What did City Council do?
Outside of our budget approval, there was only one council meeting this month, with only a couple of topics.
Drinking Water Reports
Council received our annual drinking water reports, which were reviewed and commented on. When combining this with our Standard of Care training that was also done in February, the importance of ensuring that the City of Waterloo continues to provide safe drinking water to our residents was emphasized. Safe drinking water is a human right and heavily regulated under provincial guidelines created in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy. These reports show that for 2018 there were no non-compliances and that we received a final inspection rating of 100%. A lot goes into our water supply, which I am continuing to learn about. There may be an opportunity in the future for council to visit the Region’s treatment facility to learn even more info.
Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan
The Greater Golden Horseshoe refers to the ‘horseshoe’ shaped area around Lake Ontario extending as far Northeast as Peterborough, as far North as Barrie, as far West as Waterloo Region and around Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls. The province of Ontario has created a growth plan to identify density targets as well as other land area use planning for this core growth area in the province. The new provincial government has made some amendments to the plan, which the City voted to provide comments to. One of the main takeaways was reducing the target from 80 people and jobs/hectare to 60 people and jobs/hectare. The new Beaver Creek Meadows development is approximately 58 people and jobs/hectare and is relatively reflective of the type of density we are likely to see in new developments in this area of the province in the coming years. We believe the new target is more reasonable and attainable, allowing us to follow our Official Plan, which directs growth to Nodes and Corridors, Station Areas and our Urban Growth Centre. We are generally supportive of the principles and concepts within the plan and made some comments regarding a few of the amendments that pertain to the City. In particular, I was very supportive of the comments we made that were critical of the elimination of reference to climate change and eliminating the reference to ‘net zero communities’ with a more ambiguous comment of ‘environmentally sustainable’ development. I also wish there was more commentary regarding Affordable Housing targets, but that is not a part of the plan at this time.
Outside of the Council Chambers
Our Sustainability Committee met and are engaging in excellent discussions regarding our Terms of Reference, which help us guide our goals for the upcoming term. We are also engaging in discussions regarding our commentary for our forthcoming Strategic Plan. I look forward to our meeting next month to delve into these topics in greater detail. The Economic Development committee also met and reviewed our Arts & Culture update for the City as well as an Uptown BIA update. We discussed a host of issues surrounding these topics, identifying future challenges and opportunities to review.
Community Meetings & Events
I attended the Public Information Session regarding the Erbsville South development that is being proposed. I heard a host of comments from residents and concerned citizens in this area regarding the environmental impact of this development, traffic issues on Erbsville Road and safety concerns at Erbsville and Conservation Drive. I look forward to receiving the final report at Council for review and discussion. I also met with Waterloo North Hydro to get a better understanding of the relationship the City of Waterloo has with them as the majority shareholder in the operation. This was very interesting and informative as we look towards a changing landscape in Hydro Utilities throughout the province of Ontario, particularly from an operations standpoint. I engaged in my first meeting with the Region of Waterloo as the City of Waterloo representative regarding improvements being made to Fischer-Hallman Road and Bearinger Road from Columbia Street all the way to Westmount Road. There will be a forthcoming Public Information Session that I will update residents as to the date and location as soon as it becomes available. Lastly I was happy to attend events such as the Clair Hills Winter Classic at St. Moritz Park, Chinese New Year celebrations at Resurrection School and for the Waterloo Region Chinese Canadian Association, as well as the Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards Gala. We have some amazing community leaders in these groups and to have the opportunity to meet with and celebrate with them is inspiring!
I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with residents on a host of issues ranging from park usage to traffic issues, snow clearing, signage and more. I am absolutely open to meeting and/or chatting with any resident who is interested in getting together to find ways to solve problems within our community. One of the more common concerns that I received this month was in response to the plans for apartment buildings to be built on Columbia Street between the Fire Hall and the Sobey’s Plaza. This was discussed by me during the campaign and in light of an article in the Laurelwood Newsletter I have been updating residents on their questions. I appreciate the Laurelwood Neighbourhood Association providing my contact info in the newsletter as it allows me to directly communicate with residents on their concerns with this development. This also came up in a recent walk through the neighbourhood on Gatestone Boulevard that I did in conjunction with an informal survey regarding a temporary traffic calming sign on the street. I will be meeting with the LNA to discuss the results of that survey next month. On the apartment building specifically, below is my commentary on this development as I shared with residents who requested information:
The decision to have this land zoned for ‘Medium-High’ density was made in 2005. This zoning decision was made as part of the City-wide ‘Nodes and Corridors’ study, which involved extensive public consultation. The main justification for this was based on intensification targets set by the Province of Ontario, an understanding of the limited space constraints that we are dealing with in the City of Waterloo for new development, a commitment to holding our Countryside Line which protects the urban/rural mix in the Region and to highlight main corridors of the City where further intensification would be appropriate. While I was not on Council at the time, I do recognize the importance of this study and understand it’s implementation. For reference, prior to this study the lot in reference was zoned for ‘Medium’ density. The practical difference between ‘Medium’ and ‘Medium-High’ is roughly 6 stories.
The developer could have decided to build on this property at any point in time over the past 14 years, but in the middle of 2018 the developer sold the property and a new developer has decided to proceed. If the developer decides to meet the zoning requirements for the land as laid out in 2005, the project will not come to City Council for approval. At this time, it appears as though the developer intends to follow those requirements. If they change their mind and ask for any exemptions to the land (lower setback, higher height, less parking, less amenity space, etc) then it will come to Council. That said, there are still a host of requirements that they will need to meet related to the site planning process. They will have to follow our Urban Design Guidelines, they will need an Environmental Assessment, they will have to ensure that they are meeting other community needs (in particular the one that has come up frequently is the path from Baringham) prior to getting approval. As of today, my understanding is that they are on about their 5th or 6th iteration of site plan approvals and still waiting for confirmation to proceed. Although these plans are protected by copyright and cannot be shared via e-mail or copy, you are free to go to IPPW (2nd floor of City Hall) and request to see them. I have also committed to letting the neighbourhood association know when approval occurs and at that time I am hoping to work with the developer to get a rendering of the final plans to the community.
The development is likely to occur in stages, with Phase 1 involving the build of the building closest to Columbia St. Phase 2 is the building closest to the Fire Hall, with Phase 3 being closer to the Plaza. These are what the developer has shared with me as their initial plans, but those could certainly change as there is an element of funding from their perspective and a host of other issues that will affect them in their build. The current site plans (not yet approved) call for 3 buildings, with 5 total towers (2 towers on Phase 1 and I believe 2 towers on Phase 3, 1 tower on Phase 2). Again this could change as the site planning continues to be a process.
There are developments such as this throughout the City and they have been identified based on best practices for City planning and with an eye towards what is in the best interest of the City, while respecting the broader feel of the neighbourhoods where they are occurring. We will see more developments such as this in Beaver Creek Meadows (Beaver Creek, Conservation Drive, Erbsville Road area), we are also seeing apartment buildings on Laurelwood near SJAM/Abraham-Erb and there is another parcel of land on Laurelwood across from the Shoppers plaza, adjacent to the retirement home, that is zoned for the same ‘Medium-High’ designation.
Hopefully this answers any questions you may have on this development, but as always do not hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail!