Since 2013 Smart Growth Waterloo Region has advocated for thriving communities and a sustainable countryside.  We have helped to engage hundreds of citizens in planning matters that determine how and where our community will grow, what we will protect, how we get around, and develop a shared community vision for the future.

Some of the most important decisions that our elected officials make are about our Official Plans that are long-term policy documents used to guide growth and development decades into the future.  These Official Plans are reviewed and updated every five to ten years, and the Region of Waterloo is now in the process of updating the Regional Official Plan to meet a July 2022 deadline from the province.

Previous Official Plan updates have included vigorous community consultation and engagement that have helped to lead to the bold, visionary plans that have seen our urban centres grow more vibrant while protecting precious farmland.  We are optimistic that this community engagement tradition will continue in the months ahead as the Region of Waterloo makes many decisions that will determine so much of the future success of our urban and rural areas.

Please watch here for updates and be sure to sign-up for Smart Growth Waterloo Region updates.

 


 

A better option for growth

The Region of Waterloo has announced a Special Virtual Regional Council Meeting (via Zoom) for Public Feedback on the Regional Official Plan Review to be held this coming Wednesday, May 18th at 3:00pm. This Regional Official Plan update will determine where and how we will grow for the next 30 years along with many other important things for the future of our community. If we are going to successfully meet our climate change targets we need to ensure that this ROP Update starts to implement the needed solutions and continues the progressive planning Waterloo Region is renown for.

Regional Staff have proposed 3 Growth Scenario Options all which continue to be insufficient, problematic, and unnecessarily complex. As a result, a group of citizens and community groups are proposing a “Growth Option #4” that is simpler, easier to achieve, and far more congruent with our current intensification. This Proposed Option #4 has zero urban boundary expansion meaning that there would be no farmland loss to urban sprawl, similar to what Hamilton and Halton Region are also proposing. An easy-to-read PDF document outlines this Proposed Option #4. We hope you will help us advocate for it.

Since we don’t have much time in advance of this Wednesday’s Special Regional Council Meeting on the ROP, we hope that you will:

We have only until the May 27th deadline to provide feedback to Regional Staff on these Land Needs Assessment Growth options that will determine if we destroy thousands of acres of prime farmland and breach the Countryside Line (Option #1), destroy hundreds of acres of prime farmland and create considerable discord between municipalities (Option #2), stay within our urban boundaries but have a designated greenfield area (DGA) density metric that is going to be very difficult to achieve (Option #3), or stay within our urban boundaries and grow sustainably using smart growth best practices (Option #4).

Please share any questions or ideas and speak up to make sure that your voice is heard!

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Waterloo Regional Official Plan public consultations starting

The first two public engagement sessions for the Waterloo Regional Official Plan Update where Regional Staff will discuss the three proposed Growth Options and answer questions have been announced. It is extremely important that we understand the implications of these scenarios and speak up for the future that we want to see. Currently the residential growth options include:

  • Scenario #1 – paving over more than 5,500 acres of farmland and breaching the Countryside Line in numerous places,
  • Scenario #2 – destroying about 1,000 acres of greenspace for sprawl in only some municipalities,
  • Scenario #3 – staying within our existing urban boundaries with 0 acres of farmland loss and more sustainable growth.

Learn more at: https://www.engagewr.ca/regional-official-plan

Sign up for either virtual Zoom webinar being hosted by Regional Staff at:

  1. Friday, April 22nd from 10:00am to 12:00noon – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqf-GgrDgqGdfANMU2iEWCPOk3bIfTDwf8
  2. Monday, April 25th from 7:00pm to 9:00pm – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIvfu2uqjgoG91cTWxdVaBi_Ritpar8mA67

There may be additional public consultations announced for May as well. Be sure to get out, get involved, and advocate for a better future.

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Wilmot Township Christmas Eve MZO

Late on Christmas Eve, citizens discovered that the Township of Wilmot had just posted notice of a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) request.

The MZO request has caused considerable concern in the community as MZO’s have become so ubiquitous and despised elsewhere in Ontario and we have largely avoided them here in Waterloo Region.  The timing of this MZO is highly suspicious – being announced at the last minute late on Christmas Eve with a Special Council Meeting scheduled at dinner time on the first day back (January 4th), almost no information available during the holidays, at a time with almost no ability to reach Staff, and little opportunity for local media coverage, while also in the midst of the most serious COVID-19 variant seen thus far.

When Wilmot finally released information a week later, it wasn’t just for a subdivision as feared but an entirely new town – Wilmot Village – between New Hamburg and Baden with homes for thousands of people, seniors apartments, supposedly affordable housing, employment lands, retail stores, a transit hub, and even an agrihub (whatever that is).  Citizens and community groups in Wilmot scrambled to delegate at the January 4th meeting and with 200+ people in attendance at the virtual meeting more than a dozen delegations raised considerable concerns about the development proposal and the MZO request.

The developer struggled to provide answers and justify the need for the MZO other than they were using it in an attempt to bypass the Regional Official Plan Review currently underway, bypass proper planning procedures and get immediate approval.  Wilmot Councillors, concerned with so many issues being raised by the public and seeing the developer woefully unprepared have asked that questions be submitted to the Township to be addressed by the developers at a Special Council meeting planned for February 14th.

While it initially appears that this MZO is just about two farms in Wilmot, it actually has far-reaching consequences for the Region of Waterloo and all upper-tier governments across the province.  It appears that the primary purpose of the MZO is bypass the Regional Official Plan Review currently underway and destroy the proper regional growth and infrastructure planning process by having the Minister arbitrarily order the approval of these developments immediately, in isolation, and with little regard to all integrated planning usually required.

