There are few topics more important but less thrilling than community long-range planning, which might explain why so few residents attended last week’s public hearing in Virden.
The Trans Canada West Planning District (TCWPD) committee opened its doors to the public at town council chambers Thursday, July 26 to discuss a new development plan for the district.
Members of the TCWPD committee were on hand as well as officials from the Province and Landmark Planning & Design Inc., the authors of the 78-page plan.
Despite the significant number of people potentially affected by the document (the Town of Virden and the RM of Wallace-Woodworth), only a handful came to the hearing.
Vince Heaman was one of them.
The former reeve attended not as a politician but as a citizen wanting to know about a new designation – “urban centre”.
Under the updated plan, Virden becomes an urban centre. (Under the old plan, most of Virden was designated a “neighbourhood”.)
Heaman said he doesn’t want any plan that restricts development unnecessarily. His concerns were allayed by the committee.
“I’m okay with this plan,” Heaman said. “It’s a bit more general and less specific, which is good… it can be too restrictive on development otherwise.”
The only other concerns expressed at the meeting by members of the public came from Terry and Ethel McLean.
The long-time area residents own land just east of Virden on both sides of the TransCanada Highway. Their area was redesignated under the TCWPD’s plan from “community development” to “rural business”.
The change was made because the zone is already home to several companies.
The committee reassured the McLeans that whoever owns the land, including the next generation, has the ultimate say on what it’s used for; the new name only means commercial development is permitted.
Why a new plan?
If it seems like the community just went through a planning process for Trans Canada West, you’re right. The existing development plan by-law went into effect in 2013 and was drafted to cover the years 2012 to 2040.
However, the amalgamation of several rural municipalities meant the plan had to be updated sooner than expected.
The Trans Canada West Planning District used to encompass four entities: Virden and the RMs of Wallace, Woodworth, and Archie. It now applies to two municipalities: Virden and the amalgamated RM of Wallace-Woodworth.
The plan, when finalized and approved, will give direction on future land use and development. It does not take the place of zoning laws, rather sets a benchmark for the region’s zoning and offers “fundamental planning objectives” that will “minimize conflicts”.
For his part, Vince Heaman left the hearing satisfied with everything except the low turnout.
“It’s very disappointing. If you understood what was going on here, it would make a better community with better development plans.
“When you pay taxes in an area, and everything influences your taxes, why wouldn’t you be there?”