What did City Council do?
Climate Change Adaptation Plan
The City has an important role in how resilient we are as we adapt to the problems facing us with respect to climate change. Waterloo has a number of climate mitigation policies (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, dog waste pilot, LED streetlight changeover, LEED Silver building policies, etc), the focus of this report is on adaptation only. The report focused on University of Waterloo climate models at various GHG levels and examined 46 impacts, 37 actions and 11 priorities. The final report will come back to us in June and allow us to pursue grant opportunities to help fund some initiatives. The 8 main goals of the plan are; Health and Safety risks, Awareness, Extreme weather response, Built infrastructure design, maintenance and construction, Forest resiliency, City service disruption and Integration into city operations. Some of the initiatives that come from this may include upsizing storm sewers, developing an Urban Forest Strategy, flood proofing measures and back-up power generation as examples.
508 Beechwood Zoning Application
A developer has come forward with a proposal for a 12 story building at 508 Beechwood Drive, adjacent to an existing 6 story building. The current zoning on the site is for approximately 6 stories, although our Official Plan does contemplate increased density in this area. During the previous term of council an informal meeting took place to review the zone change proposal, at which time a recommendation was put forward to the developer to engage with the surrounding neighbourhood to address some concerns. The developer has subsequently taken the City directly to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal, appealing our decision even before this formal meeting took place. In the absence of the developer attending the meeting or addressing the neighbourhood I (along with my colleagues) am against the development as currently constituted. However, I did use the opportunity at Council to discuss why increasing density is so important in the City as we continue to grow. Waterloo is a desirable place to live and experiencing significant growth, finding places for people to live needs to be a priority. Growth in the Uptown core is occurring rapidly, but it cannot bear the entire weight of increased density. Intensification along transit corridors and areas with active transportation infrastructure is vital. Affordable housing is a major concern and one of the few tools we have is to increase supply, increasing and diversifying our housing stock must be part of a strategy to tackle this issue. Lastly, increasing density is a more environmentally sustainable City building model. Urban sprawl into our townships cannot occur if we want to protect the rural/urban mix of the Region, reduce our dependency on the automobile and to help preserve our main drinking water sources.
Council provided our comments to the Province and special advisors who are conducting a report on Regional governments throughout Ontario. We heard from a number of delegates in favour of our current governance structure and Council adopted a resolution in support of our two-tiered government based on; studies showing that amalgamating does not save money and reduces civic engagement, a 2010 plebiscite in the City showed 2/3rds of residents did not support talks with Kitchener, recent studies showing 88% of Waterloo residents say they get good value for their tax dollars and 99% say quality of life is good or very good, and our CAO’s have long standing practices of implementing service delivery improvements across municipalities when they benefit our collective residents. In my address on the issue I reference the Fraser Institute’s report from 2015 on this topic (https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/municipal-amalgamation-in-ontario-rev.pdf) to reiterate that amalgamation does not save money. I also shared my concerns around the silo effect of how amalgamation retrenches elected officials into an ‘us vs them’ mentality instead of a spirit of collaboration (we see this play out even today in Cambridge when discussing differences between Preston, Galt and Hespeler). I also spoke to the accessibility of sitting in a chair at the horseshoe. Specifically, when I first thought about running the first thing I did was see how much money it would cost to run. Compared to Regional government the average successful campaign is 5 to 6 times more expensive to run than Municipal campaigns. I think this is what leads to a more diverse (at least by gender and age, we still have work to do on ethnic and religious diversity) make-up of our elected officials at the local level, versus the Regional level. I would hate to lose that. In my opinion the changes being contemplated are change for change’s sake.
Asset Management Report Cards
We received report cards for our transportation and facilities assets. In transportation it is based on 844km of roads, 541km of sidewalks and 148km of trails. At current funding rates we will see our transportation assets decline from good condition to very poor within 25 years. The funding gap we are facing is $15.1 million dollars and will need to be addressed. For facilities we have 1.1 million square feet of facilities enjoyed by 2.2 million users per year. Again, these assets will decline to very poor in 25 years at current funding. The gap in facilities is $1.5 million dollars. Council will be addressing this infrastructure deficit in this coming term in order to determine the appropriate next steps.
Winter Operations Review
Council reviewed our 2018/2019 winter operations pertaining to roads, sidewalks and bylaw. We spent 99% of our total budget for this season ($1.8 million) in roads. Staff have been able to reduce our salt usage over the last 5 years from 13,614 tonnes to 6,139 tonnes which has a significant environmental impact and I applaud our efforts in that regard. This year’s challenges included early snowfall, mixed precipitation, salt delivery issues (province wide), ice accumulation and a few equipment issues. For next season one of the plans is to increase the number of plow ‘zones’ from 13 to 15 zones, which should bring more attention to certain areas of the City. In the sidewalk part of the conversation we had a successful pilot project for the Uptown streetscape bike lanes and are planning another pilot for minor snowfall and reduced salt usage on the Spurline and Iron Horse Trails. For bylaw, we received significantly more complaints this season and are also facing a challenge as private contractors aren’t as interested in the business as in the past. Bylaw will be reviewing complaints management and looking into resource allocation for the forthcoming season. Most of my questions were around sidewalk clearing as I would like to see the City conduct a pilot project for City sidewalk clearing. We already clear just over 17% of sidewalks throughout the City and when we look at this issue through an equity lens I feel as though we are not taking care of people with mobility issues, the elderly and young children through our current policy.
