Thursday, June 6, 2013

155 Caroline: deadline approaches, have your say

On Monday, Waterloo council will consider the approval of zoning changes and public land disposal that will enable the construction of 155 Caroline St. and reroute the Iron Horse trail. It is not a development that I have been in favour of, and my thoughts on why were summed up over a year ago here.

And if you want to speak to council on the matter, please see here for lots of helpful links. Do you think this is the right thing to do? Do you disagree? This is a good time to be heard.

As for my opinion, I'll just put here what I sent to the mayor and city councilors. To sum up, I could be talked into rerouting the trail, if there is an overall public benefit. But no such benefit is in the offing, at best what we have faced is damage control.

I am writing to express my concern about the city of Waterloo staff recommendation to dispose of a portion of the Iron Horse trail to allow for the development of 155 Caroline. I believe that the current plan represents a disregard for the public realm, and a missed opportunity for Waterloo to show leadership in developing a better Uptown.

To be clear, I am not advocating that the Iron Horse trail "must not be altered under any circumstances". Rather, I believe that the city of Waterloo has failed to ensure that the disposal of a key piece of public infrastructure results in an overall public benefit.

Developers are free to build within the codes and zoning laws put in place by the city. But cities routinely use variances and zoning changes beneficial to development as "carrots" to encourage development to a higher standard.

The disposal and land transfer of a portion of the Iron Horse Trail is the mother of all carrots. It creates an incredibly lucrative opportunity for the developer. In exchange for a favour of this magnitude, the developer should bring forward a plan that creates a significant improvement for the city of Waterloo and for residents in surrounding neighbourhoods.

Instead, what we have seen is a substandard proposal from a corporation that wants to do this its own way. Its response to numerous concerns and complaints have been to make superficial changes to limit the damage. My own conversations with the developer revealed an unwillingness to change anything meaningful, only to allay (and sometimes belittle) people's concerns.

Since city staff have been so accepting of a mediocre outcome, it falls on your shoulders to reject this proposal and demand better. There is tremendous opportunity to create a development here that is beneficial to all, that creates a sense of place, that follows smart intensification practices, and leverages our investment in active transportation and transit.

Most of all there is a massive opportunity for the city of Waterloo to raise the bar on what it considers good development.

Please reject the disposal of the Iron Horse trail and zoning changes for 155 Caroline on Monday.


  1. Well said. Waterloo Council is selling off our city for a song. I guess developers spend a lot of money on election campaigns...

  2. I wrote because I couldn't attend, but obviously, it didn't work. Can you give a recap of how it went down? I saw the vote was 4-2 - can you tell me who voted how, so I know who NOT to vote for in the next election?

  3. Councillors Diane Freeman and Karen Scian voted against the relocation.
    Councillors Scott Witmer, Mark Whaley, Jeff Henry, and Melissa Durrell voted in favour.
    Councillor Angela Vieth had better things to do.

    I can't tell you one thing: Durrell won't be getting my vote in the next election. The minutes ( list an enormous number of people opposed for a variety of reasons, yet basically only the developer in favour. Disgusting.