Monday, June 7th, 2010 marks an important date in the history of Waterloo City and consequently UW and WLU students. On this day, the Waterloo City Council listened to a presentation by City of Waterloo Development Services and Protective Services staff regarding the future of Northdale area in Waterloo.
For those of you who are unaware of this event, City of Waterloo instructed the staff to compare its long term development plan for Northdale with an alternative vision called HUG Waterloo, and make appropriate recommendations considering the tools and resources available to the City. Northdale is the name given to the area bounded by Columbia St., King St., University Avenue, and Lester St. The former plan emphasizes intensification only in the nodes and corridor and encourages a mix of short and long term residents in the area. HUG Waterloo on the other hand proposed a world class and environmentally friendly urban architecture.
At the meeting the staff presented another plan to be considered as an option which included for the development of Terms of Reference for a Land Use Study to study the potential for phasing and draft a community improvement plan. Another change was inclusion of part of the Sugarbush area comprising of Hickory, Fir and State streets, with the Northdale area to be considered for development and rezoning purposes.
After deliberations and considerations, the final decision included the following elements: The staff should initiate a comprehensive land use study for the Northdale area, Sugarbush would not be included in this study and only the area bounded by King, University, Columbia and Phillip be considered Northdale, the staff should develop Terms of Reference for the land use study in collaboration with the stake holders, the staff should initiate a Community Improvement Plan after the land use plan, and that the Community Relations staff should develop a Community Outreach Program with the post-secondary institutions.
The official representation from the University of Waterloo Administration was from Bud Walker, Director University Business Operations, along with David McMurray, Vice-President, Student Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University. This joint presentation was deemed as “historical” by the Chair of the meeting, Councilor Mark Whaley. They stated that “the existing approach does not meet the needs of residents and stated that both Universities would establish proper accommodations immediately in nearer proximity to schools, and that high density developments further out with increased amenities and services may be implemented through a staged plan and rezoning.”
UW Federation of Students (FEDS) was represented by Sarah Cook, VP Administration and Finance. Cook spoke about student issues and how the visions don’t address them. She further spoke in favour of high density/small unit buildings, intensification along new corridors, the creation of safe, secure and affordable housing for students and inclusion of student lounges and study spaces in residences.
Other UW students who spoke as members of the community included Ian Kasper; Faculty of Mathematics representative on FEDS Council, Mackenzie Keast, President; Waterloo Students Planning Advisory and Diego Almaraz; a Planning student at UW. Kasper brought forward the fact that the deteriorating condition of the houses is not necessarily due to student negligence but more than often due to negligence on the part of owners. Keast talked at length about the different regional and provincial policies monitoring the use of land and that needs to be considered before proposing any land use plan. Almaraz presented pictures of successful urban communities and villages from around the world giving a vision which Waterloo could form into reality.
Another motion presented by Councilor McLean was a joint program between the City and Regional Police to have paid police officers in the Northdale area for a period of 6 months. This was not agreed upon by the other councilors due to a concern of converting a neighbourhood into a patrol area and no details of the costs this program would incur.
Let’s hope that this direction that the City has decided to take mitigates the housing issues and reduces the friction between long term residents and students.