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.