By Paul Dreossi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The St. Marys Planning Department presented a plan on Tuesday, January 14 during the evening Council Meeting that considers the future residential growth needs of the Town over the next 25 years. Before purchasing additional lands for future growth can be considered, the province mandates that towns must “fully utilize” existing properties within a town center. The St. Marys Planning Board is committed to providing a “range of housing accommodation suitable for all age groups and household incomes”, as well as endeavoring to provide stable, attractive residential areas for all its residents. This proposed plan for town growth notes specifically that senior housing would be beneficial to future community development.
The current population of St. Marys is approximately 7,268. Using an estimated annual growth rate of 1.5 percent, our town may see an estimated population of 8,436 by 2029, and potentially, an estimated 10,547 people by 2044. If one applies the provincial average of 2.15 persons per dwelling, in 2044, the Town of St. Marys may require a total of 4,906 dwellings. Since the current number of dwellings in town numbers 3,098, a quick bit of math suggests that an additional 1,808 dwellings will be required to house the town’s 2044 population. Since this equation is based on estimations and projections, it is conventional when considering potential residential growth, particularly over a quarter-century span, to reduce the final number of required dwellings by half. Given this convention, and in consideration of the multiple factors that affect these projections, the St. Marys Planning Board has determined an estimated 737 additional dwellings will be required.
Of these 737 dwellings, it is estimated that 125 units can be utilized within the existing boundaries of the town. What of the other estimated 555 units? The short answer is that the Town of St. Marys will need to purchase more land in order to accommodate future population growth. Town Council has approved that the St. Marys Planning Board apply to the provincial government, as is the standard in such matters, for permission to purchase two properties on the northern edge of town. Two adjoining properties, 555 Emily Street and lands owned by Stonetown Farms, located on the north side of Emily St., have been selected for this potential expansion.
Town planners propose that 60% of new dwellings will be semi-detached and single residences, while 40% of dwellings will be high and medium density townhouses. Rough estimates as to the exact number of dwellings that might fit on the proposed land, subject to actual planning when developed, is projected to be just over 1,000 units. This would exceed the minimum expected dwelling requirements of 2044 by a safe margin. It is a benefit that the proposed expansion is fairly easily serviced by town utilities, though, given the elevation above the town core, an additional pumping station may be required to maintain water main pressure.
One councillor asked if there were provisions for larger-sized “estate lots” in this plan, suggesting that provision for luxury development might be considered in the future. At the moment, such estate lots are not part of the town’s expansion policy. Council approved the application, and once approved by the province (after a potential 3 month waiting period), will consider the purchases again with appropriate input from all involved in the community.