What did City Council do?
Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS)
City Council approved a change to our parking ticket adjudication system. Under our current system if you receive a parking ticket, essentially your only options are to pay the fine or go to court/trial. This system is in my opinion antiquated and not an inclusive system as going to court can be an intimidating process. It is also less efficient as it is taking up valuable judicial resources. The new system, which will take effect later this year gives the offender the ability to come to City hall and discuss it with City staff. If a resolution can be reached, great! If not, a Council appointed hearing officer will hear the case. This drastically reduces the wait time (8-9 months down to 2-3 months) and is a more community minded approach. The results of the officer are still binding and the hope is the new initial screening process may reduce the escalation.
Station Area Funding Release
We approved a funding release to go to the implementation/public consultation stage for station area improvements. These are areas of the City that will be drastically altered upon the arrival of the LRT and we have committed to improving these locations for better active transportation access. The 5 areas that are moving forward for consultation at this time are: Seagram Drive (from University to Albert), Conestogo Road (from Northfield to King), Frank Toompa Drive (from Hagey to the Laurel Trail), Hazel Street (from Columbia to Albert) and Phillip Street (from University to Albert). I look forward to seeing what the improvements in active transportation will look like in these areas as we encourage improved access to the LRT!
Municipal Accommodation Tax
A MAT was approved for 4% on all hotel accommodations within the City of Waterloo. The Province approved MAT’s as a revenue tool for municipalities a few years ago and we see 22 other municipalities in the Province implementing them. There are strict requirements, including that the municipality have a Regional Tourism Marketing Board (in our case WRTMC), which will receive the majority of the funding. The estimated City portion of the revenue will be about $256,000 which we can use to attract festivals, sport tourism, conferences, etc. Residents of the City are already paying this tax if they are staying in hotels outside of the City and this allows our WRTMC to increase their budget, putting it more in line with their counterparts in London and Hamilton, which should help us drive more tourism to our Region.
Parkview Chapel and Crematorium
City Council had an informal public meeting to discuss what we are going to do with the Parkview Chapel and Crematorium at Bechtel Park. The cremation business was drastically altered in 2012 when private crematoriums were authorized in Ontario. Currently there are only 4 municipally owned crematoriums in Ontario, with 2 of them formally divesting themselves from the business. Although the City will always be in the cemetery business (due to mandatory regulations), we have to decide if we will continue offering cremation services or move funding into other priorities. Given infrastructure challenges facing the crematorium we will need to spend $3.2M within the next 2 years to stay in the business, plus an additional $2.7M annually from the tax base. The alternative is to wind down this business and continue to operate the cemetery business, which will still result in tax base funding requirements, but at a much lower rate and over a longer period of time. The next steps will be to engage in a public consultation process before a formal meeting where decisions will be made.
Museum Funding Request
The City of Waterloo museum (located in Conestoga Mall) is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year. It received over 7,000 visitors per year and hosts 45 events. Council approved a $15,000 funding request to celebrate 3 exhibits for the 10th anniversary. These exhibits will celebrate Joseph Seagram on the 100th anniversary of his death, including transportation of artifacts from the Seagram family for display in the museum, promotion of the museum and it’s anniversary, as well as funding to showcase the 100 year old Pierce Arrow Fire Truck at a variety of car shows.
Development at 400 Northfield Drive
Lastly, council approved a new development at 400 Northfield Drive. The current zoning is for Institutional use and it is being operated by the All Saints Anglican Church. The church no longer requires the full location and is requesting that it be subdivided, with the new church being built on the Southeast corner of the lot and the current church demolished, making way for 3 story stacked townhomes. This will allow the church to continue to operate, while if things were to remain as is, they may not be able to continue in this location. From my perspective the variances being requested for the new development (with respect to parking, setbacks, etc) were minor in nature and I think it is an appropriate land use for increased density. We heard from a number of concerned residents related to issues such as the height of the development, parking overflow onto neighbourhood streets, privacy concerns and frankly that it was just too much density. As the City continues to grow, we very much need to be mindful of finding new areas for people to live and to offer much in the way of housing choice within our supply. This development accomplishes that. Although I respect the change that it will have to the neighbourhood, preserving our urban-rural mix and protecting our farmland by mitigating urban sprawl requires increased density in our City. That density cannot just occur in our core and we must look at increased density in other areas of the City where amenities will allow it. In my opinion this development accomplishes a lot of that, and as I said at Council frankly I think even a bit more density than proposed would have been acceptable to me.
Council engaged in a host of strategic planning discussions and I’m really excited about the direction we are heading. Given the importance of this document, when the final plan is approved I will write a separate post talking about the process and how we got to where we got to.
Council was busy this month talking about a host of other issues including approving a few non-routine capital projects for RIM Park storage, Clay and Glass Gallery accessible parking and a few enterprise wide security updates, presentations from the Volunteer Action Centre, Asset Management legislative updates, retrofits at the Rec Centre, zoning discussions on Albert Street and on Wisner (the Pillers plant). If anyone would like me to go into more detail on any of the above, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Outside of the Council Chambers
The Sustainability Committee is continuing to work towards our goals and focuses for the next four year term. Team members and I will be meeting soon to brainstorm ideas pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion and youth engagement pertaining to sustainability. Economic Development had an excellent meeting this month to provide feedback related to the MAT as well as our strategic plan.
Community Meetings & Events
In the community I had the pleasure to attend both the City of Kitchener and of course Mayor Jaworsky’s State of the City addresses. I truly believe the Cities are headed in the right direction, with strong leadership and the right priorities. During the State of the City for Waterloo, we were introduced to the Grade 5 Council for the Day! Each Councillor (including our Ward 2 representative from St. Nicholas Catholic School AND our Mayor from Laurelwood PS) presented an excellent idea to improve the City and I look forward to working on implementing them. I also attended the grand opening of Applyboard’s new office. Applyboard is a local business that assists international students in their school selection and paperwork requirements to attend Canadian post-secondary institutions. It was started by a UW international student and employs hundreds of local people. Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen gave an inspiring speech in support of the business and it’s corporate priorities and mission. I also attended the Laurelwood Easter Egg Hunt at Old Oak Park, the weather may have put a damper on the event from a parents point of view, but the kids seemed to have great fun. Supporting our neighbourhood associations and the volunteers that run them is vitally important to helping put on these great events. I also attended an open house for the Islamic Humanitarian Service, opening soon in Mannheim and I was able to attend the Sustainability Leaders event hosted at Evolv1 in Waterloo, listening to some of the great progress being made in our Region both from a non-profit, government and corporate level, pertaining to sustainability.
From a resident perspective, I attended a walkabout at St. Nicholas school, along with City staff, WRPS, concerned parents and the Principal. The intention was to brainstorm ideas to improve traffic safety in this school zone, particularly during drop off and pick up. A host of ideas were discussed and I have brought them forward to staff for discussion. I will continue to push staff in order to come up with solutions to the challenges we are facing in this area. Lastly, I was so pleased to attend an open house to discuss the Vista Hills Neighbourhood Association affiliating with the City of Waterloo. Our neighbourhood associations in Clair Hills and Laurelwood do so many great things for our community and to have the amazing turnout (over 40 people) attend this first of hopefully many meetings was awesome. I apologize that I wasn’t feeling great, but the attendance really lifted my spirits. I hope to be able to continue to work with these residents to help make Vista Hills one of the best places to live in the City!