Growth Management


Growth Management

Waterloo Region continues to grow and with a current population of almost 600,000 people, we are the fourth largest community in Ontario and the 10th largest in Canada.

To prepare for this growth, the Regional Growth Management Strategy (RGMS) was created in 2003 to guide future plans for our community. The goals of the RGMS were to protect farmland, provide greater transportation choice, and build vibrant urban places. These goals were included in the Regional Official Plan (ROP) approved by the Province of Ontario in December 2010 and continues to be reflected in the Region’s current Official Plan (2015)

The ROP created a fixed border between rural and urban areas, establishing a protected countryside to permanently protect our drinking water and main environmental areas.

The ROP also anticipated a rapid transit system to encourage growth within the region’s core areas and to move people more efficiently within those areas.

Today, ION rapid transit is helping focus new development and investment in the region’s cores. In the ION attracts development map, you can explore the ION Corridor and the buildings started before ION approval in 2011, buildings started after ION approval, and those announced but still in the planning stages as ION launches.

Our community’s growth management efforts are proving successful. Since 2010, Waterloo Region has exceeded the intensification targets of both the Province of Ontario (40 per cent) and the ROP (45 per cent). In fact, over 50 per cent of new residential units have been built in existing urban areas (also known as the Built Up Area) in six of the last eight years, with the exception of 2012 and 2015. This construction pattern is contributing to the reduction of urban sprawl, protecting farmland, and bringing more people to the region’s core areas to live, work and play.  It's important to note that building activity is cyclical in nature and is impacted by the overall regional, provincial and national trends.

In August 2018, Regional Council approved a review of the ROP which will manage growth within the Region to 2041. 


Bringing the Vision to Life
In June 2015, the Ontario Municipal Board approved the new Regional Official Plan (ROP). This meant the vision established in the RGMS became official policies. These policies will promote balanced growth by:
  • Directing more growth towards the built-up areas in our community, making better use of land, existing infrastructure, and services; and
  • Creating more compact, vibrant and complete communities in our suburban areas with walkable neighbourhoods and a better mix of employment, housing, shopping and services.

Balancing growth like this will make it more cost effective to provide services such as sidewalks or transit. It will also reduce the need to expand roads or water and wastewater facilities.

More in-depth information about the Region's growth management polices can be found in Chapter 2 of the Regional Official Plan.

Supporting Documents

Community Building Strategy

The Region of Waterloo's rapid transit initiative has the dual goals of moving people and shaping the community. While the ION rapid transit system will fulfil the goal of moving people within and between Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, the Community Building Strategy (CBS) will help shape the community. It is also a unique approach to long-term community planning.

View the Community Building Strategy booklet (low resolution):

 Monitoring Change in the Central Transit Corridor

As the ION is built and the Community Building Strategy is implemented, we will monitor progress and change. We have completed a baseline report with a detailed analysis of the status of the Central Transit Corridor (CTC). We will use this report to compare future progress. 

Using the year that ION was approved by Regional Council (2011) as the base year, a set of 16 core indicators were developed to monitor the dual goals of moving people and building community in the CTC. We will produce updates annually to inform residents of the how the program is taking shape.

The Monitoring Change Reports provide an update on progress, growth and change along the CTC. These documents are available in alternate formats upon request.

Check out the window below to experience the changes in the Central Transit Corridor more visually. Click through the tabs to learn more about the indicators.

link to Central transit corridor dashboard

East Side Lands

One of our key roles is to manage future growth in Waterloo Region and ensure infrastructure and services are in place, such as water and wastewater.

In June 2015, the Ontario Municipal Board approved the new Regional Official Plan with approximately 300 hectares of land designated for employment uses in what is known as the East Side Lands. The East Side Lands is located on the eastern edge of Waterloo Region, at the border of Woolwich Township and Cambridge, near the Region of Waterloo International Airport.

East Side Lands - Stage 2 Lands

A statutory public meeting was held on May 1, 2018 regarding the Regional Official Plan Amendment for the East Side Lands – Stage 2.  More information can be found through the News and Public Notices page. On June 27, 2018, Regional Council adopted a by-law (By-law 18-035) to amend the Regional Official Plan.  More information regarding the amendment to the Regional Official Plan related to the East Side Lands – Stage 2 (ROPA 2) can be found in the Notice of Adoption. ROPA was subsequently appealed to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) and has been assigned Case Number PL180728.  A Case Management Conference has been scheduled for March 13, 2019 at 10 a.m. in the Regional Council Chambers, 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener.

