April 10, 2014
The formal public meeting for the Costco application came to Council on Monday. Council agreed with the staff recommendation to approve the Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments, and we expanded the holding provision to include all development on the site. The holding provision means nothing will be built until the following conditions are met: (a) an integrated multi-modal traffic analysis (walking, cycling, driving, and transit) across the west side with public open houses and community engagement is completed and approved, and (b) all necessary transportation improvements are in place.
For context, the west side lands across from the Regional Waste Management facility have been designated for commercial/retail and employment since the 1990 Official Plan. The City owns most of the land west of the hydro corridor for future employment (office, advanced manufacturing, etc.). A large parcel belongs to the Rice group, who were the proponents of the Costco. As the last large parcel of land in Waterloo, these are critical to our future as a community, and with the waste management facility across the street, there are only so many possible uses. The Official Plan specifically identified a large format retail (membership warehouse club) use on the Rice-held lands, and so from a planning perspective, the Costco-proponents were on solid ground for asking for the Official Plan and Zoning By-law changes.
Over more than 3.5 hours of delegations and presentations on Monday, Council mostly heard support for a Costco in Waterloo alongside significant concerns about the impact of traffic. These matched the large volume of email that I have received over the past two weeks. Council shared the community’s concerns as the improvements to Erb St and Ira Needles Blvd, as well as the new north-south road connecting Erb to Columbia, would not be completed for some time (2018, 2016, and 2019 respectively). As I stated at the meeting, we would not permit development if we didn’t have capacity in our water and wastewater pipes to support it, so why would we permit development when we know there are necessary and planned changes to the transportation network just around the corner? Making sure that the necessary improvements are in place first will also reduce the pressure on the Wilmot Line and the environmentally sensitive lands as drivers will have far better options available.
I spent significant time ahead of Monday working with the ward councillor and staff to ensure Council had this well-crafted option available to it. As the chair of the meeting on Monday, I was pleased to see the passion of our local residents in our chambers, and commended the delegates, the audience, and those who took the time to email, phone, or meet with all of us on this issue. I believe we struck the appropriate balance, and I look forward to the significant community engagement to come in the multi-modal traffic analysis to come in the months ahead.
To receive further notices about the traffic analysis project, please contact Joel Cotter, and he will make sure you receive them.