Updating the City of Waterloo Official Plan

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About the project

The City of Waterloo’s Official Plan is an important document that guides land use decision-making for the city. It represents council's vision for growth and change within the city, guided by the public interest.

The Official Plan was approved in 2012, but under provincial requirements, the plan must be reviewed every 10 years. A review of the city’s Official Plan will ensure the plan meets updated provincial planning requirements and is an opportunity to address local issues, needs and ensure the plan is consistent with any other policy documents that may have changed since the initial approval of the plan.

Getting involved

This page will be updated regularly with project update and key dates. Feel free to ask questions using the Questions section. Sign up to get regular updates using the Follow Project feature, or provide comments and share your ideas using the Comments section on this this page.

About the project

The City of Waterloo’s Official Plan is an important document that guides land use decision-making for the city. It represents council's vision for growth and change within the city, guided by the public interest.

The Official Plan was approved in 2012, but under provincial requirements, the plan must be reviewed every 10 years. A review of the city’s Official Plan will ensure the plan meets updated provincial planning requirements and is an opportunity to address local issues, needs and ensure the plan is consistent with any other policy documents that may have changed since the initial approval of the plan.

Getting involved

This page will be updated regularly with project update and key dates. Feel free to ask questions using the Questions section. Sign up to get regular updates using the Follow Project feature, or provide comments and share your ideas using the Comments section on this this page.

  • Draft Updated Official Plan - June 2024

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    The City of Waterloo is undertaking a required review of the Official Plan. This first draft of the updated Official Plan is intended to refine existing policies and mapping to reflect current best practices in urban planning, and to update for consistency with legislation and Provincial and Regional policies and plans. The draft updates to the Official Plan also address local considerations and input received to-date from community consultation.

    A phased approach to the Official Plan review is being used. This first phase includes updates to policies relating to the city structure, land use policies, and implementation. Several Official Plan maps, called “Schedules”, have been updated as well. The remaining chapters of the Official Plan will be reviewed and updated in later phases of the Official Plan Review process.

    What is an Official Plan

    The Official Plan provides city-wide direction on growth management, land use planning, and development related matters over the course of a 30-year timeframe. The goal is to provide direction through land use and planning policy to achieve the City’s intended vison for growth and community, while limiting overly specific and technical details, which are better left to technical planning tools, such as zoning by-laws.

    The Official Plan review identifies several priority focus areas that form the basis of the review. Many of the priority areas of focus were identified through early stages of the Official Plan Review consultation. Priorities include:

    • facilitating housing and refining urban form;
    • streamlining and clarifying policies; and,
    • encouraging compact complete communities

    City staff will be inviting residents, property owners, business owners, developers, various interest groups, committees, agencies, and associations to participate in the consultation process. A public Open House on the draft Official Plan will be scheduled in late summer/early fall.

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  • Commercial and Employment Policy Study Review: Summary Report

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    As part of the review of the Waterloo Official Plan, urbanMetrics along with Gladki Planning associates, has prepared a summary report for the Commercial and Employment Policy Study (CEPS) on behalf of the City. You can find the report here.

    The report provides an overview of commercial and employment market trends, an inventory analysis, best practices and policy recommendations. The directions from the report will help inform updated commercial and employment policies and framework for the Official Plan.

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  • Shopping patterns survey

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    The shopping patters survey is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated. The survey responses will help us make informed decisions that will strengthen the shape and character of our commercial areas, including shops, services and restaurants.

  • Understanding planning in Waterloo

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    From November 9-December 1, the City of Waterloo will host the 3rd annual Neighbourhood Summit through a series of virtual sessions. The summit will bring together neighbours from across the city to build capacity, share information and network.

    On November 25th from 7:00-8:30 p.m., the Official Plan Review team will host an “Understanding Planning in Waterloo” workshop. This workshop will share high-level information about urban planning in Waterloo and provide details on how neighbours can get involved/stay informed.

