Discussing Waterloo’s future

On Monday Sept. 19th Waterloo city council met to discuss the future of the city as outlined in the first draft of the official plan, a document which will be used to guide growth, development, sustainability and land use in Waterloo over the next 20 years.

The last official plan was approved in 1990. Due to the changing population, limited land supply and an increasing emphasis on the environment and sustainability, the city has produced new concepts aimed at strengthening the existing plan. The new official plan, which has been in development since 2005, calls for Uptown Waterloo, as a lively urban growth centre, to function as the focal point of the city.

The growth of the city has also been addressed in the plan, as it states that previous methods of outward expansion are not feasible with the lack of undeveloped land available. Alternatively, the plan suggests that growth should be accommodated through intensification and redevelopment of already built-up areas.

The official plan also addresses the zoning by law which has been the centre of controversy for developers of student housing in Waterloo.

The plan states, “The Zoning By-law, implements the Official Plan’s vision and objectives through specific zones and detailed regulations regarding the specific uses permitted and performance criteria required.”

At Monday’s council meeting, many members of the community came out to voice their opinions on the first draft of the official plan. The concerns that many members had were in regards to a new way of measuring density.

The plan states, “The past Plan utilized a units [per] hectare method to calculate residential density, the new Plan incorporates a bedrooms [per] hectare calculation. Changing the way in which residential density is calculated is intended to better connect the development with the actual number of people who will be utilizing the amenities.”

However, following the concerns voiced by the public, mayor Brenda Halloran decided that the method of measuring density should be looked at more closely.

“It’s a very confusing detail which I think council needs to talk about further and so we’ve included it in the next discussion point just so we have a clearer understand as to what it really means,” she said.

Among the many citizens that attended the meeting, local resident Chris Christodoulou felt it was important for him to voice his opinion.

“I think in general there are a lot of departments in this building that have to work together and at certain times it is very important for us to express our concerns, so that council have the opportunity to learn about our perspectives,” he said. “Anyone who wants to express themselves should be sitting in these chairs.”

Mayor Halloran valued the contributions that the delegates made. “Everything we do at the city directly impacts out citizens and their ability to live, work and play in their community,” she said. “Tonight was a lot about how people can build and create places for people to live. So it’s important for us to have their views expressed because we’re making decisions that impact them.”

The next phase of the report is to be released by the end of fall.

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