With December and January primarily focused on the City of Waterloo’s 3-year budget, I wanted to get back into regular newsletters. The below update will highlight not only February, but also items of note from December and January that were not budget related. I will put forward a full budget review in the coming weeks.
What did City Council do?
Economic Development Strategy
Council approved our new Economic Development strategy, which takes us through to 2024. The strategy surrounds 3 main goals with 9 objectives and 27 actions for our team to work through. The three goals are Start & Attract, Preserve & Grow and Organize & Empower. This strategy guides our economic development team for the next four years and I was pleased to see that its focus is not just on traditional economic development. We are not only focusing on investment and talent attraction, business retention and expansion and investment readiness, but also on helping grow the emerging arts & culture industry, development of creative spaces, diversity within local industries and enhancing our quality of life/quality of place. I look forward to seeing how this strategy gets implemented in the coming years.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure
Council approved a citywide rollout of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). This project began as a pilot in 2015 with just over 350 customers. AMI provides near live water reads via a radio transmitter fastened to a remote reading device on the outside of the home. This infrastructure provides near live water reads. Some of the benefits of this program include operational improvements via automation, streamlined billing, customer access to water trends, as well as enhanced customer service and support. Most importantly, AMI provides an alarm to residents for ‘high’ water bills because of unknown leaks. Not only will this virtually eliminate these unfortunate situations with respect to the bill itself, but it is also helping with water conservation. This infrastructure will be implemented over a 4-year period, with all of Ward 2 set for completion in 2020.
Joint Services with City of Kitchener Update
With the Provincial Regional review concluded, with no formal recommendations mandated to municipalities, I wanted to focus on some of the tasks that Waterloo and Kitchener jointly tackle. Recognizing the closeness of the municipalities and the efficiencies that can be gained by working on projects collectively, there have been 70 joint service initiatives in the last 30 years. There are 10 such initiatives ongoing or new in 2020 including; speed limit review, inclusionary zoning, sidewalk and road inspection process, fleet/inventory software sharing, specialized fire rescue training and more. Both municipalities look to work together on projects that will be mutually beneficially to our residents wherever possible.
East Side Library Funding Release
The final funding release for the future East Side Library within RIM Park was approved. This will include approximately 13,000 square feet of new space and 2,500 square feet of repurposed space within the facility. Through the design process, we were able to show a 25% reduction in energy and greenhouse gas reduction beyond what the building code permits. This is achieved through being solar ready, EV ready, a solar wall, thermal efficiency, increasing the efficiency of windows and minimal masonry. The overall cost of this project is just over $10 million, funded primarily from Development Charges as well as Federal Gas Tax funding. Libraries are extraordinary public spaces for neighbourhoods and add so much to their communities. I am confident that this addition will do for the East end of the City, what the Harper Library has done for our end of the City. Construction is expected to begin in April, with a targeted opening date of Summer 2021.
Erbsville South Block Plan – Informal Meeting
The informal public meeting for the Erbsville South Block Plan (lands West of Erbsville Road and North of Wideman/North of Regal Place as well as lands East of Erbsville Road, North of Forest Gate Crescent) took place in January. This plan will propose an Official Plan Amendment, which leads to a zoning framework for the lands. Having attended the public information sessions for this plan, the main themes that emerged from residents were Environmental Protection, Safety on Erbsville Road (particularly at Conservation Drive, but also general pedestrian realm concerns due to lack of sidewalks) and what is happening with the Early Years Centre. My colleagues and I asked a number of questions at this meeting and I am confident that these will all be addressed when the Formal meeting occurs in March/April. There was also a conversation around the proposal for a four-story apartment building/townhouse complex, which has received some attention. Without making a specific opinion on this particular plan (Councillor’s are not permitted to do so at this stage) it is important for us to balance the need for more people to live in our growing City (fastest growing Region in the Country according to recent reports) with appropriate planning principles. This is particularly important, given our commitment to the Countryside Line and our rapidly reducing availability of land. Again, a number of questions were asked and will be revisited during the Formal meeting.
