- Along a major transit route on Erb Street that provides a direct connection to the Uptown, and a future business park at the edge of the City.
- In proximity to commercial and medical services including The Beechwood Plaza, the West Side Market Place, and the Boardwalk further beyond.
- Access to several schools including Mary Johnson Public School, Centennial Public School, Sir Edgar Bauer, and St Nicolas Catholic School.
1. I received a flyer about this from a neighbour and I live close to the proposed development. Why were the flyers not more widely distributed?
We distributed flyers to properties that were properties adjacent to or in the immediate vicinity of 555 Beechwood Drive. We also sent out the electronic flyer to the neighbourhood homeowner associations (Westvale, Beechwood West 1 and 2) and asked them to post or distribute it electronically. We also created an online notice on our Engage Waterloo Region page. We hoped that in this way we would reach as many people as possible in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
2. The flyer seems to indicate that this housing is coming and so we have no say in the development process. How can the plan have been established without having engaged the community?
The flyer was provided to engage and inform local residents. Regional staff have identified 555 Beechwood as a development opportunity for medium density housing with an affordable housing component. The existing zoning for the site permits residential buildings up to 6 storeys. Regional Council will consider a staff report on July 15, and determine whether or not to declare the lands at 555 Beechwood Drive as surplus for the purpose of building housing. Input from interested persons is considered by staff through the report process. Further, interested persons have the opportunity to communicate their thoughts to Regional Council prior to or at the meeting. Staff will also seek community feedback through https://www.engagewr.ca/regionofwaterloo. If the project proceeds forward, community input will be considered when reviewing any development proposals for the site.
3. When and how was the Residential Mixed-Use Zone 20 (RMU20) applied to this property?
The current land use planning framework designates the property as Mixed-Use Medium Density Residential which contemplates buildings up to 6 storeys in height. The framework stems from a Height & Density Policy Study undertaken between 2001-2004 that explored how and where the City of Waterloo should grow and intensify. The study identified Erb Street West as a minor corridor, and 555 Beechwood as a site for medium density intensification. The Height & Density Policy Study was a public planning process that resulted in an amendment to the Official Plan (2003) and revisions to the Zoning By-law (2005). The current RMU20 zoning which carries forward the height and density permissions established in 2005, was approved by City of Waterloo Council in 2018.
4. We were told that this land would never be developed. How can this be happening?
From time to time, Regionally-owned lands are identified that may no longer be needed for their original purpose. The Region used the land as a Water Pumping Station until 2016. At that time, the station was no longer required and it was decommissioned. This created an opportunity for a new use of the lands. If a property is no longer required for its original purpose, the Region of Waterloo considers other uses for the land that will achieve broader community objectives, being mindful of the existing planning framework in place. Creating a range and mix of housing choices throughout the regional urban areas for all income groups is an important objective of the Region of Waterloo to ensure that all members of the community have access to safe and affordable housing.
5. I believe that this affordable housing development will negatively affect my property values and the aesthetic of the neighbourhood. Is this correct?
The proposed development is anticipated to contain a mix of market rate units and affordable housing units. The design of the proposed development has not been determined. The development is subject to Site Plan Control, and therefore will need to align with the City of Waterloo’s Urban Design Manual, which provides direction on urban design, exterior building design, consideration of shadows, landscaping, relationship to neighbouring properties, and other site design considerations.
There are many examples of well designed affordable housing projects in the Region of Waterloo and beyond that contribute to neighbourhoods in many positive ways.
Market value of a property depends on a host of factors including the state of the economy and the individual purchaser’s preferences. Property values are not a consideration in land use planning recommendations partly for this reason.
6. Will this community become less safe?
Communities that provide adequate, safe and affordable housing for all of its residents are more prosperous, safe and inclusive as a whole.
The project will be required to consider the same safety principles and meet the same safety standards that are required of all residential projects. These standards include consideration of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles, and the use of lighting, landscaping, building access, movement of people, and architectural design for the safety of building residents and the broader community.
7. Are there rules limiting the amount of affordable housing in a community?
There are no rules limiting the amount of affordable housing in a community, nor would it represent good planning to do so. While municipalities may establish zoning regulations for land uses (e.g. residential, industrial, commercial), they do not have the authority to regulate (zone) where an individual can live based on their income. To do so would be in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
As a policy objective, it is a goal of both the City of Waterloo Official Plan and the Region of Waterloo Official Plan to encourage a diverse community and to promote greater affordable housing options. The Region has a goal to achieve 30% of all new housing units as affordable units for low and moderate income households.
8. The traffic on Beechwood Dr. is already a problem – people drive too fast, don’t stop, and use the road as a thoroughfare. I am worried this development will make it worse.
Beechwood Drive is a Minor Collector Road that was planned and constructed to accommodate higher amounts of traffic compared to local streets. Minor Collector Roads are intended to facilitate movement of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic between Local Streets and Major Collectors / Arterial Roads. Waterloo City Council recently approved Beechwood Drive as a pilot street for studying 40 km/hr speed limits across the city. Data collection will occur in the fall of 2020 to review both the speeds and the volume of traffic on the street.
Neighbourhood concerns with respect to traffic impacts are identified in the Request for Proposals so potential developers are aware and can consider this in their design.
9. There is not enough greenspace in our neighbourhood and building on this piece of land will make it worse. Why are you taking away our greenspace?
The property at 555 Beechwood Drive is not part of the City of Waterloo’s open space network and is not considered parkland. 555 Beechwood Drive is a maintained “surplus” parcel of land – it is not a “park” and is planned in the City’s Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw for a medium density intensification located along a major transit route.
The loss of greenspace has been identified as a concern in the Request for Proposals so proponents will consider how to provide greenspace in their design. The current zoning requires that 30% of the site be landscaped open space – so greenspace will be incorporated into the design.
10. Why is this development not along the LRT? Inclusionary zoning mandates affordable housing only around transit stations. This is not around a major transit station.
Access to transit is an important consideration for any type of housing. Inclusionary zoning is a tool that municipalities can adopt to require affordable units to be included within new residential development around transit stations to ensure that some proportion of housing within major transit station areas remains affordable. The City of Waterloo is exploring inclusionary zoning in partnership with the Region of Waterloo, and the Cities of Kitchener and Cambridge. For more information about this project, see: https://www.engagewr.ca/exploring-inclusionary-zoning-to-support-affordable-housing
It is important to note that Inclusionary zoning does not mean that affordable housing can only be built at Light Rail Transit stations, and that it is only one tool in the tool box to create more affordable housing in our region. The development at Beechwood also offers convenient access to transit; it is a 5-minute walk (400 m) from an iXpress route and a 10-minute walk (800m) from four other routes. Additional sites, and projects, will be required to provide a greater supply of affordable housing across the Region.
11. What other sites were considered and how was the selection made?
The Region has prioritized the development of affordable housing on surplus land, and because this parcel was no longer required for its original purpose, it became an opportunity to help improve the quality of life for the growing list of people who struggle to afford housing. Action 1.7 in our Regional Housing and Homelessness Plan states that Regional Staff are to develop a housing first land use policy to ensure that Regional surplus land is considered for the development of affordable housing.
This project is an opportunity to pilot a “housing first” land use policy and presents an opportunity to implement Regional strategic and housing plans. Over time, additional Regionally owned sites could be considered as they become available.
12. Who will own the land and manage the property?
Through the RFP process a successful non-profit or private developer will be selected. The land may be transferred to that proponent for a nominal fee in exchange for the provision of affordable housing. If transferred, the developer will own and manage the land and will also manage the process to determine how the site will be designed. The RFP selection process will award higher points to the proposal which is most financially sound and which best responds to the needs in our region.
The RFP process calls for a minimum of 30% of the units to be affordable (geared to low and moderate households) and the remaining balance is anticipated to be market based units.
13. How do I get on the list to be able to live in this housing? I have been on the waiting list for 5 years. I am a senior with mobility issues.
We do not have a waiting list for this property at this time. The Request for Proposal process will give us an idea of who is interested in developing this property and what particular types of units they are interested in developing. Please stay in touch through the EngageWR Beechwood site to learn more about the housing as the process unfolds.
14. Why is there a construction trailer on site?
The construction trailer on the property is for the Erb St. reconstruction project.
15. How much land does the Region have that could be used for projects like this? And is there other land in this area that could be used in this way?
The Region is currently reviewing its land holdings. In the short term, the existing Region of Waterloo Strategic Plan and Housing First policy proposal provide a framework for Regional land disposition decisions. Additional work will reveal the development potential of surplus sites which are generally located along regional roads.
16. How does this project contribute to our target to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions if we are increasing vehicle exhaust and removing trees?
Intensification within the city’s built up area plays an important role in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions by reducing urban sprawl and concentrating new development in areas that already have transit services. Through the RFP process, the Region of Waterloo will be encouraging proponents to propose innovative green building solutions that involve low carbon construction methods and building materials, and improved building energy performance. The developer will also need to consider the City of Waterloo Urban Design Manual which recommends designs that promote active transportation, sustainable development, incorporate existing healthy vegetation to the extent possible, and site orientation to maximize solar gain.
The Region of Waterloo and City of Waterloo have larger sustainability plans to address the issue of climate change and sustainability. Additional information is available at:
17. This project (as well as the one at 508 Beechwood) will bring many more people into the neighbourhood. Do we have the infrastructure needed to support this density?
The City and Region are fortunate to have access to many amenities that enhance the quality of life for businesses, residents, and visitors. The City of Waterloo and the Region have a good supply of park spaces, water and waste water infrastructure, a transit system, and schools to support continued growth and reinvestment. This type of infrastructure is reviewed through capital projects, annual budget reviews, and through special projects. Site specific infrastructure such as storm water and waste water capacity are evaluated as part of the development review process. The local community is fortunate to have steady growth supported by new housing as contemplated by the Provincial planning system.
A new business park is being developed on the west side of the City, new offices are being built in the UW R&T Park, and, the Region continues to focus on job recovery strategies during the Covid-19 Pandemic which will place greater need on housing choice in our community. Both the City and Region promote intensification within the urban built boundary to reduce the pressure for urban sprawl into agricultural land and natural areas at the peripheries of the city.
The site is located: