Author Archives: Kate Daley

Major news: Negotiated settlement on the OMB case

This morning, the Region of Waterloo announced that it has reached a settlement with the greenfield developers who appealed the Region’s new Official Plan to the Ontario Municipal Board.

A map released by the Region, showing changes based on the settlement agreement.

The agreement, which still must be approved by the OMB, would open up 255 hectares of new land to settle the original dispute, with an additional 198 hectares in the coming years to accommodate new higher population growth projections. Developers had asked for 1053 hectares of new land for urban development to 2031.

While this is a compromise, it’s a good compromise that will allow us to move forward with smart growth approaches in our community. It will help protect our farmland and environmentally sensitive areas, while allowing us to encourage more people and jobs in built-up areas to create more liveable urban areas.

As many of you know, in January of 2013 the OMB ruled against crucial smart growth provisions of the Region’s Official Plan, and threatened key provisions of the province’s Places to Grow Growth Plan covering much of Ontario. The Region has been fighting this dangerous decision in provincial court, with the support of the provincial government, as well as pursuing a negotiated settlement. (Read more about the OMB decision.)

This deal means we won’t have to rely on the unpredictable court system to fix the mess left by the OMB, and can move forward sooner with a locally-designed solution.

You can see the Region’s press release on the deal here, and their full report here.

You can also check out our press release.

Congratulations to all those at the Region of Waterloo who have been working so hard on this deal, and to all of you for your ongoing support of our community’s smart growth vision. Our community’s dedication has been a crucial part of this success.

News Release: Community Members Support Official Plan Settlement Agreement

For Immediate Release


Waterloo Region, Ontario – Local community members are expressing support for a settlement agreement between the Region of Waterloo and greenfield developers who have been fighting the Region’s new Official Plan.

“This agreement is a great accomplishment for Waterloo Region,” said Kevin Thomason, co-founder of Smart Growth Waterloo Region and rural Wilmot resident. “While it’s a compromise, it’s a good one that will allow our community to protect our most important rural areas while building more compact, livable cities. It’s a solid foundation for our future.”

“We’re relieved to see a made-in-Waterloo solution to the dangerous decision made by the Ontario Municipal Board in 2013,” added Kate Daley, Waterloo resident and group co-founder. “This deal protects us from relying on the provincial court system to clean up the mess left by the OMB, and allows our community to move forward with our commitment to growing up instead of out.”

In a 2013 decision, the Ontario Municipal Board had sided with greenfield developers who were asking for 1053 hectares of land to be opened for urban development by 2031. The Region had determined that 85 hectares was the right amount to reach the community’s goals by limiting urban sprawl. This agreement identifies 255 hectares to settle the original dispute, and a future 198 hectares to accommodate more recent higher population projections. This settlement must be approved by the OMB, and would end growth-related appeals of the Region’s Official Plan.

Smart Growth Waterloo Region ( is a grassroots group started in 2013 by local community members to raise awareness of the Ontario Municipal Board decision, and to encourage citizens to speak out to protect the Region’s smart growth policies.



Media Contact:

Kevin Thomason
Phone: 519-888-0519
Mobile Phone: 519-240-1648

Deadline: Submit your comments on the review!

You’ve got until Thursday to submit your comments on the Province of Ontario’s Coordinated Land Use Planning Review.

The review is covering the Places to Grow Growth Plan and the Greenbelt. Given how important intensification and protecting our urban and rural spaces is in Waterloo Region, and how much local leadership we’ve seen on these issues, we want voices from our area to be well represented in the comments.

We were lucky to have a wonderful turnout at the local consultation back in March at Bingeman’s. If you were there, please still take a few moments to submit some of your comments in writing by Thursday. If you missed it, you can catch up on some of the tweets here.

Please take a few moments to look through the province’s consultation document, and submit your comments online by Thursday May 28th. We’re told that comments at this stage will be considered as the province drafts proposed changes, which will be brought back for public consultation later in the year.

