Updating the Regional Official Plan

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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.

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.

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.

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.

  • 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)

  • Climate Change Policy Direction Paper and Survey

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    We are pleased to release the Climate Change Policy Direction paper for feedback. For access to the paper, please click on the term "Climate Change Policy Direction" throughout this update. After reviewing the information below, please take a few minutes to complete the following survey. The survey will be online until February 28, 2021.

    We're also happy to accept any feedback through the email address RegionalOfficialPlanReview@RegionofWaterloo.ca or by mail at Community Planning Division (ROPR), 150 Frederick Street, 8th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 4J3. We will use any comments or feedback to help draft policy regarding climate change to be integrated throughout the Regional Official Plan (ROP).

    The Climate Change Policy Direction paper explores the following key messages:

    1. Climate change is global problem with local causes and local solutions;
    2. The Regional Official Plan (ROP) is a key document for directing local action on climate change;
    3. The current ROP Review, which plans to 2051, provides an opportunity to align with the Region’s Green House Gas (GHG) reduction target of 80% by 2050;
    4. Since land use and infrastructure locks in the amount of carbon a community uses, land use and infrastructure planning that is energy efficient and resilient to the impacts of climate change are essential to achieve this target;
    5. Our current land use and transportation systems are energy inefficient and account for approximately 50% of GHG emissions;
    6. The policy direction paper provides desired futures for how we move, how we live and work, and how build along with the “Big Moves” or changes needed to achieve the desired future and associated policies directions to implement them. (e.g., increasing intensification, providing for transit supportive densities in the Designated Greenfield Area);
    7. Climate action is a lens that we will be putting on all of the work associated with the ROP Review; and,
    8. Proposes policy directions related to our transportation system, growth, complete communities, net-zero carbon buildings, and energy resiliency.

    To help you understand how the desired futures, changes and policy directions are connected, we’ve created summary placemats for how we move, how we live and work and how we build.

    Other Climate Change Actions the Region is Taking

    The Region is also working with Area Municipal partners and other community capacity holders through the ClimateActionWR collaborative, to develop a comprehensive community climate action plan. The plan will direct local action more broadly, including support for the proposed approach to land use and infrastructure planning, as well as direction for the full range of community capacity holders such as industry, institutions, community groups, and individuals.

    The Region will also have a focused corporate climate plan that will direct internal corporate resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction actions. The Community Climate Adaptation Plan, approved by Council in 2019, outlines actions the community needs to take to adapt to a changing climate.


  • Updated Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis

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    We are pleased to release the draft Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis technical brief for feedback. For access to the draft technical brief, please click on the term "Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis throughout this update. We'd be happy to accept any feedback through the email address Regionalofficialplanreview@regionofwaterloo.ca or by mail at Community Planning Division (ROPR),150 Frederick Street, 8th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 4J3, until January 15, 2021.


    We will use any comments or feedback to help finalize the Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis which will inform the Land Needs Assessment and Growth Scenario phase of the ROP Review project.


    What is the Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis?

    By 2051, the Region of Waterloo's total population base is forecast to grow to approximately 923,000 persons. The purpose of the Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis is to analyse the Region's long-term population and housing growth, to extend the Region's population forecast to 2051 and to inform and provide input into the Land Needs Assessment. This review has been undertaken within the context of macro-economic trends as well as regional economic and demographic trends that are anticipated to influence the amount, type, and, ultimately, the location of future residential development with the Region of Waterloo.


    What is the purpose of the Long-Term Population and Housing Growth Analysis?

    The purpose of this brief is to:
    • Analyze the Region’s long‐term population and housing growth potential based on current data;
    • Extend the Region’s population forecast to 2051 to implement the Provincial growth forecasts; and,
    • To assess long‐term growth drivers from a regional and local perspective as input into the Land Needs Assessment.
  • Draft Regional Intensification Strategy and New Interactive Mapping Activity

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    We are pleased to release the draft Intensification Strategy for feedback, as well as launch a new interactive mapping activity based on the six proposed Regional Intensification Corridors. For access to the draft strategy, please click on the term "Intensification Strategy" throughout this update. We'd be happy to accept any feedback through the email address Regionalofficialplanreview@regionofwaterloo.ca or by mail at Community Planning Division (ROPR),150 Frederick Street, 8th Floor, Kitchener, Ontario, N2G 4J3, until December 13, 2020.

    We will use any comments or feedback to help finalize the Intensification Strategy and the Regional Intensification Corridors, in conjunction with the feedback we received on the Proposed Boundaries for Major Transit Station Areas interactive mapping activity that was posted earlier this year.

