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.
How is your local council responding to the Regional Official Plan?
Municipalities across Waterloo Region continue to deliberate and decide on the proposed Growth Scenario’s for the 2051 Regional Official Plan Update. Responding to concerns from almost everyone involved, the Region of Waterloo has postponed the June 15th meeting where the Preferred Growth Scenario was to be announced until June 22nd – allowing municipalities more time to hold meetings, hear from delegations, and respond to the Region.
Upcoming meetings include:
1) City of Kitchener – has scheduled their fourth meeting to decide their feedback to the Region for tomorrow (Monday, June 13th) from 10:00am to 12:30pm. There is a new Staff Report and currently two competing motions on the floor – a motion from Councillors Davey and Singh that appears to advocate for affordable housing but is really asking for greenfield expansion, farmland loss, an adjustment of the Countryside Line, and additional population allocation that could be devastating to Kitchener’s current path of intensification and core renewal by dragging Kitchener backwards to be the only municipality advocating for the absurd sprawl it receives under Option #1.
Thankfully, Councillor Chapman has a motion based on the good principles of our Option #4 advocating for Kitchener to continue on its current sustainability and Smart Growth trajectory to ensure Climate Change goals are achieved. If you are a Kitchener resident please write your Councillors to ensure that they support this motion and ensure Kitchener remains a leader in the province, not abandoning recent success for hundreds or thousands of acres of farmland loss and unsustainable sprawl on important ecological and groundwater lands.
2) City of Waterloo Meeting – begins at 2:00pm Monday, June 13th – City Staff have written an excellent Report that advocates for continuing to stay within their boundaries, sustainable intensification, and Smart Growth leadership. We need to ensure the City of Waterloo continues their visionary leadership and helps to encourage the Region of Waterloo to aim higher with a similar model of no farmland loss for the entire region. City of Waterloo residents should write to applaud their Council’s actions and encourage them to lead future bold and visionary actions.
3) Wilmot Township’s – third Council Meeting on the ROP begins on Monday (June 13th) at 7:00pm. They won’t be allowing any delegations as deliberations continue on Councillor Hallman’s motion building upon the recommendations of the Wilmot Staff Report. It remains to be seen if Councillor Hallman’s report which includes many of the principles of Option #4, a focus on intensification, and limiting farmland loss will have enough support to be approved. It is possible that Wilmot may not provide any feedback to the Region at this point which would be unfortunate since Wilmot citizens should have a voice in the future we want to see. If you are a Wilmot resident please call or e-mail all Wilmot Councillors and Mayor Armstrong in support of Councillor Hallman’s motion and the sustainable principles we need for the future.
4) June 22nd Regional Meeting – at the 1:00pm afternoon meeting of the Planning and Works Committee on June 22nd, Regional Staff will release the Recommended Growth Option that will determine so much of the future approach of the Region of Waterloo for the next 30 years. This meeting is open to delegations and depending on the growth option chosen we may need a very strong voice from the community to better guide things – similar to what happened in Hamilton and Halton where Councillors chose more progressive plans than what their Staff was recommending. Hopefully, the Region of Waterloo will announce bold, visionary outcomes though we will have to see and be prepared to respond accordingly.
Other Recent Council Decisions Include:
5) Woolwich Township – Despite 13 delegations from developers it was fantastic to see Woolwich Councillors on June 6th decide against their Staff Recommendation for Option #2 and considerable greenfield expansion/farmland loss and instead drafted a motion consistent with the principles of Option #4 for no farmland loss, higher intensification, more complete communities, more time, and more consultation/engagement. Every single Councillor cited the climate and food crisis and the fact that they just can’t justify destroying farmland anymore despite the hundreds of acres of expansion they were being offered by the Region in Option #2.
It sends a tremendous message of sustainability and the need for a better future to see the municipality being offered almost half of all greenfield farmland for expansion for the entire Region in Option #2, reject it and unanimously declare that a more sustainable plan for future is required. Kudos to everyone in Woolwich who wrote, spoke up, and delegated – the tremendous outcome in Woolwich shows just what is possible when there is a well informed Council and lots of citizen input.
6) North Dumfries Township – Despite strong delegations and a very impressive presentation from their CAO, North Dumfries Councillors chose to stick with their Staff Recommendation for Option #2 that would see a minor amount (59ha) of farmland loss for growth over the next 30 years. We tried to advocate for less farmland loss, rehabilitating gravel pits for employment lands, and intensification. However one Councillor seemed to sum it up the best – that with almost every acre of farmland in the Township already targeted for aggregates, losing farmland to housing would be a welcome change and they were bound to lose it one way or another.
7) Cambridge – The City of Cambridge Staff have decided not to issue a Staff Report or bring anything to their Council and that Cambridge Councillors and citizens can let the Region know directly the Growth Option that they want to see. It is unfortunate to see the important discussions happening in other municipalities not happening in Cambridge.
8) Wellesley Township – this past week at their second Special Council Meeting on the ROP passed an excellent updated Staff Report with an increased focus on intensification, higher densities, less farmland loss (only 20ha over 30 years), and integrated many principles of Option #4. It was great to see the impact of all the Wellesley citizens who spoke up and advocated for a better future vision that their community now has. Well done!
Please share any questions or ideas. It is important that we continue to speak up for the future that we want to see – particularly in the municipalities that have yet to respond to the Region where letters, calls and e-mails to Councillors could make all the difference.
We will have to see what Growth Option is recommended by Regional Staff on June 22nd and work with Regional Councillors accordingly.
We have had a tremendous impact getting more progressive outcomes already. Hopefully we will have a visionary 30 year Regional Official Plan that will ensure we continue our leadership towards a far more sustainable future.
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:
- review this citizen’s document and share it with others to help advocate for Option #4
- register to delegate on May 18th to speak up for the future that you would like to see
- e-mail Regional Councillors (email@example.com) to let them know they need to choose Option #4 in June when the preferred Growth Option will be chosen
- provide feedback to Regional Staff at the EngageWaterloo ROP site – https://www.engagewr.ca/regional-official-plan – and encourage them to select Option #4 as their Recommended Growth Option to Council
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!
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:
- Friday, April 22nd from 10:00am to 12:00noon – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqf-GgrDgqGdfANMU2iEWCPOk3bIfTDwf8
- 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.
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:
- In the Wilmot Township Staff Report
- In recent media articles:
- Social media: “Stop the Wilmot MZO” Facebook Group
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.
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