West Side Employment Lands – Formal Meeting
The West Side Employment Lands are the lands West of the Clair Hills neighbourhood (North of Costco) and South of the Vista Hills neighbourhood. These were formerly the Waterloo Golf Academy lands, which have been graded over the past year. These lands are owned by the City of Waterloo and are Provincially designated employment lands. This formal meeting was to approve an Official Plan Amendment, as well as a Zoning Change and Draft Plan of Subdivision for the site. This will allow the City to go to market with approved zoning in place, in search of a buyer for each block within the site. Council unanimously approved the plans and I am very excited to move this for a number of reasons. Beyond addressing the employment needs of the City this site helps signal an end date for Vista Hills construction. The Platinum Drive completion lifts development restrictions in the yet constructed areas of Vista Hills and as such finally provides some hope to long-term residents of the area that there is a horizon for completion of the community. From a transportation perspective, Platinum Drive is a game changer. It provides Vista Hills residents an alternative route out of their subdivision, will shift traffic habits for Costco members, provides a new main collector road in the West end and will keep traffic off of residential streets like St. Moritz in Clair Hills. This road is a vital piece recommended by the West Side Multi-Modal Transportation Study and its completion is welcome. With the thoughtful planning of the lands, this site will provide much-needed amenities in this area of the City. Not only from an employment perspective, where Clair Hills and Vista Hills residents will be able to walk or bike to work, but also from a convenience commercial perspective with the potential for cafes, child care facilities and restaurants (even a potential for a MicroBrewery). This is getting us one step closer to a more complete community on the West end of the City!
Additionally, Council made changes to our Municipal Alcohol Policy, approved data collection as part of our Strategic Plan Implementation, approved our new Stormwater Management Master Plan, released funding for the construction of the Larch Street woonerf, held an Informal Public Meeting on 693 Beechwood Drive, received and approved our sidewalk report, and acquired land for parkland purposes in Ward 5. If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a meeting.
Outside of the Council Chambers
On the neighbourhood front, I attended both the Clair Hills and Vista Hills Winter events held at St. Moritz Park and Autumn Willow Park respectively. It was so great to see so many community members out, enjoying each other’s company, skating, having fun and just making connections. Many thanks to the numerous volunteers at all of our neighbourhood associations who dedicate their valuable to organizing and running these amazing events. Waterloo is a better place because of them!
Over the past few months, I have met with residents and community members on a wide variety of topics. I have met individually with residents to discuss specific issues, including a number of budget meeting requests. I met with representatives from the Edna Staebler Safe Travel Committee to discuss ongoing traffic concerns and how the City is going to address them. I also met with representatives from the WLU students union regarding issues affecting students and what the municipality can do to address them. If you would like to set up a meeting to chat about an issue that is important to you, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Regional Chair, Karen Redman hosted an All Councils Meeting at Region of Waterloo headquarters. During this meeting, Councillor’s from across the Region received updates from each of our three hospitals, Waterloo Economic Development Corporation and the Waterloo Region Tourism Marketing Corporation. Topics discussed include; the need for more affordable housing, professional resources on opioid addiction, challenges associated with growth in our Region, continuing to exploit the talent differentiator that Waterloo Region possesses, sport tourism opportunities, the economic impact of festivals on the Region (True North – greater than $5M impact, Ever After – greater than $15M!) and the funding benefits to be derived from the Municipal Accommodations Tax.
I was pleased to represent the City of Waterloo at a number of events recently, including the Sunbeam Centre lighting of the square, the Coalition of Muslim Women’s conversation on Bill 21, the Child Witness Centre lunch and a 2SLGBTQ+ Youth Participation meeting. I am always happy to attend these events as they provide me with a great opportunity for continuous learning on topics that are affecting our community.
Did I miss something; want to get together for a meeting to discuss any of the above or any other issue in our community? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Royce.firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-575-0093.