Walton International Ontario executive Jason Child said the firm is currently consulting with municipal officials as well as local residents and businesses to research the best use of the roughly 3,200 acres of rural land under its control.
That process will then culminate with an application to the city, he said, though he declined to say what sort of proposal that would be.
“I don’t know if it’ll be the spring, the summer or the fall,” said Mr. Child in an interview with OBJ. “It’ll be when the time is right from a ‘have we done our homework’ perspective.”
He said it would be “fair” to expect that proposal sometime in the next 12 months, but cautioned that those plans could change depending on the city planning process.
Walton still has no target for when it expects to eventually develop the land, said Mr. Child. But before that can happen, it has a number of obstacles it must overcome.
Perhaps the biggest one is the fact that it needs the space to be part of the city’s urban boundary – essentially the area within which significant residential and commercial development can occur – before it can start construction.
City councillors have already made clear they have no plans to add any more land as part of its review of the boundary, which will come into effect in 2014. Walton does not expect that to change as it goes through its current consultations, Mr. Child said.
However he said the fact that the city only reviews the urban boundary once every five years makes it tough for the company to plan since it’s unlikely the city would ever add all Walton’s land to the urban boundary in one go. The more likely scenario is that it will be added piece by piece.
“On an incremental basis, complete communities are very very difficult to develop because it’s one piece at a time,” said Mr. Child.
He said it’s fine if the land is added to the urban boundary one piece at a time over several years. But he’d like to work with the city to come up with an overarching plan ahead of time for how the space will be used and how it will integrate with neighbouring communities such as Kanata.
Walton is different from many other land developers in that it takes money from investors and buys up land that will be used over the long-term. Development of those lands are more likely to take place over decades rather than years.
In many cases it also doesn’t develop the land it owns. Instead the land is usually sold to businesses such as homebuilders once a rezoning from a municipality helps it shoot up in value.
Part of the issue stems from the fact that Walton doesn’t just want the land turned into fields of endless residential subdivisions. Mr. Child wants it to be a self-sustaining entity with places for people to work, live and shop, rather than be just a bedroom community where people live so they commute downtown.
He’s confident that if the city allows it to plan for appropriately, Walton will be able to achieve its goal of making the area environmentally sustainable over the long-term.
The company is also interested in hearing ideas from residential and commercial developers. Walton is not involved in building homes or office towers, he pointed out, meaning those that do have “an opportunity to get involved.”
However he stressed that, at this point, they still aren’t talking about specific parcels of land since no formal plan has yet been submitted to the city.
Walton is also not done adding to the massive amounts of land it owns southwest of downtown Ottawa.
“We’re not closing a deal today but...we will evaluate opportunities as they get presented to us, definitely,” said Mr. Child.