    Register to attend

  • Beechwood Park Cultural Heritage Landscape Review

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    We are looking for your input on whether the Beechwood Park neighbourhood should be included on the City of Waterloo's inventory of significant cultural heritage landscapes. We want to determine whether further study and review of this neighbourhood should be done as part of the City’s Official Plan review and update. Cultural heritage landscapes are heritage areas that have been identified by the community as important. Designation as a cultural heritage landscape serves as a starting point for future planning initiatives and actions (subject to community consultation and council approval) to ensure that significant heritage features are celebrated, enhanced and conserved as the city grows and develops. Visit the Beechwood Park project page to review the information on cultural heritage landscapes and then let us know what you think.

  • Public Open House - June 17 2021

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    At the Official Plan Review Open House (held June 17, 2021) staff shared information on what the Official Plan is, why it is being reviewed, the study process, and how interested people can help identify priorities for the review.



  • Official Plan Issue Briefs

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    The City of Waterloo Official Plan is a large, complicated document. To help focus on specific areas during the review, the project team has identified eight issues that are important considerations in the review process. We've summarized each of these issues on its own project page, including an overview of the issue, and a list of the existing conditions, strategic directions, and policy considerations for that issue. Further details on those conditions and considerations are available in the issue brief PDF documents, linked from the specific project pages and available in our Document library. Important Waterloo facts and trends which we also need to consider as we review the Official Plan are included in our Key Facts and Trends Infographic or our Key Facts and Trends Report.

    Official Plan Review Issue Briefs

    • City Growth, Structure and Form A particular hierarchy and urban structure are the main building blocks of the city.
    • Economic Development and Innovation Promoting economic development by planning for the conditions to make the city an attractive place in which to live and invest.
    • Environment and Climate Change Forward thinking environment and climate change policies are required for the continued adaptation and transformational change needed to address this issue.
    • Housing Affordability and Equity Addressing the need for a diversity of housing types, tenures (financial arrangements for living, such as tenant or owner-occupied) and costs throughout the city.
    • Neighbourhoods, Communities and Culture Arts, culture and heritage play a critical role in the vibrancy and vitality of Waterloo, and cultural activities and sites contribute to the well-being of society and individuals.
    • Planning Processes and Public Consultation Our engagement policies and methods need to meet the requirements and accessibility needs of the legislation and our community.
    • Transportation and Mobility Proper infrastructure accommodating various transportation modes and amenities is one of the best ways to allow better connections between people and the places they need to go.
    • Vision and Strategic Plan Principles, goals and objectives established by the community, which describe and coordinate how land in the city should be used and developed.


    If you have Questions or Comments while reviewing these materials, our project team would love to hear from you.


    Information in this infographic is also available in the Key Facts and Trends Report, in the Document Library.


  • City Growth Structure and Form

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    Waterloo is a growing city with a young and well-educated population. The city’s high quality of life makes it an attractive place for people to live, work and learn. Our growth needs to be managed to ensure that Waterloo continues to be an attractive, functional and inclusive community, and that our community infrastructure is used efficiently. Management of growth and the opportunities it presents is a key function of the Official Plan.

    Waterloo’s Official Plan outlines a particular hierarchy and urban structure, which are the main building blocks of the city. These structural components include:

    • Uptown Waterloo (also known as the Urban Growth Centre): the urban centre of the city, identified by the province as the focus area for growth as well as the civic and cultural centre of the city.
    • Major and Minor Nodes: generally located at intersection of major roads, these are mixed-use areas that allow for higher density development and may include commercial uses including grocery stores.
    • Major and Minor Corridors: these areas are generally located along major roads and transit routes in the city and connect nodes. Corridors also allow for higher density and mixed use development.

    More recently, the city added land use policies for Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs) for the areas around the ION LRT stops. The detailed land use policies for these areas identify where and what type of development is permitted, and include important land use considerations such urban design, compatible uses, and heights and densities.