    What is an Intensification Strategy?

    The purpose of this Intensification Strategy is to identify the amount of growth that can be accommodated within the Built-Up Area of the Region and to assess historic trends and current market conditions to guide the identification of an appropriate intensification target for the Region. For interest, this draft Intensification Strategy uses population and employment forecasts to the year 2041, however, we are currently working on incorporating the new Provincial forecasts to the year 2051 in our work.

    Why are we doing an Intensification Strategy?

    One of the overarching reasons why we're doing an Intensification Strategy is because we have been directed by the Province to take a more active role in determining how much growth can occur and where. In order to be able to figure out where to direct growth and how much in certain areas, we need to take a step back and look at how we've been doing over the past decade so that we can then plan for future growth that aligns with having a sustainable and transit-supportive community.

    Proposed Regional Intensification Corridors - Interactive Mapping

    Six Regional Major Intensification Corridors (shown in yellow on the map) have been proposed through the draft Intensification Strategy. The goal of Regional Major Intensification Corridors is to increase densities in close proximity to existing and planned transit. For these corridors to be effective, they should occur where there is infrastructure to support density, and where intensification can contribute to the development of transit-supportive/pedestrian-friendly areas. Please click here to take a look at the interactive mapping and provide us with your thoughts on:

    a) if there are any other regional intensification corridors we should be considering and why, and,

    b) are there any other factors we should be considering when identifying regional intensification corridors and why.


  • New Short Survey on Regional Environmental Policy

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    We’ve heard through responses to our “Six Questions About Growth in Waterloo Region” survey (conducted through Engage from July 2020-August 2020) that environmental protection is a top priority. We are currently reviewing the environmental chapter in the Regional Official Plan (ROP), and have a few follow-up questions that will help us scope the revisions to our policies. Please take a few minutes to complete the following survey. The survey will be online until November 2, 2020.


  • Update on Employment Land Conversion Requests

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    The Region is in the process of identifying Employment Areas in the Regional Official Plan (for more information click here). Part of this process is to review and evaluate requests to convert specific parcels (or areas) that are currently designated for employment to permit non-employment uses. This is referred to as an employment land conversion. Non-employment uses could include residential, mixed use, commercial, and institutional uses.

    As of September 9th, 2020, the Region has received 38 landowner requests for employment land conversions, as well as requests from the area municipalities, as illustrated on this map. We want to hear from the general public on if they support or oppose each conversion request by October 16, 2020. We'd also like the submission proponent to confirm that the mapping of their request is correct by September 25th, 2020.

    Please click here to view the map and let us know if you have any feedback regarding the landowner and municipal conversion requests using commenting pins.


    Conversion Process / Next Steps

    Over the course of this Fall, Regional staff will begin to review and evaluate each request against the conversion criteria and review the public's input, in collaboration with area municipal staff. Once initial recommendations have been determined, the Region will meet with the landowners of each request to provide the results of the evaluation process and receive any further information. It is important to note that municipal requests will be evaluated against the same conversion criteria. Regional staff will then provide recommendations to Regional Council on each request. Any Council approved conversion will not be included within the Region’s Employment Area.

  • Invitation to a research symposium on the implications of COVID-19 for the Regional Official Plan (ROP) - August 18, 2020

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    We'd like to invite you to participate in a virtual research symposium on the potential effects of COVID-19 on the Regional Official Planning Process. Please join the Region of Waterloo, in partnership with the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment, on August 18, 2020 from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

    With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in light of the ROP review process currently underway, the Region wanted to re-examine our assumptions regarding the appropriate policy response for development in Waterloo Region: How has the pandemic changed things in our community, and how could we shift our development policies to address this change? More specifically, we are asking:

    • If our public infrastructure can weather the COVID-19 storm?

    • How could we adapt our region to ensure that we plan for vibrant, compact centres with a re-envisioned public environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders?

    • What are the implications in Waterloo Region for housing?

    • How do we ensure resilient food systems in the region?

    • What do lessons from the COVID-19 lockdown teach us about tackling the climate and biodiversity crises?

    To further explore these ideas and questions, the Region of Waterloo has partnered with the University of Waterloo to commission a series of papers that attempt to link the effects of the pandemic relative to some theme areas in the ROP, including:

    • The economy and the way we work;
    • Infrastructure, including water/wastewater, roads and transportation;
    • Density and housing; and,
    • Social and environmental implications.

