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.

  • 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)

  • 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.

Page last updated: 15 November 2021, 12:29