Category Archives: Uncategorized

Last chance: tell the province you support smart growth

As many of you know, the province has been conducting a land use planning review. The deadline for comments as part of this phase of the review is October 31st. We’ve created a handy web form so you can send your comments to the review and to the relevant ministers.

We’ve been thrilled by the interest in the review that we’ve seen here in Waterloo Region. Many of you have taken time to attend local consultations, to submit comments to the review about the importance of the province’s smart growth plans, or to let local officials know you support Greenbelt expansion here in Waterloo Region.

We were also happy to see such a great turnout at our Snack and Smart Growth event in Kitchener in September. Many of you came out to talk about the review, meet others who are interested in smart growth, and eat delicious pies and cookies.

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If you haven’t submitted comments yet, now is the time to make your voice heard. Whether you want to send a quick note in support of smart growth or get into the details, you’ll be helping to protect and strengthen these important provincial plans that defend our agriculture, our environment, and our urban centres. Please send your comments by October 31.

You can learn more about the government’s proposed changes in their summary document, or dig into the details of what’s proposed for the Growth Plan or the Greenbelt.

You can also read responses that have been submitted by us and by local municipalities:

We have a new Regional Official Plan!

After 6 years and a lot of drama, we have a new Official Plan for Waterloo Region.

On Thursday, June 18th, the Ontario Municipal Board approved a deal between the Region of Waterloo and developers who were using the OMB to fight provincial and local requirements for smart growth.

A handful of developers had fought the Region’s Official Plan, which had proposed 85 hectares of greenfield land be converted to urban development by 2031, to accommodate projected population growth while protecting farmland and build more liveable urban areas. The developers wanted 1,053 hectares to be converted, and the OMB had sided with the developers.

To its great credit, our regional government fought the decision in court, with strong support from the province and from our community. Against the backdrop of this court challenge, the Region was able to negotiate a deal that protects the key features of our official plan.

The deal approved by the OMB differs very slightly from that originally announced on May 26th. According to The Waterloo Region Record, the minor changes were due to negotiations with a developer who had not been involved in the original case but who made a last-minute motion in front of the OMB to be included. As a result, The Record notes, “Two hectares of land near the corner of Fischer-Hallman and Huron Roads have been brought into the plan for development as part of those negotiations.”

For more information on the deal reached in May, you can see our post.

As the Region of Waterloo’s news release states, the following are the key features of the Official Plan that is now in effect, and with which local-tier Official Plans must comply:

• Countryside line: A new countryside line will establish a long-term development boundary.

• Groundwater and broader environmental protection: Protected Countryside and Regional Recharge areas will further protect groundwater sources and other environmental features.

• New employment lands: The East Side lands prime industrial strategic reserve designation will be completed for lands in north Cambridge, creating new opportunities for business relocation or to attract new business.

• Transit: Public transit policies will be more fully integrated with development policies, especially in the ION corridor.

• Economic vitality: Policies to support the economy have been enhanced.

• Rural prosperity: Rural assets, including prime agricultural lands and rural communities, will continue to be protected and supported.

Restrictions on aggregate extraction: Protection of significant woodlands from aggregate extraction, and restrictions on aggregate extraction in environmentally sensitive areas.

In addition, as part of the settlement, the Region’s land budget methodology will be used by the applicable settling parties in the future to calculate the amount of agricultural land that can be converted to urban development.

We must offer all of you our congratulations on this great success. We know that support from the community has made a huge difference in achieving this important result for smart growth.

While the fight over the Region’s most recent Official Plan is over, there is still lots to do to protect smart growth here in Waterloo Region and across the province. This fall, we at Smart Growth Waterloo Region will be reaching out to community members to help us determine the work that our organisation should be doing next, and how we can best accomplish it.

If you’re not already on our mailing list, please take a moment to sign up, so you won’t miss any crucial meetings or opportunities to be involved with Smart Growth Waterloo Region as we move on to the next big challenges.

In the mean time, enjoy your summer, and this victory.

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.

Slow and steady progress to protect our community

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.