The Province has asked municipalities for commentary regarding their draft Bill 108 ‘More homes, more choice’. Although we agree with the premise of increasing housing supply, particularly affordable housing, we question whether the Bill will achieve those goals based on what information we have. There are 6 main concerns that staff have, but in particular the removal of ‘soft services’ (libraries, parks, outdoor and indoor recreation, etc) from development charges is a game changer. Development Charges are paid by developers to the City and mandated to be used for infrastructure under the premise that growth should pay for growth. If we cannot collect these charges for new development for ‘soft services’ it will lead to increased taxation or reduction in services. In my opinion, these so called soft services are what create the vibrancy of our City and it would be disappointing if we lost the ability to have the development community contribute to these services. There are other issues that could put cash flow pressure on municipalities, causing us to increase our debt requirements and also changes to planning that would limit the appeal process and put more power in the hands of developers. Another particular issue for me is limiting the ability to implement Inclusionary Zoning. We are studying this process right now in conjunction with Kitchener, but this new bill would limit IZ to station areas only. This tool was a beacon of hope for municipalities to address the affordable housing crisis and if Bill 108 goes through it would significantly hamper our abilities to tackle it.
Westmount Road Development Informal Meeting
There was an informal meeting to discuss a proposed development at the corner of Westmount and Erb and Dietz. The proposed development is for a large number of rental apartment buildings and is requesting increased density from Medium-High to High density. The developer is asking Council to consider the context of the development as a whole, since they own the entire plaza along Westmount from Father David Bauer Drive to Erb. High density would be permitted in the plaza, but the developer would like to maintain the plaza as is and move the density closer to Erb and Dietz. This was an informal meeting so no decisions were made. We heard from some concerned residents and also from the developer. There are a number of things to like from the proposal including the walkability element of living, working, shopping and playing in a community, I’m intrigued by the potential of including an affordable housing element and I’m interested in the proposal to include a ‘living street’ in the development. That said, there are certainly some challenges as well and I look forward to reviewing the final proposal in the coming months.
Council also continued work on our strategic plan, implemented corporate policies related to the new AMPS program and capital budgeting and approved a high water bill policy. We also approved permits for developments adjacent to the old post office as well as on Albert St. Funding was released to replace the turf at RIM Park, to implement IAP2 training for staff, to upgrades parks throughout the City and to design Union St E for reconstruction. Lastly we allocated our 2018 surplus and reviewed our investments for 2018. 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
The Sustainability Advisory Committee and Economic Development Committee provided final feedback to the draft strategic plan. SAC also discussed plans to develop metrics on sustainability for Council and talked about a Green Building Design Plan. EcDev reviewed our Brownfield program and discussed Parkland Dedication fees as well.
Community Meetings & Events
In the community I helped the Clair Hills Community Association get their community garden up and running at St. Moritz Park. It was a lot of hard work and it was great to see so many dedicated volunteers helping improve the community. I attended the Children’s Groundwater Festival at the Waterloo Region Museum and also attended the Lutherwood Step for Kids. I love attending events focused on youth. Improving youth mental health and finding unique ways for youth engagement in important issues are priorities for me, so both of these events were wonderful from that perspective. Along those lines I also attended the “What’s your story?” week at St. Nicholas school. I was able to speak to two classes about my role as Councillor and to explain the valuable role that literacy and numeracy play in my role in the community. I attended the Waterloo North Hydro shareholder’s meeting and learned a lot about the changing role of the hydro company as we transition energy consumption and creation. I also attended a meeting to learn about some of the struggles facing our rental property owners in the region. The event hosted by the Waterloo Region Apartment Management Association was very educational. I also learned about what new plans are in store for the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation. This organization does such unbelievable work in our community and I would highly recommend that you look into them in more detail to understand their role in our community and to help them with their goals. I attended the Public Information Session regarding road improvements for Fischer-Hallman/Bearinger from Columbia to Westmount. I had a lot of valuable discussions with residents on this project. Although it is a Regional project, as the City representative I will continue to bring these forward in future meetings. I also had the privilege to attend a panel conversation at CIGI regarding Economics for a Burning Planet. This is an extremely interesting topic to me and it was really worthwhile to hear discussions about how economic growth and sustainability interact with one another and how governments may need to start looking at other metrics besides GDP if we want to achieve our sustainability goals. It was very interesting and I feel so privileged to have been able to attend. I 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.