Once-tiny Winchester continues to grow

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Winchester locals may have noticed a subtle yet significant change in the name of a side street off St. Lawrence St this past week. Gypsy Lane is known to many locals as an unmaintained Winchester street which, while open to car and truck traffic, is used mostly as a walking and cycling trail, and as a path for off road vehicles. The street runs near the southern border of Winchester, stretching from County Rd 31 in the west, through town, past Belanger Rd and ending at Helmer Rd outside of village limits, where it becomes Gray Rd. A trail continues toward Chesterville from there, and a water pipeline runs part of the length of Gypsy Lane, connecting the Winchester and Chesterville water systems.

Now, a small section of the street east of St. Lawrence St. has been officially renamed “Davidson Lane,” after the Davidson Subdivision. The change is still new enough that Winchester’s only water reservoir, now on the stretch of street known as Davidson Lane, still displays a Gypsy Lane address placard. Digging is ongoing in the area as the Davidson Subdivision becomes the latest to add housing in Winchester.

The popularity of small town living appears to be on the rise, likely due to a combination of factors. Housing is typically much less expensive outside of city limits, but increasingly offers much of the same amenities nearby. Data from the 2021 Census is not yet fully released, but an analysis of rural population growth released by Statistics Canada on February 9 shows that Canada has one of the few rural populations in the world that is actually growing. The report postulates that the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to this growth, considering that working from home has made it possible to live in small communities without the burden of commuting, and frequent lockdowns have increased the demand for quieter communities with lots of outdoor space.

While small communities typically encourage growth and development – with North Dundas being no exception – not everyone is in favour of growth. Many residents who chose small town living fear that their communities will one day grow to feel more like city suburbs. In the case of Winchester and Chesterville, growth has also caused a practical problem – water and sewer capacity is becoming limited, with ongoing searches for new sustainable sources of water. Despite these issues, new housing is always welcome, particularly in the hope that as the supply of new homes increases, the demand for housing, and therefore housing prices, will decrease.

The Times reached out to the Township of North Dundas for comment on the new development, but did not receive a response by deadline.

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