This is going to be my last newsletter for this term of Council. The municipal election is upcoming this fall, with the nomination period for candidates running from May 2nd to August 19th. In order to be fully transparent with my communications, I have made the decision to stop producing and sharing this newsletter. As your Councillor I will continue to share important and pertinent information to the Ward on my Facebook page as well as my Twitter and would strongly encourage folks to follow me there to stay up to date on Council business. There are a lot of important projects and engagement opportunities coming up across the City and in Ward 2, at the end of this newsletter I will highlight a few that may come up before the end of the term. Of course, as always I am happy to answer questions related to Council business and will continue to be responsive as these come forward. I have really enjoyed producing these newsletters and I hope you have found them informative. Since this is the last one, we’ll go out with a lengthy one J.
What did City Council do?
Council approved two new neighbourhood splash pads in the City of Waterloo. One will be located at Eastbridge Green Park, while the other will be located right here in Ward 2 at Blue Beech Link Park (the park between Abraham Erb Elementary School and Laurel Heights Secondary School). As the climate continues to warm and we experience more extremely hot days, the value of ensuring our kids have respite from the heat will continue to increase. Finding more outdoor activities for children and the value of outdoor public spaces in general has only shown itself to be more valuable in the era of COVID. Design of the splash pads will take place over the summer, with construction targeted to begin this fall. I am so excited to continue to build more splash pads throughout the City.
Waterloo Public Square Improvements
In other ‘make our outdoor spaces more livable in the summer months’ news, the City approved construction of a new water feature and more shade in the public square. The water feature will provide ambience and white noise to the square and will be located in front of the Beertown patio. There will be permanent and temporary shade features installed. The permanent features will be accompanied by wood top seating at the south edge of the square’s amphitheatre, while the movable shade structures will allow for the many great events that occur in the square to continue. The square is an important gathering space for the community and these upgrades will ensure the square remains vibrant and functional.
Green Building Policy Update
City owned buildings make up approximately 70% of the City of Waterloo’s GHG emissions. In addition to taking a leadership role in the construction, retrofitting and operations of City owned buildings, there is simply no way for us to achieve our GHG emissions reduction targets without tackling building emissions. The original green building policy was created in 2008 and essentially targeted the building of LEED Silver certified buildings. In 2018 the policy was updated to reflect what our GHG inventory was. This revised policy targets actions to help us meet our GHG goals. The policy aligns with the Canadian Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building Standard, along with the Toronto Green Building Standard and other best practices in the industry. It is great to continue to see progress on this important issue.
‘Ontario Must Build it Right the First Time’ Motion
As the City assumes a leadership role with respect to City owned green buildings, it is important that the Federal government and Provincial government take similar roles within their jurisdictions. The Ontario Building Code, which governs all building design across the Province is only updated every 5 to 7 years. With aggressive climate targets in place by 2030, we simply cannot add to the Provincial/community GHG inventory through the design of non-climate friendly buildings. Councillor Henry introduced a motion, that was unanimously approved, advocating to the Province to adopt energy performance tiers in order to provide the development industry with a timeline, consistency and clarity to achieve these targets (similar to the British Columbia Provincial step-code, which has been very successful). Hopefully the advocacy drives changes to proposed legislation, but in the absence of Provincial leadership on this topic, it is incumbent upon local municipalities to exercise local leadership and we are in active discussions to drive change in Waterloo Region.
Fire Master Plan Council Workshop
The City of Waterloo fire department is in the process of updating its master plan and sought feedback from Council on priorities. From 2008 to 2018 we have seen an increase in annual call volume of about 62%. As the population continues to increase, there continues to be budget pressures in response to the increased volume as well as the potential need for a fifth fire station in the southwest corner of the City. A new station would likely be the last station needed in the City for a great period of time, but would come at an estimated cost of just over $10M and operating costs of approximately $4.5M per year. Council expressed its desires to ensure that the new fire master plan complies with existing and forthcoming City plans, including our TransformWR Community Climate Action Plan, Transportation Master Plan and Official Plan. Accounting for enhanced traffic calming in neighbourhoods, impacts from LRT and the need for vertical response (high density buildings) are likely to be key drivers of the next plan.
Forestry and Stewardship Initiatives (And Lot Maintenance Amendments)
Council received an update from our parks team on a host of initiatives to promote Natural Assets in the City of Waterloo. Earth Day community clean ups took place across the City, with 31 groups and over 600 residents helping keep our public spaces clean of later. Thank you so much to the many volunteers in Ward 2 that helped. The City planted more than 1,000 street trees last year and plans to do so again this year, we have also successfully diversified our tree species with more than 25 new tree types added to our inventory since 2006. The Spongy Moth challenges that we have been dealing with the past couple of years appear to be on a significant downward trend based on what forestry staff and experts have observed. Any instances of this invasive species across the Region/Province are likely to be much smaller and isolated in nature, which is great news. The backyard tree planting program was a success last year in partnership with REEP Green Solutions (www.reepgreen.ca) and continues for 2022. If you are interested in planting a tree in your backyard in the future, please check out this program. The Partners in Parks program continues to help with programs pertaining to shade trees in parks, garden beds, buffers, pollinator gardens, community vegetable gardens and more. Council also approved amendments to our lot maintenance policy to formally permit naturalized lawns (with buffer strips) and to promote the ‘No Mow May’ movement to support pollinator habitats.
