Massive population growth and land shortages loom if a recent report commissioned by the County of Oxford is an indication of what’s to come.
According to a population growth report that will be presented to county council on Wednesday, growth could soar by as much as 41 per cent in Oxford County in the next 30 years.
The City of Woodstock is expected to outpace even that, with 56 per cent growth for the same period between 2016 and 2046.
The forecasts note local municipalities will likely need extra land to accommodate their growing populations. Land reserves for some of the largest growing municipalities, such as Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Ingersoll, are currently low, so cities will likely need to look at boundary expansions to accommodate more jobs and more people, said Oxford County’s manager of planning and policy, Paul Michiels.
“We may need more study to figure out where (growth) would best be accommodated, through settlement boundary expansions for instance,” Michiels said.
The forecast puts to paper other previous indicators of growth. In March, City of Woodstock’s top bureaucrat, David Creery, spoke about record-breaking construction values in 2018 – $213 million in total value, up from $184 million in 2017.
Based on this report, municipalities may commission further study and eventually look at boundaries to address land shortages in conversation with their area neighbours. Land boundary changes require amendments to the official community plans and would be done with significant public consultation, Michiels said.
The City of Woodstock is facing both the largest population increase and the largest land need. According to Mayor Trevor Birtch, there are challenges when planning for growth of the kind Woodstock is seeing.
“With new business and industry expansion, we have seen many new families moving to the Friendly City to enjoy a great quality of life,” Birtch said via email. “The challenges of growth is the fact that municipal resources (whether it is a recreation facility, new fire hall or additional staffing) cannot always be added incrementally to mirror the way that incremental growth happens.
“Both council and staff will continue to use strategic planning to establish community priorities and continue to engage with the community through surveys such as the budget surveys.”
Other issues raised by the forecast include the county’s aging population – “baby boomers” are migrating in, while young adults tend to migrate out for education and work. Michiels said reports like this can help cities can plan services for an aging population.
County council is expected to receive this report on Wednesday and the report will be circulated to area municipalities for review and presentation.
BY THE NUMBERS
- According to the report, Woodstock had a population of 42,040 in 2016 and is expected to reach a population of 65,950 by 2046, or growth of 56 per cent.
- Oxford County as a whole had a population of 113,940 in 2016 and is expected to reach a population of 161,060 by 2046, or 41 per cent growth.
- The county is expected to add 8,400 people before 2021, the fastest rate of growth since its formation in 1975 and outpacing the existing growth record, which was 7,500 people between 1986 and 1991.
- The City of Woodstock is facing a forecasted land shortage of 225 hectares for residential land and 317 hectares for industrial land. Ingersoll will be facing a land need of 75 hectares (residential) and 107 hectares (industrial).