Boundary adjustment moves forward

Woodstock and South-West Oxford Township continue to push forward with their proposed boundary adjustment.

Woodstock council directed city staff to draft a formal boundary adjustment agreement between the two parties after South-West Oxford did the same at its Sept. 17 council meeting.

With the proposed deal to take effect Jan. 1, 2020, a formal agreement for the land – south of Beachville Road to Karn Road, with Knudsen Drive at its eastern edge –  will likely be signed before the end of the fall.

“No one likes to give up land, but you also recognize in reality the city needs to grow,” South-West Oxford Mayor David Mayberry said. “There’s a demand as society continues to urbanize. It’s a responsible thing to do to come to a decision, and the city was willing to go as far as what we needed to do.”

The draft for the boundary adjustment was previously approved by both Woodstock and South-West Oxford councils in July. Talks about a possible agreement began in January. A public information and consultation meeting was held Aug. 22.

Though the two sides are close on finalizing the deal, there have been concerns raised by the affected local residents.

The most contentious is the possible doubling of property taxes for existing residents over the proposed five-year phase-in without a significant increase in services.

A case study presented at the public information meeting showed that city-only taxes on an average Woodstock home are $2,391, much higher than the $1,177 for an identical home in South-West Oxford.

“The city and township both benefit from this change with no advantages to us,” Brad Hutchison, a Beachville Road resident, wrote to Woodstock council. “We feel that we should never pay the higher tax rate while we own the property.”

Residents also raised concerns about added traffic, property value changes, loss of privacy, protection of green space and urban sprawl.

“We will lose the quiet, private and scenic qualities that attracted us originally when we were looking for a home in Oxford County,” said Robert Battle, a Karn Road. “We have spent 30 years developing and enhancing these attributes of the property with effort and considerable financial investment.”

Woodstock has been intent on acquiring residential and industrial lands as the municipal inventory has dwindled while the city continues to grow.

Woodstock added 93 hectares of industrial land last week east of the Toyota manufacturing plant for $5 million. The city and Norwich Township had a nearly 610-hectare boundary adjustment on Jan. 1, 2018.

The proposed deal with South-West Oxford would add about 100 hectares of land for future residential growth.

The arrangement includes about 25 hectares with some existing housing and nearly 55 hectares that could be quickly serviced by the city.

As part of the proposed deal, Woodstock will pay the township $250 for each new home or apartment unit built in the annexed area. Woodstock will also cover all costs for the restructuring order. The survey work and advertising, estimated to cost $20,000, will come from Woodstock’s contingency reserve.

Existing properties would also have a tax phase-in of five years to match the city rate.

If the municipalities are merged, a possibility with both part of the province’s ongoing regional governance review, the payments will cease.

The staff report noted the city and township consulted with conservation authorities, school boards, several government agencies and multiple organizations that expressed no concerns with the proposal.

“We’ve seen a lot of great improvements in the city of redevelopment in our boundaries and to be able to expand our boundaries for residential purposes is a terrific idea,” Coun. Mark Schadenberg said.