Kitchener-Waterloo

Region compromises with developers, opens up more land for urban buildup

The Region of Waterloo has come to a compromise with a group of developers to craft a deal that would eventually open up 455 hectares of land for new developments, a benchmark that is over five times the region's original target.
(Colin Butler/CBC News)

The Region of Waterloo has come to a compromise with a group of developers to craft a deal that would eventually open up 455 hectares of land for new developments, a benchmark that is over five times the region's original target.

When the Region introduced its Regional Official Plan in 2009, it set aside 85 hectares of land for new development. That was in addition to the vacant greenfield land the region had already identified could be used for future subdivisions, or about 3,500 hectares.

In an agreement announced Tuesday, the region will now make 455 hectares of land available for urban development by 2019.

For an idea of how much land that is consider that one hectare is 10,000 square metres, or about the size of the inside area of an athletics running track.

Put another way, the region wanted to set aside for development land that was a little less than a kilometre wide by a kilometre long, if you think about driving that distance in your car. That's in addition to the 35 square kilometres the region says was already available for development in 2009. 

But developers in the case, led by a consortium that includes Activa Holdings Inc., Stonefield Properties Corp., and Northgate Land Corp thought that was too small. They appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, an arms-length judicial body that adjudicates disputes over planning in the province, to increase the amount of land available for development to 1,053 hectares, about 10 square kilometres. 

Instead the new agreement between the Region and the appellants puts the amount of land somewhere in the middle. The agreement would see an additional 255 hectares of land opened up, plus a further 200 hectares of land would be designated as urban between 2016 and 2019, which could lead to potential future development.

The compromise comes after OMB ruled in favour of the developers in 2013.

The region countered by launching two legal actions, one of which asserted the OMB's interpretation of the Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe was incorrect. In its second action, the region claimed the OMB process could be biased, saying some OMB staff may have been swayed by a consultant hired by the developers during a private training session.

Both those proceedings are still in the courts. The developers and the region then met in 2013 and "established a negotiating framework and began formal discussions toward a collaborative settlement," the region said in a document outlining the deal.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the OMB. A hearing is scheduled for June 2015. 

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