What did City Council do?
The City of Waterloo received a couple of exciting awards in the past couple of months. We received Platinum certification from the World Council on City Data (www.dataforcities.org). The City is compiling this data in conjunction with our efforts to localize the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). As we move into the second year of this project I am very excited to see how the collection of this data will help us work towards our collective Sustainability and Equity goals. The City also earned an award from the Canadian Association Municipal Administrators (CAMA) for Innovation. The innovative project that we undertook was related to storm water management pond sediment disposal. Typically, this sediment is disposed of in landfills; however, our pilot project reused this sediment with compost as topsoil to determine if it could help us grow grass in medians. The project was not without its challenges, ultimately the pilot was successful and it is exciting to highlight this innovation across the country to potentially see a change in this practice going forward.
COVID Financial Impact
Council received detailed COVID related financial impact information by department throughout the City. Overall the 2020 projected deficit for the City of Waterloo is approximately $4.1 million. As I’ve noted before the majority of the funding shortfall is in lost recreation revenue. This report further highlighted that the City of Waterloo has also had nearly $1 million in pandemic related spending to keep our facilities, employees and visitors safe. Fortunately we have received $2.879 million in funding from the federal government for our safe restart, with a hope that further funding opportunities will exist in future months to help balance the shortfall. The current remaining deficit is intended to be fully supported through prudent financial planning in dipping into our Tax Rate Stabilization reserve, in order to prevent any further taxpayer related impacts.
693 Beechwood Drive – Affordable Housing
Council held a formal meeting and ultimately approved an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to rezone a parcel of land within the Beechwood Co-op at 693 Beechwood Drive. The co-op currently has 61 rent geared to income affordable housing units on site today and the approval of a new five story building on site will increase that number by creating 32 new one bedroom units. Additionally the proposed site plan envisions a shared amenity space on the fifth floor with a community kitchen and is focused on sustainability, food security/education and urban farming. Affordable housing is a crucial community need throughout the Region and I am so pleased that City staff and Council have worked to help address this need through this development proposal.
Corporate Climate Action Plan – Terms of Reference
In response to Councils climate emergency declaration of last year, City staff are working on our Corporate Climate Action Plan. The first step in that process is setting the terms of reference, which Council approved this month. Our goals continue to be a reduction in GHG emissions from 2011 numbers of 80 percent by 2050 and 50 percent by 2030. Corporately 68% of those emissions derive from buildings, 23% from fleet and 6.6% from waste. With $2.6 billion dollars in infrastructure assets, there is significant work ahead of us to help us achieve those goals. I am really looking forward to phase 3 of this process (Implementation Planning) getting going in late 2021.
Erbsville South Block Plan
As I have shared previously, the Erbsville South Block Plan is in response to a proposed Official Plan Amendment to designate broad land use permissions for the development of the land on the West side of Erbsville Road, North of Wideman and on the East side of Erbsville Road, North of Forest Gate. After many, many years of hard work on behalf of staff Council approved this OPA. I will share my public statement on this plan below:
The Northwest end of the City is a wonderful place to live. If you’re listening and you haven’t been out to this end of the City, you’re missing out. What makes it such a great place are our amazing neighbourhoods that provide a sense of community, incredible schools, the Harper library. What makes this area unique though are the exceptional environmental features. The opportunity to live so close to Provincially protected areas, the Laurel Creek Conservation Area and protected forests with trails for hiking, cross country skiing, running, biking and more.
This Official Plan Amendment, ensures that the principles of environmental protection in this part of the City are maintained. Nearly 58% of the study area is made up of natural features, buffers and floodplain that will not be developed. In addition to preserving the land, we are doing our very best to ensure that a wildlife corridor will be preserved from the West side of Erbsville Road to the East side and into the Laurel Creek Conservation Area.
With all of the natural beauty and trails in this area it is no wonder why it is such a desirable place to live. Sharing this part of the City with future residents is a gift for those of us already privileged enough to live out here. Permitting the kind of gentle density within the special provision area will help achieve the goal of our Official Plan to have a variety of housing offerings within neighbourhoods, while still maintaining it as a low density area. Although it would be wonderful for us to mandate truly affordable housing as part of this plan, we know that townhomes, stacked townhomes, triplexes, etc will provide more affordable options for folks desiring to live out here.
I am happy to support the plan and look forward to continuing this process through the zone change and site plan approval process.
Additionally, Council extended the Support Our Local Economic Recovery bylaw, which permits certain spaces to be used for extended patios and other economic uses, until January 2022. We also created a public nuisance noise bylaw related to WLU homecoming, approved the tender for the new East Side Library, made some internal changes related to Development Charges in light of Bill 108 and held an informal public meeting related to a development proposal at 28 Westhill Drive. 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
I had the pleasure of attending the Coalition of Muslim Women’s 10th Anniversary and Awards Gala. I was so pleased to represent the City of Waterloo at this event and I am so impressed with all of the hard work and effort that went into the physically distanced celebration. It is a testament to the leadership of the organization that they were able to host such a wonderful event in the difficult times we find ourselves.
In addition to a host of webinars on a variety of topics I have also begun my Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Climate Leadership Course for Elected Officials. The first module was around collaboration between Council and staff related to sustainability work. As a first term Councillor I learned a lot about what staff need from elected officials to proceed with this work. Fortunately, we have strong leaders on Council and we have focused the discussions by declaring our Climate Emergency and embedding this work into our Strategic Plan. We have positioned ourselves for success, but need to continue to create a culture of conversation between staff and Council and need to ensure greater collaboration with the community and to let staff know that Council has their back related to this work. In the second module we looked at our municipalities Climate Adaptation and Mitigation maturity assessments. Again, we have a lot of work to do, but we are well on our way to getting towards an implementation framework. This course has positioned me to ask the right types of questions when we get down to that work and I’m excited to continue to learn!
Take care and stay safe!