In early 2016, the Region and its partners began a study to develop a framework for future urban uses and development within the Stage 2 Lands of the East Side Lands. This will involve completing plans for:

  • protecting/restoring natural heritage
  • managing storm water and updating flood plain mapping
  • identifying future roads and roads improvements
  • assessing water, wastewater and utilities needs
  • establishing lands uses and supporting policies for lands in Cambridge 
  • guiding development phasing and implementation

Please contact us for more information about East Side Lands - Stage 1 Lands.

 Consultation Information

All comments and information received from individuals, stakeholder groups and agencies regarding this project are being collected to assist the Region of Waterloo in making decisions related to this project.

Under the Municipal Act, personal information such as name, address, telephone number and property location that may be included in a submission becomes part of the public record. 

Stage 2 Lands Public Information Centre 1

The Region and its partners held a Public Information Centre (PIC) to share information about the Stage 2 Lands with the public on June 16, 2016. For details, check out the information below.

The information presented at the PIC provided context and background on the Stage 2 East Side Lands project. The attached documents are the documents used at the June PIC. These documents are available in alternate formats upon request.

Stage 2 Lands Public Consultation Centre 2

The Region and its partners held a Public Consultation Centre (PCC) on December 5, 2016 to inform the public more about the East Side Lands (Stage 2). Also, to gather public input on the studies being completed for future development of approximately 170 hectares of land in Cambridge and Woolwich Township.

The information presented at the December PCC built off information presented at the June PIC. The attached documents are the documents used at the December PCC. These documents are available in alternate formats upon request.

Stage 2 Lands Public Consultation Centre 3

The Region and its partners held a Public Consultation Centre (PCC) on November 2, 2017 to present potential land use scenarios for the East Side Lands (Stage 2).

Please contact us for an accessible version of the above presentation if required.

Stage 2 Lands Public Consultation Centre 4

The Region and its partners held a Public Consultation Centre (PCC) on March 20, 2018 to present a preliminary preferred land use scenario for the East Side Lands (Stage 2). For details, check out the information below.

Please contact us for an accessible version of the above presentation if required.

Draft Subwatershed Study

The Draft Subwatershed Study completed in support of the Master Environmental Servicing Plan and Secondary Plan is available for review. 

The Draft Subwatershed Study looks at the natural heritage features in the area and lists potential challenges to development. This draft study forms the base of which the Stage 2 Master Environmental Servicing Plan (MESP 2) is founded on. These documents are available in alternate formats upon request.

Scoped Master Drainage Report

The Scoped Master Drainage Plan is a summary of the analysis and recommendations in support of guidance for stormwater management / drainage for the East Side Lands (Stage 2) Master Environmental Servicing Plan (MESP) and North Cambridge Secondary Plan process. For additional details, please see the Scoped Master Drainage Report and Technical Appendix which contains details of the analysis.

The study findings will result in amendments to the GRCA’s regulated area mapping of Ontario Regulation 150/06, or as amended, made under the Conservation Authorities Act.

For more information, contact one of the following team members:


Alyssa Bridge, MAES, MCIP, RPP

Supervisor, Development Planning | Region of Waterloo

150 Frederick Street, 8th Floor, Kitchener, ON N2G 4J3

Phone: 519-588-8319| TTY: 519-575-4608


Cameron Irvine, M.Sc.

Subwatershed Planning Coordinator

Grand River Conservation Authority

400 Clyde Road, PO Box 729

Cambridge, ON  N1R 5W6

Office: 519-621-2763 ext. 2234

Cell: 519-239-7332

Toll-free: 1-866-900-4722



Green Initiatives

We have many green initiatives here in Waterloo Region. One of our largest is our focus on reurbanization.


What is reurbanization?

More people are choosing to live, work and invest in built-up areas like downtowns. Reurbanization means that buildings, empty properties and parking lots in these areas are being reused and turned into new dwellings, shops or restaurants. 

The majority of reurbanization is happening in the downtowns of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo and within ION rapid transit station areas.

What are the benefits of reurbanization?

Reurbanization helps to:

  • Reuse buildings and use building supplies more efficiently
  • Provide people with more choices about the type of home they live in, including houses, townhouses, apartments and condos
  • Create more active, successful and interesting downtowns
  • Make better use of roads, schools and pipes, so we can be more efficient with supplying things like transit, education and water
  • Protect farms, forests and wetlands by using less land
  • Support the clean up of older industrial properties

What does reurbanization look like?

