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City worries strip of land critical to Cambridge GO Transit extension could be sold

A consent application to sever a strip of land on the east side of the CN railway tracks in Hespeler has prompted the city and region to object to the idea
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Excavating beside the tracks in Hespeler.

The city wants to defer an application to sever and convey a surplus strip of land on the east side of the CN railway tracks in Hespeler because staff believe the move could threaten the region's business case for bringing GO Transit passenger rail service to Cambridge.

Canadian National Railway has applied to sever and convey a .69 hectare strip of land on the southeast side of Sheffield St. to the owners of 25 Milling Rd. and is working with international law firm Dentons, LLP to complete the deal. 

The report contains no mention of purchase agreement or amount and there are no plans to develop the property yet. 

But in the report headed to the city's committee of adjustment this week, planning staff say both the region's and city's transportation master plans urge protection of the rail corridor for potential future use.

One of those uses could include building a railway station for a proposed GO Transit line to Guelph.

City of Cambridge

"Planning staff are concerned that severance of the subject lands from the railway corridor at this time could impost significant barriers to the construction of a passenger railway station in Hespeler Village," staff wrote.

"The Fergus spur is a railway corridor operating from Guelph to Cambridge roughly parallel to Highway 24. It is owned and operated by Canadian National Railway and has been identified as the preferred corridor for provision of GO Transit passenger rail service to Cambridge."

Regional transportation planning staff is also objecting to the application, citing the Cambridge to Union GO Rail feasibility study as the main reason to defer any decision at the city level until more work is completed.

The feasibility study will head to regional council for approval this fall.

The land has also piqued the interest of the city's operations department.

The city's director of operations for infrastructure services Michael Hausser commented that the land could be of interest from a parks perspective for the long-awaited Hespeler skateboard park, pickleball courts or a walking path.

It could also tie in nicely with planned redevelopment of Milling Road as a more pedestrian focused urban area, he wrote.

If the city's committee of adjustment approves the application, it would come with the stipulation that 2 per cent of the property be dedicated parkland.

Several other conditions must also be met.

Since the land is next to what was once the Hespeler station for the Great Western Railway and is within the study area for the proposed Hespeler Conservation District, any development would require an archaeological assessment.

Planning staff have determined the property meets several criteria in the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism's criteria for archaeological potential.