We, local businesses in downtown Kitchener, are writing to voice strong support for the continuation of the Smart Growth Plan of Waterloo Region. The Ontario Municipal Board’s ruling against the Smart Growth Plan is highly concerning for us as we consider it a big step backward for the long-term health of our community, local businesses and the environment. In particular, we oppose the abandonment of the Smart Growth Plan for two major reasons:
First, the community benefits that come with high-density urban development in the KW’s city core. Pursuing this type of urban development enables more people to walk or bike to work, and to have access to public transportation. More pedestrians on the streets will foster the growth of local businesses in downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo. A vibrant local economy provides high-quality employment, attracts visitors and new investors. Tightly knit and healthy neighbourhoods in the city’s core will also lead to greater community involvement and engagement by local residents. All in all, growing through intensification will increase the quality of life of KW residents and the social and economic sustainability of our community. In contrast, growing through expansion of remote suburban neighborhoods bears the risk that downtown businesses collapse and people become isolated from a real and rich sense of community, causing greater mental and physical health problems.
Second, the environmental benefits that come with limiting the urban sprawl and the preservation of farmland, forests and greenbelts around our city. The unrelenting growth of increasingly remote subdivisions around KW will only continue to harm our natural environment. The loss of farmland and green space will compromise local food production and potentially threaten the community’s groundwater recharge areas. In addition, single detached homes take more resources in terms of land, building materials, hydro, and water resources than apartment buildings. Because of the inefficiency of public transit to disperse communities this type of development will also put more cars on the roads adding to rising carbon emissions and air pollution.
It is time to put the long-term health of our communities and the environment ahead of the narrow and short-term corporate interests of developers. We hope the Provincial Government will be a strong advocate for the Region of Waterloo in its appeal to the divisional court and its request for a rehearing to fight the Ontario Municipal Board’s harmful decision against our Smart Growth plan. Urban planning in KW should serve as a role model rather than a disconcerting precedent for other communities in Ontario.
We encourage the community to get informed by reading more about this issue at smartgrowthwaterloo.ca and take a few minutes to write to our local MPPs.
The content of this letter is endorsed by the following local business leaders:
Leena Miller, Owner of Queen Street Yoga (author)
Marisa Beck, Queen Street Yoga Teacher & PhD Student in Global Environmental
Emma Dines, Queen Street Yoga Manager
Tina Riddell, Owner of Living Fresh Flower Studio and School
Victoria Kent, Owner of the Yeti Cafe
Helena Kwiecinski, Owner of Styl Frugal