What is an Official Plan?

    The Official Plan is the primary strategic document used to guide growth and change in Waterloo over the next 20 years. The Official Plan contains principles, goals and objectives established by the community which describe and coordinate how land in the City should be used and developed. The Official Plan is used by the City to plan for both short-term and long-term growth and development while taking into consideration important social, environmental, economic, and cultural issues and goals and values. Official plans have legal status and derive their authority from the Planning Act. All municipal public works and by-laws must conform to the Official Plan. The Official Plan also creates a legal framework for zoning and standards.

    What does an Official Plan do?

    An Official Plan deals primarily with issues such as:

    • where new housing, industry, offices and shops will be located
    • where services such as roads, sewers, parks and schools will be located
    • when, and in what order, parts of the City will grow
    • how the environment is protected
    • what the character of the community and neighbourhoods will be
    • community improvement initiatives
    • how much greenspace and parkland there is 
    • the scale and intensity of development
    • housing affordability
    • transportation options

    What is an Official Plan Review?

    An Official Plan Review is a process to consider the appropriateness and applicability of a city’s current official plan. Regular updates of the Plan ensure that the principles, objectives, and vision for city planning stays responsive to current issues and conditions.

    Why undertake a review now?

    The Planning Act requires municipalities to regularly review their official plans. Specifically, municipal councils are required to revise the Plan no less frequently than 10 years after it comes into effect as a new official plan. As the City’s current Official Plan was adopted in 2012, a Review has to be completed by 2022. This is to ensure that the plan implements any changes to Provincial legislation/plans, upper-tier municipal plans (i.e. Regional plans), and other changes that impact municipal planning decisions. The review is also an opportunity to ensure the Official Plan continues to reflect contemporary urban planning best practices and to address local priorities and changing community needs through planning policy.

    A list of some of the plans and studies that have been created or currently are underway since the 2012 adoption of the Official Plan include:

    • 2019-2022 Strategic Plan
    • Comprehensive Zoning By-law (By-law 2018-050)
    • Major Transit Station Area plans
    • Inclusionary Zoning Study
    • Transportation Master Plan Update
    • Park Strategy
    • Cultural Heritage Landscapes Study
    • Uptown Public Realm Strategy
    • West Side Employment Lands land use planning 
    • Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region
    • Community Energy Investment Strategy
    • Corporate Climate Change Adaptation Plan
    • Stormwater Management Master Plan
    • Grand River Source Protection Plan 

    How will the review be undertaken?

    The Official Plan Review process was described in the Terms of Reference approved by Council on December 7, 2020 (Council Report IPPW2020-060). It has a target completion date of Fall 2022 and has the following three phases and timing: 


    1. Research (2021) – Includes a scan of changes that have occurred at the Provincial, Regional and local level that may impact our Official Plan as well as a review of best practices. 

    2. Plan Review (2022) – Based on research findings, identify gaps/issues with the Official Plan, evaluate options, and formulate recommendations of preferred solutions for Council consideration and adoption. 

    3. Approval and Implementation (2022+) – Includes City adoption of the Official Plan, Regional approval of the Official Plan, and consideration of revisions to processes or documents (e.g. Zoning By-law) that may be necessary to implement the Plan.

    It is not anticipated that this review will result in an entirely new Official Plan. Rather, it will more likely result in policy and mapping refinements to address contemporary urban planning best practices and Provincial, Regional and local changes that have occurred since the existing Official Plan was approved in 2012. Further, the Region is currently reviewing its Official Plan, and the City’s Official Plan will need to be amended to align with the new Regional Official Plan (“ROP”) pursuant to the Planning Act.