This MZO bomb of Wilmot elbowing others out of the way to get this significant growth at any cost could likely set off a chain reaction of competing MZO’s from other developers, and raise animosity between previously cooperative municipal governments such as North Dumfries Township and Wellesley Township, who will then race for their own MZO’s to get their desired growth. 40+ years of shared success here in Waterloo Region could be in jeopardy.

Should Wilmot Township approve the MZO, they will have pulled the trigger and launched an unprecedented attack on our Regional government and neighbours – purposely seeking to cut them out and bypass our upper-tier and destroying the ability for the Region of Waterloo to guide growth, intensify our core areas, co-ordinate plans, protect our countryside, and continue our incredible success.

Almost everything that we take for granted today is a result of good planning, collaborative governments, and communities working together that will no longer exist when it is a free-for-all of developers and municipalities by-passing all local and regional planning processes for an avalanche of MZO’s from the Minister and Premier so eager to issue them.

We have detailed Regional Official Planning processes for good reason.  They have served us well to date creating our leading communities and success – in fact, so much of our success in Waterloo Region has come from doing this integrated, progressive planning better than most others and creating the smart growth, balance, and results that most others only dream of. People too often underestimate how long it takes to create good things and how quickly it can all be destroyed.

Aside from the MZO approach, there are still numerous other troubling issues regarding this proposed Wilmot development.  Additional information can be found:

Next Steps

Minister Clark has states that he won’t approve an MZO without local Council approval first that has to involve public feedback.  We need to speak up loud and clear regarding the inappropriateness of using MZO’s to plan the future of our community and the chain reaction that this MZO could unleash that could destroy our Regional Official Plan Review and all the good planning responsible for our success that we too often take for granted.

It is shameful to see developers even trying to use MZO’s here in Waterloo Region when we are renown for good planning and lead the province with our SmartGrowth success.  This MZO is designed solely to bypass our Regional government and our Regional Official Plan Review currently underway regardless of the costs and potential implications.

Please follow the links to send an e-mail to Wilmot Staff, Councillors and area MPP Mike Harris Jr with your concerns and questions you may have for the developers.

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Call to Action Webinar – Ensure your voice is heard on the Waterloo Region Growth Plan

Our Regional Official Plan is the long-term planning document that sets the foundation for our Region.  It decides where and how we will grow, what we will protect, what will be destroyed, and what our community will look like in 2051.  It reflects our priorities and will shape our urban cores, neighbourhoods, and countryside.

With a July 1, 2022 deadline mandated by the provincial government we only have a short time to speak up to achieve an ambitious plan that will address our climate crisis and ensure Waterloo Region remains a Smart Growth leader with thriving farmland for local food and groundwater recharge, balanced by vibrant, sustainable urban areas.

Regional Staff and Council is facing considerable pressure from land speculators and developers with initial drafts of the plan falling far short of the expectations of citizens and community groups.

It is urgent for everyone in Waterloo Region to let elected officials know the future you would like to see.  Once this plan is approved this Spring there will be little ability for changes until 2031 – well after we will have had to meet our Paris Accord targets.

For more information and how to take action, please register for a community webinar that is taking place on

Monday, November 15, 2021 at 7:00 pm

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/community-webinar-on-growth-plan-for-waterloo-region-tickets-204795658327

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Regional Official Plan 2051 Update – November 5, 2021

Waterloo Regional Staff have released their Recommended Growth Scenarios for the Regional Official Plan Update to 2051.  Details and the Staff Report can be found on the Engage WR Website at: https://www.engagewr.ca/regional-official-plan

Staff has outlined three scenarios for future growth:

  • Scenario #1 – 55% intensification, 60 people and jobs per hectare DGA density with approximately 1300 ha of Greenfield expansion (519 ha residential, 801 ha employment),
  • Scenario #2 – 60% intensification, 60 people and jobs per hectare DGA density with approximately 1000 ha of Greenfield expansion (227 ha residential, 801 ha employment),
  • Scenario #3 – 60% intensification, 65 people and jobs per hectare DGA density with approximately 800 ha of Greenfield expansion (0 ha residential, 801 ha employment).

Regional Staff is recommending Scenario #2 as their preferred scenario and will be asking Council for a final decision on these targets in the months ahead.  Staff will be presenting their report to Regional Council on Tuesday, November 9th.

There are many concerns being raised that these intensification targets for the next 30 years are too low and that they:

  • are below some of the rates of intensification that we are already achieving,
  • will require over 1,000 hectares of our local farmland to be destroyed for sprawling subdivisions and low density employment lands,
  • will use up much of our remaining land reserves, threatening the Countryside Line in many ways,
  • may be so low that future phases of iON Light Rail and Rapid Transit could be harder to support,
  • ends our traditional Smart Growth leadership in Ontario with numerous other municipalities choosing more ambitious future goals,
  • is out of sync with Canadian’s demands that our governments undertake bold actions to address our climate crisis.

Numerous community groups are planning to make presentations to Council on November 9th urging for more ambitious targets and extensive community consultation in the weeks ahead.

There are plans underway by a wide variety of community and environmental organizations to host community webinars, meetings and events to ensure as many people as possible are engaged in these crucial conversations about our vision for the future and the priorities for our communities.  

We urge you to get involved by learning more and speaking up for the future that you would like to see by virtually attending or delegating at the November 9th Regional Council meeting, attending future webinars and meetings, and writing Regional staff and elected officials.

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