    The papers will consider the current policy objectives relating to their area of research and aim to design a logical, thoughtful response to the implications of the pandemic for the ROP. With the initial research now complete, we are hosting a virtual research symposium to review the findings and recommendations. We are eager to hear feedback from the community on the research and how it could inform the ROP policies.

    Approximately 45 minutes will be spent discussing the research from each of the thematic areas. To register for the symposium, please visit the registration page.

    The agenda and abstracts for each of the research papers are now available. For the agenda, please click here and for the abstracts, please click here.

  • New Environmental Mapping and Commenting Deadline Extended

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    It's a busy time behind the scenes for the ROP team and we have three updates and a reminder for everyone.

    First, we are seeking feedback on our draft Core Environmental Features mapping, part of the Natural Heritage System. The due date for comments is August 31, 2020.

    The Core Environmental Features include Significant Woodlands and Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas (ESPAs) which are identified by the Region, as well as Provincially Significant Wetlands and Habitat of Endangered and Threatened Species, which are identified by the Province.

    Over the last ten years, there have been changes to the Core Environmental Features based on the completion of detailed assessments, site visits, or review of aerial photographs. Overall, there have not been significant changes in the mapping, but some areas have been modified, and we are seeking your input on the changes. Specifically, we would like you to let us know if there are any changes that need to be made to the boundaries for Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas and Significant Woodlands that you do not see in the revised mapping.

    In addition to the changes presented in the draft mapping, there are various ongoing processes which may also result in changes to the draft mapping as it is currently proposed. These processes include Environmental Impact Statements for specific sites, as well as more comprehensive reviews and work such as the City of Kitchener’s Comprehensive review of the zoning by-law (CRoZBy). Final mapping is anticipated to be provided by the end of this year.

    The two (2) layers that we are currently looking for input on include:
    1. the ROP Review ESPA layers, and,
    2. the ROP Review Significant Woodland layers.

    These layers can be compared to the existing mapping by activating the layers “ROP 2015 ESPA” and “ROP 2015 Significant Woodlands”.

    To use the mapping to compare the current and proposed feature limits, different features, or existing mapping, ‘layers’ can be activated in the “Layer List”. To do this, choose the “Layer List” icon (looks like a stack of four sheets of paper) on the top of the map in order to open a 'layer'. The layers that are identified with the “ROP Review” name indicate draft mapping that we are seeking input on. Layers that include “ROP 2015” in their name indicate that they are existing mapped features in the ROP.

    HOW TO ADD A COMMENT ON THE MAP:
    a) To add a comment, you can use the “edit” feature (the pencil and paper icon located on the top left side of the screen.)

    b) If you would like a comment to be associated with a specific property, you can zoom into the area of interest first by searching for an address in the “Find address or place” search bar at the top left side, or by using the “+” or “-“ buttons to navigate into an area of interest.

    c) Once you find the location you would like to have the comment apply to, click on the pencil and paper icon to open a dialog box.

    d) In the dialog box, click on the red point that is labeled “Notes”, then click on the property or area that your comments apply. The following fields can be filled in through this feature: Notes; Contact Name (optional); Contact Number/Email (optional); Address of Property.

    e) Once the notes are entered, click the “x” to close the box, and the comments will be sent directly to Regional staff. Comments will not appear on the map and cannot be seen by other users. We would also welcome input on any of the other natural environment mapping that is included in the ROP, and which can be seen through the online mapping. Instructions for providing comments directly through the mapping software are included above, or you can also provide comments by email to RegionalOfficialPlanReview@regionofwaterloo.ca.

    Second, we have added 3 items from the Ask-a-Planner Webinar (June 25, 2020):

    1. A video of the presentation (top right corner of your screen)
    2. A PDF of the presentation slide deck (in Document Library)
    3. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document based on questions received during the webinar (in Document Library)

    Third, we have extended the commenting deadline for the following items from July 31, 2020 to August 15, 2020:

    1. The six-question survey about growth in Waterloo Region
    2. The interactive mapping for the proposed boundaries for ION Rapid Transit Stations


    Finally, a reminder that the employment map is still online and the employment land conversion requests are due on July 31, 2020.


  • New Survey and Interactive Mapping Activity

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    A new five to 10 minute survey is available ("Six Questions about Growth in Waterloo Region") as well as an interactive mapping activity regarding the proposed boundaries for the ION Rapid Transit Stations. Both of these activities will be available until July 31, 2020. If you have a few minutes, we would really like to hear your thoughts on growth in Waterloo Region, particularly as they related to density and intensification.