MPA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration


Political Science


Joseph Lyons

Geographical Areas

Waterloo Region, Cambridge, Waterloo, Kitchener


The Ontario Planning Act makes public participation a requirement for most municipal planning decision. The intent of the legislated public process is to create a transparent public participatory process. However, the potential impact of the public participation is limited for certain types of applications as approvals are dependent on existing municipal planning policy and provincial direction. The province directs a large portion of new growth be accommodated through infill and intensification. Local municipalities apply the provincial direction in policies, plans, guidelines and regulations which encourage infill and intensification through land use permissions. Planning documents recognize that infill development protects agricultural and environmental land and results in more efficient use of land and infrastructure in proximity to services, amenities and transit.Many residential infill and intensification proposals require planning applications to change the land use of the existing property or allow higher density development. A consequence of these applications, even if limited in scale, may be public concerns or objections. The Ontario Planning Act requires a public process to get input on an application. Municipalities often go beyond the minimum legislated requirements in an attempt to respond to, and address, public concerns.This research paper reviews smaller scale infill development in the three cities within the Region of Waterloo to assess if public participation results in changes to development to accommodate or mitigate public concerns. As the policy framework and planning direction encourage infill and intensification, this research examines if the public consultation has value and is worth the effort.The paper concludes that although there may be some impact on the approved development with reductions in density or mitigation measures the outcome in all cases was approval. Therefore, in proposals of limited scale where the policy framework is in place to support such development, public participation should focus on informing the public of the proposal, informing the public about policies that have been established at the different governmental levels and focusing on comments relating to the site design in order to mitigate immediate neighbour issues. Public consultation is worth the effort if the intent is to make a development proposal more compatible and inform the public of the planning framework. It is not worth the effort if the intent is to change the form of the development or refuse any development. The goal of the consultation needs to be clear upfront and staff need to provide effective communication of the planning framework so that the expectations of participants are aligned.