A special Council meeting will take place on January 15, 2024 to receive public comments on proposed amendments to the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw in regards to the 66-acres of land located on the corner of North Malden Road and Batten Sideroad that will be the future Essex Sports Fields.

The Report to Council notes the Town of Essex acquired these lands for the purpose of developing a large-scale sports complex. The complex is intended to serve the recreational needs of the Town and region and will include an array of various recreational uses, such as soccer and baseball fields with washrooms, concession stands, play equipment, walking trails, and parking.

“To assist in financing the development, the Town is interested in parceling portions of the land to private individuals in support of a Public Private Partnership to build the facilities complementary to the active recreational service provided by the Town,” the Report to Council notes.

To facilitate the development, the Report to Council adds, the proposed amendments to the Official Plan are required to incorporate the lands into the Essex Centre Primary Settlement Area and redesignate the lands from “Agricultural” to “Parks and Open Space” in the Town of Essex Official Plan.

It adds that amendments to the Zoning Bylaw, Bylaw 1037, are also required to establish a zoning category, which permits recreational uses as permitted uses for the subject lands.

These lands are currently designated as “Agricultural” in the County of Essex Official Plan and Town of Essex Official Plan. Agricultural District 1.1. (A1.1). This zoning permits general agriculture and farm production support activities, the Report to Council notes.

Council approved holding this meeting during the regular meeting on Monday evening, which is required to be held prior to the adoption of the proposed amendments, to obtain comments from the public and agencies.

Lori Chadwick, Director of Planning Services, said it is an appropriate time to present these two amendments as the Town of Essex and the County of Essex are both looking to adopt new Official Plans in the near future and new Settlement Areas, and with the Town adopting its new Community Services Master Plan also that evening.

The amendments to the Town’s Official Zoning Bylaw and Official Plan are necessary to incorporate these lands to allow for both public and private recreational uses and facilities.

The Parks and Open Space designation, Chadwick explained, would allow for public and private recreational uses and facilities. Zoning Bylaw Amendments would then be required to place the land in an appropriate zoning category to allow recreational facilities owned by public and private entities to support future land conveyances and development for future recreational purposes by those private entities.

The Town of Essex Planning Department, Rita Jabbour, Manager of Planning Services, has reached out to the County of Essex on the matter, which is the approval authority for the Official Plans for both the Town and County. The County has since provided support for the amendment, Jabbour relayed.

A draft of the Official Plan policies and Zoning bylaw regulations will be presented at that public meeting for comment for members of the public, agencies, and Council.

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