The Northdale debate continues

For a number of years, the area bordered by King, Columbia, University and Lester streets, known as Northdale, has been a controversial talking point for area residents.

However, a June 7 committee of the whole meeting, an evening devoted entirely to the neighbourhood, was expected to end the stalemate.

While the evening’s agenda featured presentations from over 20 stakeholder delegations, the city council’s eventual decision did little to quell angst for those who call Northdale home.

Before a packed council chamber, Waterloo city councilors voted unanimously in favour of initiating a comprehensive land-use study for the Northdale neighbourhood. The decision was made as a preemptive step in implementing a final “green” plan proposed by Help Urbanize the Ghetto (HUG) in Waterloo, a group of permanent residents.

As a result of the 8-0 decision, an external consultant will be hired to carry out the study – which will entertain the possibility of intensifying development in the neighbourhood. The aim of this latest study, which will cost the city $150,000, is to determine whether rezoning the areas of Northdale to accommodate small apartments will provide better housing for its stakeholders and improve the community atmosphere.

Following the study, the terms of reference for the new plan will be developed to take in to account all stakeholders, a community improvement plan will be initiated and finally partnerships will be sought between the universities and other stakeholders in hopes of correcting the problems of the area and making it more livable for its diverse demographics.

To address behavioural concerns in the area in a collaborative manner, Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran recommended that a meeting between the mayor, the chief administrative officer, the chief of the Waterloo Regional Police and representatives from the area’s post-secondary institutions be arranged.

Collaboration has already begun between Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo. In an unprecedented joint presentation before council, David McMurray, Laurier’s vice-president of student affairs, and Bud Walker, the UW’s director of university business operations assured that both Laurier and UW were “prepared to invest and do what [they] can to make it better.” The partnership spoke of a newfound bilateral commitment to finding a solution to the enduring Northdale problem.

According to Saad Aslam, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union’s vice president of university affairs, it is crucial that the finalized vision for the Northdale neighbourhood is “in the best interest of students.” Further, as the proposed Northdale talks between the city and Waterloo’s post-secondary institutions commence, Aslam is hopeful that Waterloo’s student representatives will also be afforded a seat at the consultation table.

–with files from Linda Givetash

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