The Council Round-Up (Sept/Oct 2023)
A snapshot of what's happening in council chambers around Waterloo Region
Region of Waterloo:
The Region continues to expand its automated speed enforcement (ASE) program with the goal of having a speed camera installed at 175 area schools by 2028. (Read more here.)
Of course, more cameras means more tickets. Currently, a processing centre in Toronto processes these tickets (and the tickets of eleven other municipalities). But, Toronto caps how many tickets they will process for each municipality. Waterloo Region’s cap was 30,000 tickets in 2023. In 2024, the cap is 70,000. However, Regional staff say, “70,000 infractions are only a fraction of the projected charges with the expansion of speed cameras.” Given that each camera is expected to issue approximately 5,000 tickets a year, council was told “The region could see up to 140,000 tickets in 2024 with the additional (60) speed cameras.”
Therefore, council approved the creation of a processing centre in Waterloo Region, at 99 Regina St, Waterloo. Regional staff say the cost of a processing centre, including hiring staff, will be covered by ticket revenue. The staff report estimates the total “cost of the automated speed program in 2024 would be $4.6 million, but the revenue from tickets could be $6.7 million. The revenue would increase each year, projected at $20 million by 2029.”
Staff remind council that “This is not being established as a revenue-generating tool for the region. The point of the program is to reduce speeding.” To date, the automated speed enforcement program has reduced driver speeds (in those areas with a camera) by an average of 63%.
The Region of Waterloo has approved an anti-hate street harassment bylaw which will come into effect this coming January. “Regional councillors voted unanimously to amend the region’s bylaw on prohibited activities to address harassment based on race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation in regionally owned public spaces.” Violators of the bylaw can be fined $250.
Maedith Radlein (Public Board Trustee) spoke in favour of the amended by-law. She said, “Hate and harm are increasing in this community. There are groups actively working to divide us and instill fear. Elected officials have the power to make change by enacting bylaws that make the community safe.”
Many delegations came out to the September 27th council meeting to speak on this issue (and to the Region’s approach to homeless encampments), both for and against the proposed by-law. You can watch those delegations here. The motion can be viewed on-screen at 4:33:33 and it was passed unanimously.
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Stadium Improvement Project will receive $2.5 million from the City of Waterloo. The project, which has four phases and is expected to total $80-100 million, will winterize Laurier’s stadium by adding a ‘bubble’ over the field. “In addition to the bubble, there will also be the replacement of the stadium field and turf on Seagram Drive, scoreboard and lighting.” In exchange for financial support, the City of Waterloo can use the renovated facility for community access to support sport organizations and community groups.
Waterloo Council also recently approved improvements to several pedestrian crossings in the city. Beginning this fall, Waterloo is “upgrading up to 20 pedestrian crossings with painted stripes, stop-for-pedestrian signs, and at three sites, flashing beacons to help stop traffic in the middle of a block.” Staff note that, “flashing beacons are used sparingly where pedestrians cross. Overusing beacons will lead drivers to disobey them in the same way that installing unwarranted stop signs leads drivers to disobey them.”
A recent staff report found that “the initial investments made by the city in pursuit of its Cycling and Trails Master Plan have gotten residents walking, rolling and cycling in greater numbers.” Staff share that:
Kitchener has installed 28 new pedestrian crossings at mid-block, trail, and roundabout locations.
The Downtown Cycling Grid has seen a 164% increase in ridership, with 54,781 cycling trips in the first seven months of 2023.
The Iron Horse Trail continues to grow in use, with an average of 2,894 daily users in June 2023, compared to 819 in June 2016, an increase of 270%!
In addition, “the 55km of new sidewalks and walkways combined with the 84km of all ages and abilities trails and bikeways have led to greater numbers of Kitchener residents using active transportation options to move through our community.”
In response to this news, Kitchener Mayor Vrbanovic says, “As a growing city, we need to provide transportation options for Kitchener residents that are healthier, take up less space on our streets and are more affordable than personal car ownership.”
The full strategy can be found on the City of Kitchener’s website.
What is likely welcome news for A Better Tent City, Kitchener has extended their land use agreement. The license agreement has been extended to May 2025 and will be reviewed annually after that. The Director of Education (WRDSB) jeewan chanika says, “Embracing our neighbours while they await permanent housing reflects our commitment to ensuring everyone in the Waterloo Region has the supports they need to be successful, especially those most marginalized. It's a core value of ours.”
In response to this extension, Jeff Wilmer (chair of A Better Tent City), is thankful for the support since, “without it, the 50 residents of ABTC would very likely have no safe place to go. But with it, they have stability, meals, access to basic services, health care and, most importantly, hope.”
Of course, A Better Tent City is meant to be temporary housing and the real goal is to move people into permanent, affordable housing. Kitchener took another step in that direction when it approved the construction of a 6-storey affordable housing building on Church St. The building will have 57 affordable residential units and 27 parking spaces. Click to read the staff report.
The new KPL branch (near Fischer-Hallman and Bleams) will be home to public art. The installation, Wintertime Stories, by artists Isaac Murdoch and Nyle Miigizi Johnston focuses on how “the stories of the woodland animals are rich with lessons and teachings on our connection to all of nature and our roles as stewards and protectors of the lands.” The staff report states that, “the work was selected, from nearly 30 options, by a citizen jury citing its deep connection to Anishinabek tradition, its appealing symbolism, and the playful warmth of its shapes and material choices.”
This summer, Cambridge Councillor Donna Reid passed away. A by-election is now underway for her ward 1 seat. Nominations closed on September 29th, and there are four candidates running. Richard Kaufman joins Karl Kiefer, Helen Shwery and Michelle Goodridge on the ballot. The WR Record has asked each of the candidates a few simple questions and you can read their responses here.
Advance voting for the election began on November 1st and there is another opportunity on November 4th, from 10am to 6pm, at Allan Reuter Centre, 507 King St. E.
If you are a ward 1 resident and have not yet received a Voter Notification Letter, you may attend an advance poll or go to city hall to be placed on the Voters’ List.
Internet voting runs from October 30th until November 13th.
There will be four In-person polling stations on Nov. 13.
Wellesley council was recently presented with a proposal for a 12 unit stacked townhomes building. The proposal is for 2 bedroom units, on-site parking, and has been in process for over a year and a half. Council unanimously deferred the proposal indefinitely, “saying they would prefer rental units that would be more affordable.”
One councillor shared their concern, that “if we start intensifying like this, there’s going to be a need for transit and I don’t think we want to get drawn into the Grand River Transit and increase our tax burden.” (See it at the 1:38:48 mark). Click to see the agenda, with this item starting on page 62.
There were also several exciting council decisions regarding housing for both Kitchener and Waterloo, but I’d like to take a deeper dive into those decisions, so stay tuned for more on those soon.
As always, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with others who you think may also find it informative.