People concerned about a parcel of GRCA-owned land in Guelph potentially being turned into housing will be given more chances to make their concerns known.

An agreement has been released which requires the GRCA to hold an increased amount of public consultation as it mulls the future of a section of the so-called Niska lands.

At issue is a 20-acre portion of the 160-acre property along Niska Road.

“We believe that it provides all of the parties with a satisfactory outcome,” GRCA communications manager Lisa Stocco said following the announcement of the agreement.

The GRCA has owned the property since the 1970s. It was leased out and operated as a waterfowl park, although Stocco says the park eventually fell into disrepair and was returned to GRCA control. It’s currently used for farming.

City officials have expressed an interest in rezoning the property to allow residential uses, which could see a nearby neighbourhood extended onto the Niska lands. The rezoning is being considered because the city is in need of new residential space, and the Niska lands aren’t constrained by natural heritage features or existing uses that would clash with a residential designation.

Some people living near the lands in question have taken issue with that proposal, saying they don’t want to see any development take over the property.

“They’re putting people into high-rises with so little greenspace. There needs to be some place that people can get out and see nature,” said Dorothy Griggs, who lives near the lands.

Another resident, Hugh Whiteley – who took his fight against the redevelopment of the land to the Ontario Municipal Board – considered Wednesday’s outcome a positive one.

“Now that the GRCA has recognized how important this area is, it’s time for the city to re-establish its interest,” he said.

Stocco says she believes some people are under the impression that the GRCA wants to sell the Niska lands – something she says isn’t the case.

“We’re nowhere near being able to take that step at this time,” she said.

The GRCA can’t sell the land without first declaring it surplus. Its board has already decided that no portion of the land will be declared surplus until a management plan is in place for the full 160-acre parcel.

With reporting by Maleeha Sheikh