If you’re wondering about what some of the local municipalities are submitting to the Province’s review, links to some of the submissions are below:

Region of Waterloo

Cambridge (see page 131)


Waterloo (see page 66)

Mark your calendars! Coordinated Land Use Planning Review

The Province of Ontario recently announced its Coordinated Land Use Planning Review. Taking a big-picture view, the Province has decided to include several related policies in the same review, and is including:

The Province has released a discussion document for this stage of the consultations, which can be viewed here.

Most exciting for us, Waterloo Region has been selected as the site of the first regional town hall meeting. The meeting will take place on Wednesday March 25th at Bingeman’s Conference Centre in Kitchener. The open house will start at 6:00 pm, and the meeting will start at 7:00 pm.

If you’re able, please join us at Bingeman’s on the 25th. With Waterloo Region leading the way on smart growth, environmental and farmland protection, and more liveable communities, we need to make sure that local voices are heard in this review. The results of this review will have a huge impact here at home and across the province.

We’ve set up a Facebook page for the event, so let us know you’ll be joining in! We’ll also be tweeting at #LandUseON, so join in the conversation online, too.

And if you can’t make it, you can submit your comments online until May 27th, 2015.

One more note: the Province of Ontario is also holding consultations about its strategy for addressing climate change. A consultation will take place at the Kitchener Public Library on March 19th, and full details are available here.

Update on negotiations from The Record

Today, the Waterloo Region Record ran a new story about the ongoing negotiations between the Region of Waterloo and a handful of developers, whose appeal of the Regional Official Plan resulted in a 2013 Ontario Municipal Board ruling against the Region’s efforts to rein in urban sprawl. While it’s been public knowledge that such negotiations have been ongoing since early 2013, it is noteworthy that both Regional Chair Ken Seiling and a planner for some of those developers sound hopeful that a negotiated settlement is still possible.

Fortunately, our regional government is doing what it can, and isn’t simply relying on the outcome of negotiations to protect our future. The article reports that the Region is still pursuing a judicial review of that fateful OMB decision, and if a satisfactory settlement isn’t reached, court dates for the appeal are set for January of 2016.

You can read the full article on the Record’s website here.

Roundup: Housing Affordability and Smart Growth

There was a brief flurry of newspaper pieces early this year raising fears that Ontario’s plans for smart growth will damage the affordability of home ownership. In the Globe and Mail, Tom Curtis suggested that the Greenbelt is threatening social equity by increasing housing prices in the Greater Toronto Area. Locally, The Record’s editorial board expressed the same concern, and encouraged the Region of Waterloo to consider compromising its policies that focus more growth in accessible core areas.

These pieces suggest that housing affordability and smart growth are opposed: that our only chance for equitable and affordable housing is to compromise our farmland, our environment, and our plans for sustainable and affordable growth. Fortunately, informed and articulate voices have been explaining that this isn’t the case.

First, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief planner, wrote a compelling piece in the Globe and Mail, pointing out that housing prices have gone up just as much in areas without greenbelts as in those with them, and that these smart growth policies are the affordable and responsible option for the long term.

More recently, several esteemed experts at the University of Waterloo, York University, and the University of Toronto wrote an extensive piece addressing questions of the housing market and smart growth. They point out that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of new housing, and that new housing has a very small impact on prices at a given time. High prices are due to demand in accessible and central areas, and they argue that we need to consider the cost of transportation when looking at housing affordability.

We at Smart Growth Waterloo Region also contributed a letter to the editor, arguing that we need to focus on real solutions to protect housing affordability and choice, since sprawl won’t keep housing affordable.

While it’s unfortunate that some are drawing the wrong conclusions about the causes of increasing housing prices, we’re grateful that so many have taken the opportunity to so thoughtfully address these misperceptions about smart growth.

This recent debate has also drawn the attention of some insightful folks in the media. Michael John McGrath at The Agenda Blog has written a strong overview piece about the Greenbelt and housing prices. Hopefully these questions are drawing the attention of more and more members of our communities to the importance of forward-thinking policies on growth.