by Kate Daley
We knew all along that the Region of Waterloo’s bold defence of its Official Plan would take time. Since the Ontario Municipal Board gutted the visionary and crucial plan in a January 2013 ruling, and the Region decided to fight the ruling, we’ve been glad to see slow and steady progress being made.
First, the Region continues to stand up against the ruling through the courts. The Waterloo Region Record reported in mid-October that the Ontario Municipal Board took a look at its own process leading up to the ruling. Despite the Region’s concerns that private training for Board members provided by the developers’ primary witness during the case led to bias in the Board’s decision-making, the Board ruled in September that it was not biased. As The Record explains, Regional Council was unanimous in its vote to pursue a judicial review.
Ken Seiling spoke to the importance of defending the Official Plan:
“The massive support for regional council opposing the OMB decision … speaks volumes for the desire of people here not to be paving over farmland and preserving our rural lands,” Regional Chair Ken Seiling said.
“I think if that decision’s allowed to stand it would open the door to considerably more development than the region’s ever envisaged.”
The Record story also includes a handy timeline of events in this case; you can read the full story here.
Second, the Region’s efforts aren’t just to clean up the mess left by the OMB in this particular case. The Region is also proposing changes to the system to prevent these kinds of problems, and to support the province’s Growth Plan. As the Kitchener Post explains:
Rob Horne, Region of Waterloo’s commissioner of planning, housing and community services, said the province must make aspects of the plan related to growth targets more concrete, make portions of the growth plan unappealable to the OMB and attend appeal hearings to defend already approved densities in municipalities taken to the OMB.
“What we’d like to see is the province actively attending those OMB hearings to support municipalities and the plan they’ve approved,” said Horne, noting the province has to approve municipal official plans before municipalities can implement them.
Horne’s comments come after the province’s environmental commissioner, Gord Miller, raised concerns about the implementation of the Places to Grow Growth Plan, since most municipalities aren’t meeting their density targets under the plan. The Post story, with more detail, is available here.
In short, despite its slow pace, lots of work continues to protect our community’s future. We’ll keep you updated as this hard and important work progresses.