Region agrees to set aside 450 hectares of land for urban development
A 13-year battle over the future of development in Waterloo Region appears poised for an end.
The region and a group of developers have reached an agreement putting an end to the developers’ legal challenge of the region’s official plan – a document used to guide the region’s growth through 2031.
“It’s a very important document. It guides growth for our community, and as you know our community is growing very rapidly,” said Rob Horne, the region’s commissioner of planning.
Work on the official plan began in 2002.
It was approved by regional councillors in 2009, but had been held up at the Ontario Municipal Board since 2011.
For the most part, developers were looking for the region to make more land available for new construction.
The region planned to designate 85 hectares of land for urban development, while a group of developers was seeking more than 1,000 hectares.
In the end, the region agreed to immediately designate 255 hectares of land for those purposes. A further 200 hectares will come into play by the end of the decade.
“We’re very pleased that we were able to reach a settlement,” said Ian Andres, a lawyer representing a number of the developers behind the OMB challenge.
“I think this is a very sensible solution to a complex planning and legal matter.”
Land slated to become available for urban development in 2015 includes a parcel northeast of New Dundee and Fischer-Hallman roads, a separate piece in southwest Kitchener, a parcel in Woolwich Township near the Waterloo border and land west of the current Blair Road area.
One of the largest parcels will be 115 hectares just south of Region of Waterloo International Airport.
Although that land is slated to be designated for urban development in 2016, its exact location has yet to be determined.
Regional chair Ken Seiling said he was glad to see a deal reached which would preserve other features of the region’s proposed plan, including protection of rural and environmentally sensitive areas.
“If approved, this puts in place all of the policies that we were putting forward,” he said.
Also pleased with the deal is Mark Reusser, a member of the executive of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture who was hoping to see the region preserve as much farmland as possible.
“We think it’s paramount that the government recognize this is something that should be saved,” he said.
“The compromise appears to be something that we can live with.”
The agreement between the region and the developers doesn’t mean their proposal will happen for certain.
The official plan still needs approval from the Ontario Municipal Board, which has scheduled its next hearing into the issue for June.