Waterloo Region Votes 2018: Waterloo's growing pains

Development in Waterloo, particularly in the uptown area, will change the look of the city. Some candidates don't approve.

As Waterloo grows, some people don't like the way things are changing

Three people are seeking the mayor's seat in Waterloo. They are, from left, Chris Kolednick, Kelly Steiss and incumbent Dave Jaworsky. (Facebook)

Waterloo is growing up — literally.

The need to create infill developments stems from the fact Waterloo is in the midst of changing from a university town to a hub of tech and innovation.

It's home to companies such as Shopify, which is expanding its offices in the uptown neighbourhood, Aeryon Labs, Magnet Forensics, Axonify and Open Text in the city's north end.

A lengthy period of construction to upgrade infrastructure and lay tracks for the LRT has now left behind a King Street with wide sidewalks and bike lanes, although the raised bike lanes are still controversial and have prompted questions about the safety of them.

More people want to live uptown, and so more condos are being built. Some longtime residents fear that could change the look and feel of the core.

A new development approved by council in September at the corner of King Street and Bridgeport Road, for instance, was called a "monster" by mayoral candidate Chris Kolednik.

"This monster will absolutely destroy the uptown Waterloo spirit but most members of council interested in selling out Waterloo for taxation dollars. Disgusting," Kolednik tweeted.

Three running for mayor

Kolednik is one of two challengers to incumbent mayor Dave Jaworsky, who has served in the role for four years.

Kelly Steiss is the other. She's worked in municipal government previously and has been involved in a number of local volunteer projects including the K-W Zonta Club; she founded the K-W Princess Project and is also involved with the Twin Cities Minor Tackle Football and Kitchener-Waterloo Rowing Club.

Kolednik is a realtor in Waterloo. He said in a video on his campaign's Facebook page the last four years under Jaworsky have been "disastrous" for the city.

Both Steiss and Kolednik have also brought up closed-door budget meetings the city council held in 2014, a practise Jaworsky said they stopped immediately after being told they couldn't do it.

Council itself will see a change because three councillors not seeking re-election: Ward one Coun. Bob Mavin, who has battled lymphoma since 2016, Brian Bourke in ward two and Melissa Durrell in ward seven, the uptown ward.

Those three wards are hotly contested with five people running to replace Mavin, four running to replace Bourke and five people vying to replace Durrell.

This development is planned for 70 King Street N., in uptown Waterloo. Critics have said the building, which is at the corner of Bridgeport Road, will reshape the look of uptown. (Image provided)

Cycling, scooters and street parties

As more residents turn to active forms of transportation, the newly installed bike lanes in uptown are causing concern because some cyclists question just how safe they are. There's also a call for more bike lanes throughout the city — a process that can sometimes be slow depending on funding from the city, region and province.

Waterloo announced earlier this month it will take part in an e-scooter pilot project.

On the theme of getting around the city, snow clearing last winter was also a complaint by some local residents. They said accessibility is hampered because because homeowners and the city both fail to shovel the sidewalks.

The new council will also need to address the growing number of people who hit Ezra Avenue for street parties. Thousands of young people crowd onto the street for St. Patrick's Day in March and Laurier's homecoming in the autumn. Police keep increasing their presence and have said they'll crack down, but more and more numbers of students keep attending the parties.

More than 20,000 people attended a street party on Ezra Avenue in Waterloo earlier in 2018. Council will need to address the growing street parties in the area. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Prayer centre controversy

A contentious issue in the city has also seen neighbours accusing each other of racism.

When Waterloo was considering a request to approve a Muslim prayer centre at 510 Erbsville Rd. a group of residents under the banner of the West Waterloo Community Association was very vocal in its opposition. Allegations and innuendo on social media suggested the complaints were cultural, not zoning.

The group defended its objections and said they had "legitimate land-use planning concerns" and that it wasn't a race issue.

The association and the Muslim Association of Canada reached an agreement in April to allow prayer at the site.