    More detail is available in the City Growth Structure and Form issue brief, including:

    Existing Conditions/Initiatives


    Strategic Directions

    • Continue to plan for projected residential and employment growth
    • Review and refine land use policies for remaining greenfield areas
    • Refine city structure to align with city, regional and provincial requirements


    Policy Considerations

    • Planning for growth in strategic growth areas
    • Consider the policies and land use designations to enable services and facilities needed to support growth
    • Refine employment area framework to reflect boundary and policy changes
    • Refine commercial land use framework to ensure an appropriate mix and location of commercial land uses
    • Refine residential, commercial and employment land use designation policies reflect changing demographics and market trends
    • Strengthen urban design policies into the Official Plan in accordance with the Urban Design Manual


  • Economic Development and Innovation

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    Waterloo is a growing city. Our strong and diverse economy and local facilities and services provide residents with a high quality of life, making Waterloo an attractive place for people to live, work, play and learn. Waterloo has a young and growing population with a knowledge-based economy. The overall goal of economic development is to improve the economic well being, quality of life and vitality of the community.

    Economic development is intended to build on the strengths of the community through various programs, polices and strategies to ensure a healthy and vibrant economy with opportunities for growth and sustainability. In addition to the initiatives of the City of Waterloo Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan 2019-2024, the city’s Official Plan plays a role in promoting economic development by planning for the conditions to make the city an attractive place in which to live and invest.

    More detail is available in the Economic Development and Innovation issue brief, including:

    Existing Conditions/Initiatives

    • Economic development initiatives (such as the small business centre, community improvement plan, business directory, and arts and cultural development
    • Employment areas
    • Planning for a strong and sustainable economy
    • Waterloo as a creative and sustainable city
    • Knowledge and technology
    • Strong and vibrant uptown


    Strategic Directions and Policy Considerations

    • Support a diverse range of employment and commercial opportunities
    • Enhance support for arts heritage and culture, by strengthening public realm policies and accommodating a wide range arts and cultural land uses
    • Strengthen ties to academic and start-up communities


  • Environment and Climate Change

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    The natural environment and climate change resilience play a critical role in the health and wellbeing of our community. Natural areas like woodlands, wetlands, and creek corridors contribute to environmental health by replenishing groundwater, regulating flood waters, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and offering critical habitat for wildlife. These areas also provide cultural and economic opportunities for recreation, nature appreciation, tourism, research, and education.

    The Official Plan review provides an opportunity for the city to strengthen and update our environment and climate change policies to reflect Provincial and Regional policy changes, new local master plans, advances in climate research and modelling, and best practices. Forward thinking policies are required for the continued adaptation and transformational change needed to address this issue.

    More detail is available in the Environment and Climate Change issue brief, including:

    Existing Conditions/Initiatives

    • Our region is projected to become "warmer, wetter and wilder"
    • Achieving an 80% reduction in our emissions by 2050 will require transformational change
    • Waterloo is preparing for a changing climate
    • Waterloo’s natural heritage system supports local biodiversity and can help us reduce our vulnerability to climate change


    Strategic Directions

    • Integrate mitigation and adaptation considerations into all long term policy and development and infrastructure planning
    • Support low impact, energy efficient, and climate resilient development
    • Facilitate adoption of appropriate community energy systems
    • Plan for compact, mixed use, and walkable communities
    • Support public transit, active transportation, and zero-emission vehicle infrastructure
    • Identify and protect significant natural areas and their ecological functions


    Policy Considerations

    • Align with Provincial and Regional policy directions
    • Align policies with city master plans and strategies
    • Review policies pertaining to the built environment
    • Implement goals and actions of the corporate and community-focused climate change plans and the Community Energy Investment Strategy.
    • Update the natural heritage system mapping with the best available data sources
    • Identify additional actions that are needed to achieve broader natural heritage objectives
    • Review and clarify floodplain policies
    • Review holding provision policies that guide implementation of floodplain policies
    • Review and update source water protection policies and mapping


Page last updated: 14 Jun 2024, 09:52 AM