A development plan that could potentially take up to 20 years to complete has recently been authorized to begin undergoing public discussion in Peterborough. The Lily Lake Development Project, which would use 198 hectares of land that has been identified as a “settlement area” in the Provincial Growth Plan, has now reached a phase two stage. Passionate discussion has already erupted from residents, covering the pros and cons of this enormous proposed undertaking.
Lily Lake is located just north of Jackson Park. It rests on the border of 198 hectacres of primarily agricultural farmland, which is the proposed site of the new development project. This parcel of land borders Jackson Creek and is adjacent to provincially significant Ontario wetlands. If the Lily Lake Development Project gets approved, approximately 2,800 new homes will be built on the site.
This secondary plan comes following a preparation process which was initiated in 1993, and later approved by the province in 1997. In 2008, Lily Lake was annexed, and now City Council has authorized staff to start collecting input from Peterborough residents who will be affected by the development.
Brad Appleby, a planner with the City of Peterborough, said that residents need to “foster constructive conversation and welcome diverse opinion regarding the future of the Lily Lake area.”
While the municipality has been discussing the Lily Lake Development Project for many years now, it is ultimately a result of Ontario’s Growth Plan. Peterborough is situated in a key area of the Greater Golden Horseshoe and has been recognized as a provincial density target with forecasts of high urban growth.
By 2031, Ontario hopes to have 103,000 more people living in Peterborough who will fill the job vacancies that are expected to be created due to a largely retired population. Ideally, the province would also like to see an employment growth of 52,000 jobs. Following approval, the Lily Lake Development Project would provide 2,800 houses for nearly 7,400 people.
Considering the current economic slump we’re in, this all sounds very enticing.
However, the project proposal is not without problems. At a public open house held on September 18, residents were invited to raise their concerns. Many worried that this enormous new development project would decrease the property value of houses on Fairbairn Street, as the road would need to be expanded to four lanes to accommodate an influx of traffic.
Similarly, many people were apprehensive over how a surge in population might affect the unique social aspects of Peterborough life and culture.
However, most noticeable were the citizens who vocalized their concerns over the environmental impacts that the Lily Lake Development could potentially have on the surrounding lands and waterways.
Gord Young, editor at Lakefield Heritage Research, had the following to say, “The Lily Lake Development, like the Auburn Development, has many, many hidden dangers that are not overly obvious and have not been addressed at all. Both have major aquifers that, if developed upon, will greatly diminish the amount of flow into adjacent waters. In the Lily Lake Development, the water table underneath the planning is already in serious trouble.”
Young can remember 55 years ago when Lily Lake was roughly one-third larger than it is today. There is currently a small subdivision placing stress on the Lily Lake creek and water body, but he worries about the negative impacts that the new development project might have on whatever remains of the huge aquifer which once existed decades ago.
“This should be a cause of concern for the city,” Young stressed. “Should the aquifer dry up completely, there will be a shortage of public water. It begs to ask the question: what are we destroying?”
Another resident who attended the public open house was dissatisfied with the lack of information available regarding ecological protection. In the presentation given outlining a conceptual map of land use, it was proposed that “environmental buffers” be established to protect the valuable natural features, wetlands, and Jackson Creek. These buffer zones would theoretically mitigate the impact of housing development on amphibians, water fowl, and wetland life, but there was unease over the questionably small size of the buffers.
Residents have asked that future policy considerations include undertaking a tree inventory, well and wetland monitoring, vegetation enhancement, woodland design, and devising solutions for possible erosion and flooding from storm water run-off. In addition, an Environmental Impact Study has been recommended by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
In order to ensure the best possible outcome in this situation, residents of Peterborough are encouraged to pay attention to the progress of the development as significant, city-altering decisions are being made. Students and professors in particular can play an important role in the Lily Lake Development, because as Young said, “What we really need is people who are knowledgeable about hydrology, ecology, and sustainability.”