Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Celebrating Waterloo the Good

It's very easy to write a post when something gets up in my urbanist junk. I see red and the words flow. Recently I've been pretty critical of our municipal governments.

But here's the thing: by and large, and more so than most anywhere else in this province the region of Waterloo gets it so very, very right. I'm proud to live here, and it is the general positive direction we are in, and the vision this place has, that makes me happy to get involved. Because a man has hope living here.

Here's a couple of things, just from today.

The region got hammered by a ruling from the Ontario Municipal Board, the entity that former BC premier Mike Harcourt has called a "medieval abomination". The OMB has sided with developers-- who often direct much more legal resources at OMB hearings and seem to (almost) always come away with the upper hand-- against the region in its bid to limit greenfield development (i.e. sprawl.)

But the region is not going to take it lying down, and will appeal the ruling. I don't know if they'll win, but it will cast a stark light on the OMB's heavy, undemocratic hand in municipal planning. If nothing else, we'll go down fighting for principles.

Let's not forget, as quoted in the appeal article: the region of Waterloo has maybe the most aggressive growth management strategy in Ontario. It is the only municipality that is defining a countryside line to limit sprawl (and this, too, is going to be the subject of an OMB ruling.) We are blazing a trail. The Ontario "Places to Grow" act is based in no small part on the work done by local governments here in this region.

Along these very lines, today the Central Transit Corridor project presented to regional council on its draft community building strategy, apparently published just a few days ago. (I got listed as a stakeholder, thanks to one day in May I got to work with them on the Midtown vision.) It is pretty inspiring stuff, not exactly a prescriptive document but a descriptive one of where we can go from here. And it's heady stuff. The stuff cities are made of.

On a much smaller scale, today council decided to put aside the quantitative analysis by staff and support a pedestrian signal crossing at Weber and Wilhelm, where some major widening is happening and the Spur Trail will eventually intersect. The Mount Hope - Breithaupt Park neighbourhood association went to bat, and councilors took a more strategic view of the situation and almost unanimously supported aiding pedestrian movement across a widened Weber.

As a bonus to all of this, some measured progress is also being made on pedestrian infrastructure for the vision impaired.

So, let's not all be doom and gloom? I want to compliment the region for getting it right and heading in a positive direction.

1 comment:

  1. The OMB appeal indeed deserves our plaudits. It is refreshing to see council do something based on a sense of what is right, rather than simply caving to whatever interests shout the loudest.

    Sure, that's a huge discussion on "what is democracy" and "what should elected representatives do" but really when a society is in transition, leadership must be firm and decisive.

    We've had too much wishy-washy behaviour. This spine-growing on the part of council is refreshing. I hope it lasts.