Waterloo Regional councillors and residents say the Region’s future hangs in the balance following a recent ruling by the Ontario Municipal Board.

The issue centres on what Waterloo Region classifies as urban versus rural boundaries.  Councillors and staff spent the better part of a decade deciding that urban boundaries should only grow by another 85 hectares of land. 

A consortium of businesses, primarily property developers, took that number to the OMB, arguing it should be larger.  Recently, the OMB ruled in favour of the consortium, allotting 1035 hectares of land for possible development.

The numbers will be a key figure in Waterloo Region’s Official Plan, the overruling document for any and all development.

“We’re talking about a substantial space”, says Kate Daley. 

Daley co-founded a website called www.smartgrowthwaterloo.ca .  She hopes it will sway enough citizens to put public pressure on developers and the OMB.  “We want to make sure there was a place where we could share information, keep in touch with what’s going on and find out how to take action.”

So far, the website lists six groups that support her efforts.  Another is Regional Chair Ken Seiling, who says allowing more development will erode the area’s agricultural base.  “It’s roughly the equivalent of about 200 farms that they’re suggesting.  We don’t think that kind of growth is necessary in rural areas.”       

Colleague Jane Mitchell agrees, “Particularly in this region with our Mennonite population.  We want that land preserved.  We want a variety of different choices that people can have because not everybody wants that house with the picket fence.”

The OMB did not return interview requests on Sunday.  Part of its decision for agreeing with the property developers is based on predictions that the expanding senior population will want to continue to live in their single dwelling homes.

Associate professor of the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo, Jeff Casello, says the OMB’s forecasts are outdated.  “The OMB’s decision is really based on sort of business as usual and we’re arguing, no, we should look at things differently.”

Regional council plans to appeal the ruling in divisional court on May 10th.  Seiling and Daley want the Ontario government and the Premier to join them to have it overturned.