It’s nowhere near the end of the line for the sidesplit on that patch of lawn to call your own, but getting us to think outside of the ‘burbs would be a start in changing the landscape of Waterloo Region.
To reduce the pressure on farmland surrounding the three cities, municipal planners want to see more infilling – development of higher density housing on underutilized parcels within the cities, including former industrial sites, so-called brownfields. The goal is to intensify the urban areas, easing the demand for new subdivisions – typically built out on virgin territory known as greenfields – and increasing the use of existing infrastructure.
More than a goal, such practices are mandated by provincial legislation, including its Places to Grow strategy.
To encourage that that kind of development, which applies to the townships as well, the region is making resources available, as noted by interim manager of reurbanization Brooke Lambert’s presentation at Wellesley council
Reurbanization, she explained, is development within the existing built up area of a community, taking many forms, that helps increase density.
“It is a term that we use within the urban context but it definitely fits within the townships as well,” she told councillors.
Achieving more balanced growth means directing a greater share of new development to the existing urban areas to make better use of land, existing infrastructure and services. This also means building more compact, vibrant and complete communities, said Lambert.
There are a few different approaches to reurbanization, including an infill projects like a former gas station that is now a vacant site ready for redevelopment. It can also apply to the adaptive reuse of a structure like an older heritage building that’s use changes and is redeveloped into something new.
“It could be the redevelopment of a site or the intensification of a site, which might mean adding additional units onto a pre-existing building,” she said. “Any development that is happening in a preexisting area is what we would call reurbanization. It is a trend that is definitely increasing.”
Two decades ago, reurbanization rates were quite low across Waterloo Region, reaching only five per cent of development projects. But since 2003 there has been a steady increase and as of 2011 the region was seeing about 55 per cent of development happening within the built up areas.
In the townships of Woolwich and Wellesley, reurbanization rates increased to 19 per cent between 2006 and 2012.
The region is trying to work with the townships to create a joint opportunity to potentially implement what is called a community improvement plan to help with the costs of developments in the townships. If the townships are interested and help put it in place the region will provide the resources to do the rest, Lambert told council.
Currently the region has a brownfield incentive program that provides financial incentives for builders or developers that need to clean up sites for redevelopment. In Woolwich the most recent example is the development at the corner of Arthur and Church streets where the Shoppers Drug Mart now stands.
“The township worked with the region and residence to redevelop that site and clean it up to get that project going,” Lambert explained.
Traditionally a lot of new developments have been located in greenfield areas as it was a easy place to locate.
“We are recognizing that we don’t want to keep expanding out into the valuable agricultural areas and we are trying to make better use of what we already have.”
There are many tools and resources available at www.regionofwaterloo.ca/reurbanization. These resources include policies, planning documents, community committees, funding and research with many of the resources being applicable to the townships.