Reurbanization comes in many shapes and sizes. A Symphony of Design is a great video highlighting some of the region's finest examples of urban design.

What is the Region of Waterloo doing about reurbanization?

The Region's Community Building Strategy sets out the best places for even more reurbanization like downtowns, ION rapid transit station areas and many of GRT's iXpress routes (reurbanization corridors). 

Development along the Central Transit Corridor: Shaping the Community 

People and businesses are investing in the urban areas of Waterloo Region. One area that has seen a lot of development and growth is along the Central Transit Corridor (CTC).

The ION route falls within the CTC, attracting significant private investment. From 2011 to 2015, residential and non-residential construction in the CTC was valued at over $2.1 billion. Many of the developments around ION are high quality, award winning projects. This map highlights some of these developments.

Map of Central Transit Corridor from Waterloo to Cambridge.

Many of the developments have received funding through the Region's Brownfield Financial Incentive Program (BFIP). Between 2006 and 2014, the Region approved 36 applications as part of the BFIP assisting with the investigation or remediation of 22 properties along the CTC.

Tree By-law

Environmental stewardship is an important part of the Region of Waterloo's Environmental Sustainability Strategy. This includes protecting and managing the 16 forest systems owned by the Region, and overseeing the new Conservation of Trees in Woodlands By-law, also known as the Tree By-Law.

The Tree By-Law regulates tree cutting in private and public woodlots throughout Waterloo Region. It was passed by Regional Council after two years of research and consultation with wildlife experts, industry professionals, environmental groups and members of the public.

Under this By-Law, a permit is needed from the Region to harvest trees in woodlots of one hectare or more. The purpose of the By-Law is to promote good forestry practices and protect woodlots, but also to restrict harvesting times and methods in order to protect breeding habitats.

Environmental Strategy & Initiatives

Environmental sustainability is important to our community's health. Our actions have an impact on the environment around us. Together, we can work together to protect our environment and planet for future generations. 

What we are doing

The Region is committed to ensuring a healthy natural environment with clean air, water and land. The following three documents provide more information:

Community Action

Anyone can be an environmental champion! Help us create a culture of positive environmental change. Our goal is to inspire our leaders, residents and businesses to look for opportunities to make better choices to improve our environment. Let's work together to make environment sustainability part of our daily lives and work.

Community Environmental Fund
The Community Environmental Fund was established in 2011 to provide financial support to community environmental stewardship projects. Community members and organizations can apply for funding to carry out projects that protect, promote and enhance our natural environment.

Past winners include:

  • St. Margaret Catholic School Project
  • St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School - Waste Diversion Project
  • REEP Green Solutions Solar Thermal Project

Regional Council recently approved to continue the Community Environmental Fund in 2018. It is anticipated that a call for proposals will be extended in late March or April. For more information on how to apply, please visit our Environmental Sustainability page.


Green Purchasing

Green purchasing is when you purchase products or services that have less impact on the environment. The Region of Waterloo is committed to purchasing goods and services that make the most efficient use of natural resources, prevent pollution and protect the environment.

There are many ways products can have less impact on the environment. This includes products that have a high recycled content, are energy-efficient or consume less water, to name a few.

We have made a number of green purchases, including: energy-efficient lighting, energy-saving devices for HVAC systems, alternative vehicle fuels, pollution-control equipment for vehicles, hybrid vehicles, green energy technologies, environmentally friendly building materials, low-flow toilets, contracted bike courier services and remanufactured toner cartridges.

Reports, Publications & Progress

The Region's environmental sustainability strategy guides us in building and protecting our community future generations. We developed this vision in the stages documented here:

Communicating our progress: Online public reporting software

An online tool has been developed for monitoring and communicating progress on the Region's commitment to Environmental Sustainability Strategy.


Cedar Creek Subwatershed Study 

The Region of Waterloo and Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) have completed a study of the Cedar Creek subwatershed - partially located in the City of Kitchener and the Township of North Dumfries. This study is intended to guide and coordinate decision making by the Region, area municipalities, the GRCA and others involved in development planning, subwatershed stewardship and restoration. 

What is a subwatershed?

When water falls onto the land it drains into a creek or stream. This area of land is known as a subwatershed.

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