June 2019

What did City Council do?

Action Sports Parks

We are planning to build four new action sports parks in the City.  There will be a skate park built at RIM Park, as well as a circuit style BMX bike track.  Albert McCormick will be getting a skate park in addition to a broader rework of the site with a splash pad, basketball court and more.  Meanwhile on the west end we will be getting a skate park at the Harper Library.  Since the main skate park has been built on Father David Bauer Drive in 2012 we have identified a need for more neighbourhood oriented parks accessible to more residents throughout the City.  The detailed designs can be viewed at this link: https://www.engagewr.ca/help-us-design-action-sport-parks-in-waterloo Plans were initially presented to Council earlier this month, with an initial public information session later in the month that was well attended.  You can provide your feedback in the link above.

Transportation Master Plan

Waterloo’s Transportation Master Plan (TMP) was created in 2011, we are beginning the process of updating it with an eye towards growth out until 2041.  This plan will look at our vision for transportation within the City, analyze our existing performance, look at future demand based on population assessments and ultimately provide guidance on actions and policies that we will take.  The plan is high level and is likely to look at concepts such as ‘Complete Streets’ and ‘Vision Zero’ to help guide our policy proposals in the future.  It will not be looking at micro issues pertaining to specific locations at this time.  A key component will be looking at ‘first mile, transit, last mile’ transportation options within the City in order to align with our Region’s TMP.  Council approved the project engineer and consultants to continue public engagement in this regard with Council’s opportunity to provide input coming later this year.  Please check out https://www.engagewr.ca/transportation-master-plan-looking-ahead to provide your input.

2018 Financial Statement Review

Council received our final audited financial statements for 2018.  Some of the highlights include our Debt per Capita dropping $30 per person from last year, reaching its lowest level in 10 years.  Our revenues were up vs budget in most areas, while our expenses were all within budget except for amortization.  A simple analysis of our revenues and expenses can give you an idea of how the municipality operates in broad terms.  Revenues – $76.4M property tax (70% residential, 25% commercial, 5% other), $74.6M user fees, $13.2M grants, $6.9M investment income, $7.2M lot levies and development charges, $3.6M other, $5.6M equity changes pertaining to Waterloo North Hydro.  Expenses – $73.5M wages, $68.9M materials and services, $3.8M debentures and debt, $2.6M other, $23.6M amortization.  Detailed reports as well as a financial dashboard highlighting key indicators is available here https://www.waterloo.ca/en/government/financial-reports.aspx.

Asset Management Report Cards

Council received report cards for our three utilities; Water, Sanitary and Storm Water.  In water it is based on 435km of water mains, which are highly regulated.  At current funding rates we will see our water assets decline from excellent condition to good within 25 years.  Water represents 16.0% of all infrastructure the City owns, with a funding gap of $800K per year.  For sanitary we have 419km of sewers as well as 6 pumping stations, again this is highly regulated.  These assets will decline to poor in 25 years at current funding.  Sanitary represents 16.5% of all infrastructure, with a funding gap of $1.9 million dollars.  Lastly, storm water management includes 343km of pipes as well as 55 storm water management ponds.  These assets will decline from fair to poor in 25 years at current funding.  Storm water represents 15.3% of all infrastructure, with a funding gap of $2.3 million dollars.  Council will be addressing the infrastructure deficit on utilities as well as transportation and facilities (discussed in last month’s newsletter) in this coming term in order to determine the appropriate next steps.

Brownfield TIG Renewal

Council chose to extend our Tax Increment Grant (TIG) for brownfield renewals for another five years.  This program acknowledges that brownfields are more expensive to develop and allows for 40% of the remediation costs on these sites (the Region covers the other 60%) to be taken from future tax revenue over a 1-10 year period.  The intention of this program is to support development of these lands in order to get increased tax revenue in the long term, vs keeping the sites in their current condition.  This program is particularly important in Waterloo as we have limited land available for development and with the Uptown in particular only about 58% built up, these sites become strategically important in order to keep our commitment to preserving our Countryside Line.  Examples of remediation costs include issues pertaining to contaminated soil, which may well have a risk of migration contamination, extending the problem to other sites.  Overall the program has extraordinary merit to the City and I am in favour of it, however the tough part for me is the municipality bailing out business due to lax policies at higher levels of government.  Essentially a business can contaminate their land over a long period of time, causing millions of dollars in environmental degradation without any costs.  Furthermore, when they sell the land, the buyer of the land ultimately knows the situation the municipality has been put in and that we will help them with these remediation costs.  Because of that the original contaminator of the lands makes their full profit on the land.  Again, it really doesn’t sit well with me and I hope our Provincial and Federal government will look to ways to penalize the appropriate individuals going forward.

Physician Recruitment, Immigration in Waterloo, KW4 Ontario Health Team

One of the roles of Council is to receive presentations on important topics happening in our community.  This month we heard presentations on the KW Chamber of Commerce physician recruitment initiative, Immigration Partnerships immigrants in Waterloo review and the proposal to set up an Ontario Health Team in our area in light of recent changes to the Local Health Integration Networks across the province.  These are often eye opening presentations and I wanted to share some info from each.  Physician recruitment is vital as we still have 18-20 thousand people without family physicians in KW.  This program has worked hard to recruit doctors and address this issue with great success.  However, it will remain vital as we have a big bubble upcoming with almost 25% of physicians retiring within the next 5 years in KW.  To continue with the health topic, since the Provincial government consolidated the 14 LHIN’s as well as a number of specialized programs into one super agency (Ontario Health), we have a local group applying to become a local health team representing Kitchener, Waterloo, Wilmot, Wellesley, Woolwich (KW4).  The population of this proposed team would represent about half of the previous Waterloo-Wellington LHIN.  It is reassuring to hear that we have a local group with 31 signatories, including both hospitals, working towards this goal as our health care system is changing rapidly.  Lastly the immigration partnership presentation was fascinating.  In Waterloo we have an immigrant population of 25.3% (permanent residents only, not students).  Immigrants represent 65% of population growth today and are projected to represent almost 100% of all population growth by 2035!  Immigration is extremely important as today we have a ratio of 4:1 worker to retirees, which is going to drop to 2:1 by 2035.  We need immigration in Waterloo and it’s why I’ve always believed that diversity is our strength.

Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw General Amendments (Rooftop Patios)

I had my first opportunity to propose an amendment to a motion that came forward to Council and although it was voted down, I’m happy to have crossed that hurdle (admittedly I was less than articulate in formulating my thoughts, lessons learned for next time J).  Essentially we were responding to concerns in the zoning bylaw approved last September that rooftop patios would be allowed near residential neighbourhoods.  While I understand the concern and agree with the premise, I felt we went a bit far in that not only were we restricting them to within 40m from a residential lot line, we were also limiting them in size and preventing music from being played on them.  I felt that the 40m restriction was sufficient enough and felt that increasing the maximum size from 50 square meters to 100 and lifting the restriction on music and allowing our noise bylaw to cover issues past certain times of day would appropriately handle the resident concerns.  Ultimately that was voted down 4-3, but I still look forward to enjoying a pint at wherever a rooftop patio ends up being built in the City.

Council also reviewed initial discussions around our Parkland Strategy, approved building demolitions on Erb and Conservation Drive, we approved a heritage building permit on Central as well as a proposal for a restaurant at 185 King and a new zoning at 40 Blue Springs Dr.  Property listings were approved on the Municipal Heritage Registry in the Mary Allen neighbourhood, we had an informal public meeting for a 6 story apartment building on Albert St and we provided funding release for next stages of the West Side Employment Lands and Erb St reconstruction from Menno to Caroline (design only).  We also approved our final Corporate Climate Change Adaptation plan (discussed last month) as well as purchasing bylaw changes and rates and charges for 2020-2022 by department.  Lastly we heard some sobering concerns regarding the financial impacts of recent Provincial announcements, many of these announcements are light on full details, so our finance team is working hard to adapt to these changes, particularly as they begin preparing for our next three-year budget.  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

Community Meetings & Events

In the community I attended the Laurelwood Summer Solstice event, what a great event put on by the Laurelwood Neighbourhood Association.  The kids in the neighbourhood really looked to enjoy themselves and it was a pleasure to volunteer.  I also volunteered at the service center open house.  The City of Waterloo puts on this event every year and it’s awesome to see the kids enjoy all the equipment, vehicles and other activities put on throughout the day.  I attended a number of public information sessions this month.  These events are a great opportunity to hear from residents regarding their questions and concerns on a host of issues that will ultimately come to Council for a vote.  This includes the second Erbsville South Block Plan, where we heard concerns about proposed official plan amendments that foresee development in this area.  A lot of the concerns were regarding the pedestrian realm in Erbsville, I share these concerns and look forward to discussing how these will be addressed (check it out here – https://www.engagewr.ca/erbsville-south-planning-study).  The Parkview Crematorium information session allowed me to connect with a host of local operators regarding their concerns as to whether we should remain in this business (have your say here – https://www.engagewr.ca/parkview-cemetery-crematorium-future-considerations).  A developer with a proposal for a new development at the corner of Westmount and Erb (see last month for discussion on the informal public meeting) had an informal open house to review their plans and address resident concerns.  I appreciate the developer engaging the community and although this will not be occurring in Ward 2, I wanted to hear directly from residents what they would like to see addressed in the proposal before Council ultimately votes on the formal submission.  I attended the Solstice Sunrise ceremony and mural unveiling in Waterloo Town Square for National Indigenous Peoples Day.  I am by no means an expert on Indigenous issues and I continue to look to educate myself on the municipalities role on these important issues.  I was privileged to engage in an interesting discussion for the Uptown BIA’s planned rebranding.  It was really interesting to hear a variety of stakeholders’ impressions of Uptown Waterloo, where it is today and where it is heading.  I look forward to seeing what they come up with going forward.  I was also privileged to attend the True North Conference for one of the two days.  This is a Tech for Good conference and corresponding festival put on by Communitech with support from many in the local business community.  There were amazing speakers and I was fortunate to hear from Kara Swisher and Thomas Friedman, both excellent speakers with thought provoking conversations on the role of tech in our society.  I also attended a host of panels on interesting topics such as The Rise of Social Enterprises, It’s Time to Talk About Killer Robots and more.  Lastly, I felt extremely lucky to be able to attend the official launch for the LRT!  Hearing from so many of our community leaders on all of the hard work and effort that has gone into this transformational project really put into perspective how difficult bringing these types of change to our community can be.  Getting to ride one of the inaugural trains was something I won’t forget.  In the week since then, I’ve taken the LRT numerous times and I’m always struck by the wonder many of the passengers have as they are seeing the City from a different perspective for the first time.  I really feel as though we have hit an inflection point in the Region with this unveiling and I look forward to seeing the same effect in Phase 2 as it heads to Cambridge and hopefully into the next discussions around further connecting the Region.  As always, I also had a number of resident meetings this month to discuss a wide variety of issues on the minds of Ward 2.  I always value these meetings and encourage everyone to reach out to me if you’d like to discuss anything in greater detail.