Prioritizing Sarnia’s municipal business parks to attract new investment to the border city could include converting more excess employment lands, a new study suggests.
On top of the 34 hectares south of Wellington Street eyed for residential conversion to address space constraints amid projected population growth over the next quarter century – part of draft new official plan recommendations – another 57 hectares, west of Hiawatha Horse Park and around Plank and Churchill roads, could also be looked at for other land uses, a recent $61,000 report says.
The competitive market analysis for city-owned business and research parks lands south of Highway 402 and east of Modeland Road notes the conversion-target sites elsewhere in the city aren’t desirable for new businesses for various reasons.
Sarnia’s 403-hectare inventory of unused employment lands is far beyond what it needs to accommodate local projected commercial and industrial growth, the report by The Planning Partnership, MDB Insight and urbanMetrics inc says.
Land conversion and other recommendations in the report, like potentially building turnkey facilities on business park lands to help attract new development, are being weighed by staff, with council’s recent unanimous blessing, for further council consideration for the 2023 budget.
The lands flagged for possible conversion – aside from those south of Wellington Street in the Sarnia Business and Research Park – are privately owned, noted city planning and development services manager Eric Hyatt.
“They would have to be looked at and evaluated on a site-by-site basis,” he said.
Hyatt said it wasn’t clear what the lands would be potentially converted to.
Broadly, land types include commercial, industrial, residential, institutional, and parks and open space, he said.
Making 52 hectares of the business and research park lands attractive to development includes addressing access and servicing infrastructure concerns; marketing clear plans for development, including a potential economic development master plan for Sarnia; creating memorandums of understanding with local realtors; and other recommendations, the report authors note.
Synergies with the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park are possible for “light or flex” industrial buildings in lands to its north and east, their report reads.
Stakeholder engagement yielded “the general perception … there is significant aggregate supply of land (but) there is a much shorter supply of lands that are attractive, marketable and buildable/developable in the short term,” the report reads.
Only one recommendation – to update policies and the local zoning bylaw to align with the employment lands strategy – would be incorporated into the draft official plan, Hyatt said.
The rest carry potential budget implications, he said.