Affordable Housing Strategy
Council received an initial draft of what will become the City’s first affordable housing strategy. The proposed strategy is a 10-year plan to create and retain affordable housing across the City of Waterloo. It contains 6 goals and 30 actions, underscoring how challenging and complex the topic of affordable housing is.
- Align policies for efficient delivery of new housing
- Includes looking at more housing more places, density calculations, parking requirements and more.
- Plan and prioritize non-market housing
- Includes proactive planning for non-profit housing, inclusionary zoning where applicable and an affordable housing operators concierge program to navigate the system
- Protect and maintain existing affordable housing supply
- Includes looking at vacancy taxes, demolition regulations and more
- Ensuring a diversity of housing options
- Includes policies to promote missing middle housing, home sharing, making secondary suites easier to build and more
- Optimizing City resources and financial tools
- Includes our new affordable housing grant program, looking to formalize waiving development fees for non-profit providers, analyzing City owned land and more
- Build capacity, awareness and support
- Includes setting targets, tracking internal capacity, updating encampment protocols and more
This is the tip of the iceberg of what is in the proposed strategy and it is quite thorough and comprehensive. I am so pleased that we are tackling this issue. Despite the Region of Waterloo being the official affordable housing provider, it is incumbent on everyone at all levels of government to work within their jurisdictions to overcome the barriers, create the incentives and drive the change we need to tackle the affordable housing crisis. I look forward to the final draft coming forward for approval.
It was a busy past two months, with Council also approving a host of tenders for parks in the Northdale area, road reconstructions on Albert, Weber and Brighton as well as approving the tender for full reconstruction of the Bechtel Park Baseball Diamonds to improve this facility for our high performance baseball teams. We also received an update from the Grand Watershed Trails organization and from Communitech, alongside City updates from the community cash grants team, culture sector, significant festivals and events team and the active transportation team as they are applying for Federal grants. Lastly, we reviewed development applications for a city-wide zoning bylaw update, 435 King Street North and a minor amendment to the Beaver Creek Meadows development (at the corner of Conservation Drive and Beaver Creek Road). If anyone would like to chat further about these or any other topic, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Outside of the Council Chambers
As things have begun to open up, the community has started organizing events again. I am taking a cautious approach to attending these events, but like many of you I am excited to see people in person again and hopeful that we can get back to experiencing the vibrancy of the Region and our community. I had the great privilege of representing Mayor Jaworsky and City of Waterloo Council at the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region, Black Business Showcase event (https://www.liftoffbyccawr.com/). It was a pleasure to learn more about this program supporting Black entrepreneurs in our community and to hear their pitches and stories. I attended a learning session for leaders hosted by Selam Debs on White Supremacy. I appreciated the opportunity to continue to learn, with a particular takeaway regarding the notion of being an ally vs. being an actor. I also attended an all-council meeting for elected officials across the Region to learn more about where we are at in the process of the creation of a new Region Official Plan. The ROP is perhaps the most important planning document that exists anywhere in the Region and touches on all aspects of our lives from climate change to transportation to land use planning to economic development and more. The City of Waterloo Official Plan must comply with the ROP and so this was an important update. Key takeaways for me were that by 2051 the Region of Waterloo will have 923,000 residents (an increase of 306,000 from today) and 168,000 more jobs. On the housing front there is an acknowledgement that there is no easy answer to solve our planning and affordability challenges and that increased housing supply is not the silver bullet to the affordability crisis (although it was explicitly noted that there is very little risk in having excess supply). Additionally, preserving existing affordable and attainable housing is of paramount importance and finally that it is as important for us to be planning the ‘type’ (missing middle) of housing, not just the amount.
Finally, a huge shout out to the Vista Hills Community Association for organizing a Ramadan pot luck at Vista Hills Public School. It was an incredible partnership between the VHCA, Coalition of Muslim Women, City of Waterloo and WRDSB. Although each of those organizations played an integral role in putting together an incredible event, it simply isn’t possible without the volunteers who continually sacrifice their time and effort to make their community a better place. I cannot possibly thank them enough. Whether it is planning, coordinating with City and School Board staff, the physical labour of setting up and tearing down, communications and more; these events don’t just happen on their own. So many folks expressed gratitude for the event and noted that it helps them feel like they belong in the community. One of the roles of the City is to take people and organizations that are doing great things in the community and make it easier (through funding, assistance and other support) for them to do more great things. I am proud of the role the City played in helping us achieve a more equitable and inclusive community where everyone feels as though they belong. Connect with me if you’d like to learn more about the great work that neighbourhood associations do in our ward, how you can help them or if you’d like to learn more about how to do more good in your community.
Final Thoughts and Things to Look Out For in the Coming Months
As I stated at the outset, this will be my last newsletter for this term. There is still a lot of work that Council will be doing in the coming months, keep your eyes out for some of the following:
- Neighbourhood Speed Limit Changes
- Splash Pad Construction at Blue Beech Link
- Dog Park Construction at the West Side Employment Lands
- Official Plan Ongoing Review
- Affordable Housing Strategy Approval
- East Side Library Grand Opening
- West Side Employment Lands naming and Sustainable Development Standards
This is an incomplete list of some things coming up; there will likely be a host of development applications to review and other ongoing Council business as well. I’m sure there will be a host of community events and City-wide events too. If you’d like to stay up to date on these things, I encourage you to follow my Facebook page (@roycebodalyward2) and Twitter (@RoyceBodaly).
Thank you to those who take the time to read these newsletters and as always don’t hesitate to connect if you want to chat further.
Take care, stay safe and get boosted!