March-April 2021

What did City Council do?

Tax Deferral Program

As part of a review of our 2020 tax adjustments, Council approved a property tax deferral program for residents that are struggling financially.  This program has a deadline for application of June 30, 2021 and there are a few qualifications that must be met.  All of the information is in the below link.  If you are eligible and need a 60-day extension to your property taxes, please fill out the form below.

Culture Plan Report Card 2020

Council received the 2020 report card from our culture team.  As with many arts organizations 2020 was a tough year.  That said, our culture team pivoted wonderfully to a variety of online programming, unique physically distant and/or self-guided tour opportunities, while increasing our roster and offering 97 paid opportunities for artists in our community.  The uptown history walk, the art walk and in particular the trail mix program were all well received.  Good news Ward 2, there are plans to extend the trail mix program out to the Geo-Time Trail in 2021!

Localizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Council approved our initial report on localizing the UN SDG’s.  We are in the early stages of determining how we integrate these indicators into decision-making and this is the first step in acknowledging the goals and recognizing our role as a municipality to them.  The UN SDG’s have been adopted by 193 countries; there are 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators.  The Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC) has been instrumental in helping map these indicators to our Strategic Plan.  As the work materialized, it was important to see that 44 of the SDG indicators mapped directly to our current Strategic Plan.  The intent is to deepen the alignment between these goals into future business plans, strategic plans and budgets.  It has been exciting to watch this journey take place over the past couple of years through my role on Council and as liaison to SAC.

Backyard Hens

Council approved staff to finalize a bylaw regarding the keeping of backyard hens on Waterloo properties.  This is a topic that I personally wrestled with, but ultimately decided to support.  The main rules being discussed as part of the bylaw implementation are: maximum of 4 hens, no roosters, no selling eggs (personal use only), no slaughtering of animals, all hens must be tagged, a $50 one-time permit will be required to ensure compliance and cover inspection costs, hens must be kept in coop at all times, rental properties will require permission from the homeowner, rules around grading of the site, setbacks from rear and side yards as well as a requirement to review a comprehensive pamphlet detailing health & safety, proper storage of feed, how to ethically care for the animals, etc.  Our online engagement suggested that 63% of respondents were in favour of this bylaw, that also roughly equates to what I found when I went door knocking to ask Ward 2 residents their thoughts.  My questions to staff were regarding costs to administer the program – suggestion is that there would be no material financial implications.  Health and safety concerns – advised that there will be numerous biosecurity recommendations as part of the education process.  Finally, what enforcement consequences will there be for those not following the rules – as always we will lead with education but will have the ability to revoke their permit should repeat violations occur.  I recognize that this is not a universally appealing decision, however I ultimately voted to support based on my research of other municipalities, based on the conversations I had with residents during my town hall and informal survey, and finally because it is something I believe in principle.  Food security, fresh local food supply, combined with things like community gardens are an important part of a sustainable future.  I recognize this is not significant progress, but rather a small step towards a more sustainable food supply chain.

Transportation Master Plan (TMP) Final & 30km/hr Neighbourhood Speed Limit Discussion

After years of hard work by staff and back and forth with Council and the community, the City of Waterloo updated TMP was finally approved and is set to start being implemented.  I have written extensively on the TMP in these newsletters and am happy to see how it rolls out.  The previous TMP was approved in April of 2011 and when this project was initiated, it was originally intend as a minor update.  The passionate voices on Council and in the community helped us get, what I believe is a progressive and visionary plan with a focus on Complete Streets, Vision Zero, Active Transportation, Speed Management, Traffic Calming and more.  From the draft report a couple of changes include ensuring that the design speed of our roads does exceed the planned posted speed limit, as well as a change to a wider sidewalk policy requirement in front of educational institutions.  Public engagement included three questions asked to residents.  Do you support prioritizing sidewalk snow clearing, 81.9% replied yes.  Do you support Vision Zero, 84.5% said yes.  Do you support a drop in neighbourhood speed limits to 40km/hr, 64.8% said yes.  It is on that last point where I introduced an amendment to direct staff to include an option for Council to go to 30km/hr on neighbourhood streets as part of our forthcoming speed management report.  There will be a public engagement component to this as well.  I spoke of all my reasons for recommending 30km/hr on the streets where our children walk to school, go to the park and meet up with their friends and neighbours.  You can check that out here –  I also did some fun little videos of me driving through each of the Ward 2 neighbourhoods, which went a little bit viral on Twitter, you can see how much time would be taken off your commute in your neighbourhood by checking out those videos here –

Additional Council business this month included; development applications at 364 Woolwich and 319/337/343 Woolwich.  Funding approvals for Longfellow Drive, Alexandra Park, Silver Lake and Rink in the Park.  Council approved our Community Improvement Plan for $1 Million to help local small businesses with COVID related expenses and approved a slow streets plan in the Uptown neighbourhoods.  Council also received reports on cash grants, a proposed Urban Design Manual refresh plan, 2020/2021 grant money applied for and received, as well as approving our new Uptown Vision 2030 plan.  Lastly, in case you missed it, there will be a minor zone change formal meeting for Vista Hills development on May 31st.  I wrote about it here if you’d like to provide comments to myself or the planner –  If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a chat.

Outside of the Council Chambers

Outside of Council chambers, I attended a few webinars/panel discussions on a variety of topics.  Notably, the City of Waterloo hosted a panel on research and innovation in affordable housing.  Many practical tips for Council and staff in attendance as we begin preparing a comprehensive affordable housing strategy for the City.  This is a challenge that requires attention from all levels of government, but clearly, the City has a role to play.  Some of the actions we could take include ensuring our zoning aligns with the ‘missing middle’ housing supply that is sorely needed, mandating an inclusionary zoning policy, looking at empty unit/speculation/investor taxes, regulating vacation rentals and very importantly using our Publicly owned City land.  I also attended a very interesting workshop for municipal corporate energy managers that looked at advancing net zero buildings.  I learned a lot about some of the challenges and opportunities from city energy managers across Ontario.

The Sustainability Advisory Committee engaged in a great discussion on the forthcoming TransformWR report, which is an holistic regional approach to how we are going to collectively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions on a community scale (check it out here –  I look forward to continuing that discussion at Council this month.  If you would like to discuss any of the above with me in detail, please send me a note.

Take care, stay safe and get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible!