Updating the Regional Official Plan

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This project supports the Region of Waterloo's strategic focus area(s):

Schematic graphic logo representing growth

What is this project about?

Waterloo Region is growing. Our population is expected to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by the year 2051, and we want your ideas on how and where to grow! We are currently reviewing the Regional Official Plan (ROP), a key document that guides long-term growth and development in the Region to 2051.

Please visit our Storymap for an interactive tour of the ROPR project.

How do I get involved?

We know people living and working in the region are passionate and eager to help shape future community growth. We encourage you to comment on project updates, ask questions or attend a public meeting to have your say.

This page will be updated regularly with project updates and opportunities to interact with the Project Team. Feel free to ask questions using the Q&A tab below.

Visit the Region's ROP main homepage for more information.

What are the key elements of the ROP review?

This review builds on the existing ROP, and will look at:

  • how and where our cities and townships might grow;
  • what kind of housing we should build;
  • how to continue to host a variety of jobs that residents need;
  • how to protect farmland, our environment and plan for climate change.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to share your ideas. If you have questions about the ROP go to the Q&A tab below.

This project supports the Region of Waterloo's strategic focus area(s):

Schematic graphic logo representing growth

What is this project about?

Waterloo Region is growing. Our population is expected to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by the year 2051, and we want your ideas on how and where to grow! We are currently reviewing the Regional Official Plan (ROP), a key document that guides long-term growth and development in the Region to 2051.

Please visit our Storymap for an interactive tour of the ROPR project.

How do I get involved?

We know people living and working in the region are passionate and eager to help shape future community growth. We encourage you to comment on project updates, ask questions or attend a public meeting to have your say.

This page will be updated regularly with project updates and opportunities to interact with the Project Team. Feel free to ask questions using the Q&A tab below.

Visit the Region's ROP main homepage for more information.

What are the key elements of the ROP review?

This review builds on the existing ROP, and will look at:

  • how and where our cities and townships might grow;
  • what kind of housing we should build;
  • how to continue to host a variety of jobs that residents need;
  • how to protect farmland, our environment and plan for climate change.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to share your ideas. If you have questions about the ROP go to the Q&A tab below.

  • Reminder - May 18th Special Public Input Meeting on Growth Options

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    We're growing. The questions is...how? The growth options (PDL-CPL-22-11) are on the table. Right now! Please join the conversation and provide your thoughts and feedback at the May 18th Virtual Special Public Input Meeting (3pm start). Sign up to be a delegation.

    Also, for those that are curious about this process and would like to review some of the material associated with the draft Land Needs Assessment, please browse the Document Library (right column of this Engage page), where you will find a variety of presentation slide decks, videos, background technical reports, regional council reports, and the draft LNA.

    We will be accepting feedback on the draft LNA and growth option until May 27th, so we invite you to please get in touch with the ROP team if you have any questions or would like to talk about the options (regionalofficialplanreview@regionofwaterloo.ca).


  • What Are Your Thoughts on our Growth Options?

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    April 12, 2022 marked the official release of our draft Land Needs Assessment (LNA) (Report PDL-CPL-22-11) and we are excited to continue some important conversations with members of our community around how they see our region accommodating forecasted population and employment growth - we are expecting to add approximately 300,000 new residents and 178,000 new jobs to this community over the next 30 years.

    A LNA is basically a document, based on an analysis of required technical information and calculations, that helps us determine how much land we may need in the future. The draft LNA took direction from Council in Fall 2021 and presents three growth options for community area and two growth options for employment area.

    Over the next six weeks (April 12 to May 27, 2022), we would like to invite you to join us at any or all of the following:

    • Join us for a virtual, interactive Q & A session with Regional staff. Staff will provide a short overview of the draft LNA and then invite participants to breakout rooms for more focused conversation. To register, please select a registration link, below. Both sessions will provide the same information

    • A live-stream of an All-Council (Regional and Area Municipal councillors) Education session on Friday, April 29, 2022 from 1-3pm (link TBD);

    • A Special Public Input Meeting is being scheduled for mid-May. This meeting will provide an opportunity for you to delegate in front of Regional Council and share your thoughts, ideas, feedback, and concerns about the draft LNA and associated growth options.

    • participate in a brief, four-question survey that asks for your thoughts on the growth options. The responses we receive through this survey, and through all engagement between April 12-May 27, 2022, will be summarized and presented to Regional Council in mid-June.

    • Regional staff are also available to meet with you (individually or as a group), upon request, to answer any questions or provide clarification on the growth options. Please feel free to reach out to regionalofficialplanreview@regionofwaterloo.ca, and we can work together to find a time to discuss this project further.

    We look forward to working together with you, with our colleagues, and with other community members to help Waterloo Region reach its full potential! Please keep an eye on this page, as we will be posting more information in the coming weeks.





  • NEW! Draft Housing Policies

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    We have added another set of draft policies related to housing for you to review and provide us with some feedback by May 6, 2022.

    Housing is a source of much conversation in Waterloo Region. As a Region, we are committed to making housing affordable for all. To meet this commitment, it is important that we consider the various needs of our current and future residents.

    These proposed draft housing policies are a first attempt at how we see the policies being included into the ROP, but we want your thoughts on if you think we're on the right track, if you think we should make some revisions, or if you think we need to go in another direction. The draft housing policies touch on areas such as affordable housing targets (rental and ownership), advocacy for rental tenure zoning, inclusionary zoning, gentle intensification and "missing middle" housing, and supporting the Region's clean energy transition and equitable climate action.

    We also have some Housing virtual display boards that we hope will provide you with some context on what these policies do, why we need to include them in the ROP. A PDF version of the draft housing holicies virtual display boards are also available to the right, in the Document Library.

    If you'd like to chat with regional staff about any of the draft policies, or if you have any questions about the process going forward, please feel free to reach out to us at regionalofficialplanreview@regionofwaterloo.ca and we would be happy to set up a virtual meeting time. Or if you would like to submit any specific thoughts or comments on the proposed draft housing policies, please take a few minutes to complete the Housing Policies comment form.

  • Take a look! Draft Policies on Major Transit Station Areas and Regional Employment Areas

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    We have just posted some proposed draft policies on Major Transit Station Areas (MTSA) and proposed draft policies on Regional Employment Areas (REA) that will, after further revisions, consultation, and feedback, be incorporated into our Regional Official Plan (ROP).

    MTSAs are generally defined as 500m to 800m around a Rapid Transit stop. They are areas intended to accommodate higher density, mixed-use, transit-supportive neighbourhoods that support access to local amenities, jobs and housing.

    REAs are areas protected in the ROP for clusters of businesses and economic activities, such as manufacturing, warehouses and some offices (e.g., RT Park in Waterloo, East Side Lands in North Cambridge, Highway 401/97 are in North Dumfries). In order to support the forecasted job growth to the year 2051, and support the creation of complete communities, it's important that the Region identifies and protects the right supply of employment lands, at the right time, in a variety of rural and urban locations.

    These draft policies are a first attempt at how we see the policies being included into the ROP, but we want your thoughts on if you think we're on the right track, if you think we should make some revisions, or if you think we need to go in another direction.

    We also have some MTSA virtual display boards and REA virtual display boards that we hope will provide you with some context on what these policies do, why we need to include them in the ROP, and some history regarding how the endorsed boundaries were created. A .pdf version of the MTSA virtual display boards and REA virtual display boards are also available to the right, in the Document Library.

    If you'd like to chat with regional staff about any of the draft policies, or if you have any questions about the process going forward, please feel free to reach out to us at regionalofficialplanreview@regionofwaterloo.ca and we would be happy to set up a virtual meeting time. Or if you would like to submit any specific thoughts or comments on the proposed draft MTSA policies or draft REA policies, please take a few minutes to complete the MTSA comment form or the REA comment form.

  • Regional Official Plan Update - December 15, 2021 Recommendation Report

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    Background

    • The Regional Official Plan (ROP) is a powerful planning tool that shapes and defines our community for future generations. It has guided decision making for profound transformation of this region including the addition of the ION light rail, protection of agricultural lands and the natural environment, and a high quality of life for residents.
    • As this community is set to grow to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by 2051, we are working to update the plan to accommodate projected growth.
    • This process was launched in October 2019 and has, to date, undergone consultation with stakeholders, area municipalities and residents.
    • With the amendment for growth due to the Province by July 1, 2022, Regional staff are currently drafting policies, and working towards a Land Needs Assessment (LNA) for public input.
    • To work towards meeting the Provincial deadline, staff recommend developing and consulting on a draft LNA based on a set of three growth scenarios that encompass moderate Community Area expansion, no Community Area Expansion, and an Excess Lands scenario.

    Update

    At the November 9th Committee of the Whole meeting, representatives of developers and landowners brought forward concerns with the Region's general approach to completing the Land Needs Assessment (LNA), and other delegations from the community contended that the Region requires a growth scenario that better addresses climate change and agricultural land preservation, among other important planning priorities. In response to these concerns, Council passed two motions directing staff to: complete the LNA before presenting additional growth scenarios, and to prepare two additional growth scenarios with higher intensification rates.

    In a report (Report CPL-PDL-49) to Council on the agenda for the December 15th meeting, staff confirm the Region is undertaking a land needs assessment in accordance with the Provincial methodology, and on the advice of consultants, recommend direction to continue to work towards meeting the Provincial deadline by developing and consulting on a draft LNA based on a set of three growth scenarios that encompass moderate Community Area expansion, no Community Area Expansion, and an Excess Lands scenario.

    This revised approach would provide more detailed information to better evaluate each growth scenario, and address the concerns raised by the community with respect to the Region's potential future land needs. It also provides the best path forward for the Region to complete the municipal comprehensive review of the ROP before the Province's July 1, 2022 deadline. The three recommendations in the report are to request Regional Council to direct staff to:

    1. Develop a draft LNA using three modified growth scenarios as described in Report CPL-PDL-49;
    2. Consult on each of the three modified growth scenarios presented in this report with the area municipalities, Indigenous communities, key stakeholders, and the broader regional community once the draft LNA is available for review; and,
    3. Report back to Regional Council on the results of the community consultation, and recommend a preferred growth scenario for the final draft of the LNA.

    If endorsed by Council, staff will proceed to develop a LNA using the three modified growth scenarios, which we anticipate completing in the first quarter of 2022. Following completion of the draft LNA, staff would consult on the assessment and report back to Council with the results of the public consultation. During this time, staff will also consult with the community on certain key policy areas, including Major Transit Station Areas, employment land, housing, cultural heritage, and the water system.

    Please feel free to reach out to the ROP Review team if you have any questions (RegionalOfficialPlanReview@regionofwaterloo.ca).

  • Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief - Recommended Scenario

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    Did you know, according to Provincial projections, Waterloo Region is expected to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by 2051? Growth is coming to our Region, and over the past few months, the Regional Official Plan Review (ROPR) team has been working to determine "how" the Region should grow to meet our projections.

    To determine how we grow, we first need to know exactly how much land we need to support our growth. The amount of land needed is a critical input for the next stage of planning - to determine "where" growth will be directed.

    So, how do we figure out how much land we need?

    In June, 2021, the ROPR team put forward three potential growth scenarios for Waterloo Region for public input. Each growth scenario presented different numbers in terms of the percentage of new growth that should be within the Built-Up Area (BUA) and the density of new development within Designated Greenfield Areas (DGAs). These two numbers are the critical inputs required to determine how much land the region needs.

    Based on the feedback received during the public consultation this past summer and based on an analysis of these preliminary growth scenarios by our consultant and staff, the Growth Scenario Evaluation results will be presented for information to the Region's Committee of the Whole on November 9, 2021. The Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief (October 2021) provides a more in-depth explanation of the analysis.

    Staff will be recommending Scenario 2 (60% intensification rate and density target of 60 people and jobs per hectare, explained below, and would require approximately 1,028 hectares of land) as the preferred growth scenario (available on November 2, 2021 at https://calendar.regionofwaterloo.ca/council). Figure 2.1, starting on page 8 of the Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief, summarizes each growth scenario.

    A lot of detailed technical background work and analysis, all of which is posted on Engage, has gone into the identification of Scenario 2 as the preferred growth scenario. The identification of a preferred growth scenario, and the identification of an initial intensification rate and density target is required in order to complete the Land Needs Assessment (LNA), which tells us how much land is needed to support our growth. A LNA is essential in order to keep the ROPR process moving forward, and will include many more opportunities for the public and area municipal staff to provide feedback of the draft LNA. The results of the draft LNA are anticipated in December 2021.

    The Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief builds on the following:

    Additional Background Information

    What is a Land Needs Assessment?

    A LNA is a technical study that determines how much land is needed in the region to accommodate growth to the year 2051. The LNA must be completed based on a methodology developed by the Province and is required as part of the ROPR process. The LNA identifies how much of the forecasted population and job growth can be accommodated in the region's existing urban area boundary through intensification in the Built-Up Area and existing Designated Greenfield Area lands. If there is more growth forecasted than can be accommodated in the Region's existing urban area boundary, then the LNA determines how much urban expansion area may be required and generally where growth would be directed. Where this expansion might take places is considered through the next phase of the LNA.

    What is an Intensification Target? What is a Built-Up Area? What are Designated Greenfield Areas?

    An intensification target means that 60 percent of all new residential development will be directed to what we refer to as the Built-Up Area (please scroll through the Storymap for a visual and written description of specific terms referred to in this paragraph). Designated Greenfield Area refers to land that is not yet built upon, but that is set aside for building future residential and/or employment related to the residential development (e.g., grocery stores, medical buildings, home-based business and neighbourhood plazas).

    In the Region of Waterloo's case, the population is expected to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by 2051 - this is a population and job projection provided by the Province. One of the first steps in figuring out how much land is potentially needed for possible expansion is to "input" an intensification and density target in into the LNA calculations.

    As a summary, Scenario 2 has been identified as the preferred growth scenario and as the recommended input into a draft LNA. This growth scenario would:

    • set an initial Regional minimum intensification target of 60 percent in the Built-Up Area, and a minimum Designated Greenfield Area density target of 60 people and jobs per hectare for the purposes of the land needs assessment; and,
    • result in the need for a preliminary urban boundary expansion of approximately 1,028 hectares of land (i.e., 230 hectares for community (residential) area growth, and 800 hectares for employment area growth).

    The subsequent step, based on the results of the draft LNA, is to then determine which areas of the region are best suited for future growth based on already identified candidate areas (please refer to slide 7 in the presentation from June 10, 2021 for the map) using criteria identified in the Provincial Growth Plan (policy 2.2.8.3), the ROP, and the Region's Strategic Plan.

    Within this Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief, you will be able to follow how each of the long-term growth scenarios considers progressively higher targets with respect to residential intensification and greenfield (i.e., additional residential land) density. Regional staff welcome any further feedback and are working towards setting up a more fulsome, comprehensive public consultation period regarding the upcoming Draft Land Needs Assessment, anticipated for January and February 2022.

  • Update on the Regional Official Plan Review Process

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    Now that we have received your feedback on the preliminary growth scenarios and evaluation criteria, we would like to loop you in on the next steps for the Regional Official Plan Review (ROPR).

    We continue to work towards meeting the Province's deadline of July 1, 2022 for completing the Regional Official Plan Review (ROPR) as follows:

    1. identify a preferred growth scenario based on community feedback and Regional and Provincial policies (anticipated in August 2021). As posted on our Engage website and discussed in our Ask-a-Planner webinar on June 24, the deadline for feedback on the three preliminary growth scenarios and the evaluation criteria was July 30;
    2. complete a draft Land Needs Assessment (LNA), or "land budget", based on the preferred growth scenario by the end of August. Please note that any Urban Area Boundary expansion requests must be submitted by Friday, August 27th to Regional staff. After this date, we can no longer accept any more expansion requests;
    3. the draft LNA, as well as any recommended additional urban lands, area municipal population and employment allocations, and density targets and intensification rates, will be released to the public for a month-long consultation and feedback period; and,
    4. based on feedback received during the public consultation period, staff will draft a report to Regional Council, seeking endorsement of the LNA. This report will go to Council early this fall.

    We will provide more updates in the fall, as we continue to progress towards the July 22, 2022 Provincial deadline for completing the ROPR. Please feel free to reach out to our team (RegionalOfficialPlanReview@regionofwaterloo.ca) for any follow-up questions or if you require clarification.

  • Release of Final Drafts of the Employment Strategy and Intensification Strategy Technical Briefs

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    We are pleased to post a variety of items related to to the Regional Official Plan Review (ROPR), including:

    The Employment Strategy assesses employment in the broadest context, including:

    • a policy review;
    • an examination of current and future employment trends;
    • land supply analysis;
    • an employment and land demand forecast to 2051; and,
    • an assessment of the Region's capacity to accommodate the forecast and provide the background for the delineation of Regional Employment Areas, establishing density targets and land needs assessments.

    A draft version of the Intensification Strategy Technical Brief was previously released for feedback in August 2020 (please see the Document Library on the right hand column of this page for a listing of all previously released documents). This final version of the Intensification Strategy has not only taken this feedback into consideration and made some revisions (including the location of the proposed Intensification Corridors), but has also updated the brief to incorporate the Provincial population and employment forecasts to the year 2051.

    A Storymap is a simplified and visually-interactive representation of the ROPR process. It includes an explanation of how to plan to the year 2051, the foundation of the ROP, exploring where we could grow and how, and finally, a summary of how decisions will be made as we move through the process. If you aren't familiar with the ROPR process, the Storymap is a quick, interesting, and informative way to learn about how and why we update official plans.

    The video from the June 24 Ask-a-Planner webinar has also been uploaded - please see the column to the right of the screen. This two-part video is approximately an hour and a half in length and provides a summary of the preliminary growth scenarios, the evaluation criteria, and an overview of next steps. The Q & A portion of the webinar is also included, and a summary document will be added to this section this summer.

    We hope this information helps you follow the ROPR process. We will release more information as we move into the fall.

  • Registration for the Ask-a-Planner Webinar, June 24, 2021 - 6pm

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    Waterloo Region - let's talk growth options!

    The Region of Waterloo is again going virtual for our next round of public engagement on the Regional Official Plan (ROP) Review. The Region's preliminary growth scenarios, which focus on how to accommodate our forecasted population and employment growth to 2051, will be presented.

    Please join us and share your thoughts.

    Register in advance to participate.

  • Endorsement of the Draft MTSA Boundaries and Draft Regional Employment Area

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    At the April 21, 2021 Regional Council meeting, the proposed Major Transit Stations Area (MTSA) boundaries and alternative density targets for the Laurier-Waterloo, Block Line, and Delta MTSAs, and the draft Regional Employment Area (REA) were endorsed. For more information on what MTSAs and alternative density targets are, please refer to Report PDL-CPL-21-17 (also listed in the Document Library in the right-hand column of this page) and the interactive mapping tab on the now endorsed boundaries. Regional staff can now request the Province’s approval for the three lower density targets at the identified MTSAs, and we can also begin to draft policy, in collaboration with our Area Municipal colleagues, for the MTSAs.

    The ROPR team anticipate having a revised version of the draft Intensification Strategy, which may contain minor revisions to the MTSA boundaries and draft intensification corridors, available by late Spring and to be engaging with the public for comment on draft MTSA policies this summer. We will then provide our final recommendations to Regional Council on the MTSA boundaries and policies through a draft ROP amendment this Fall (2021). Please stay tuned for more engagement opportunities in the near future!

    Regarding the draft Regional Employment Area (REA), please click here to view an interactive map of the draft REA.

    For context, there are four types of employment within the Region:

    • Major Office Employment: Jobs with office buildings larger than 20,000sq.ft or 1,900sq.m
    • Population-Related Employment: Jobs that provide daily goods and services (such as grocery stores, restaurants, retail and service stores, any school, non-major offices including municipal, law, and medical offices, etc.)
    • Employment Land Employment: Jobs generally within industrial type buildings (such as manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, and construction) and are generally clustered together within Employment Areas
    • Rural Employment: Jobs in the rural area, such as those related to agriculture and mineral aggregates

    The focus of the REA is employment land employment. The REA designation will protect these lands for long-term employment uses. Below are links to the endorsed Regional Council Report, including appendices.

    Employment Report (PDL-CPL-21-16)

    Appendix A: Employment Definitions and Preliminary Draft Forecast (Appendices A, B, C, D, and E)

    Appendix B: Draft Regional Employment Area and Vacant Employment Land Maps (Appendices A, B, C, D, and E)

    Appendix C: Regional Employment Area Delineation and Policy Considerations (Appendices A, B, C, D, and E)

    Appendix D: Employment Land Conversion Criteria (Appendices A, B, C, D, and E)

    Appendix E: Employment Conversion Request Maps (Appendices A, B, C, D, and E)

    Appendix F: Summary of Employment Conversion Recommendations (Appendices F, G, H, and I)

    Appendix G: Table of Employment Conversion Requests Beyond the Regional Employment Area (Appendices F, G, H, and I)

    Appendix H: Table of Employment Conversion Requests Recommended for Approval or Partial Approval (Appendices F, G, H, and I)

    Appendix I: Table of Employment Conversion Requests not Recommended for Approval (Appendices F, G, H, and I)

    Appendix J: Employment Conversion Request Letters (Part 1, Cambridge; Part 2, Kitchener and North Dumfries; Part 3, Waterloo Part 1, Wat-1 to Wat-7; Part 4, Waterloo Part 2, Wat-8 to Wat-14, Wilmot, and Woolwich)

    Appendix K: Letters in Response to Preliminary Recommendations (Appendix K)

    Appendix L: City of Kitchener Staff Report to Council, DSD-2021-5 Regional Official Plan Review (Appendices L and M)

    Appendix M: City of Cambridge Report to Council, 21-065(CD) Regional Official Plan Review Project – Employment Strategy – City of Cambridge Opportunity to Respond (Appendices L and M)

Page last updated: 12 May 2022, 03:21 PM