GREENSPACE ALLIANCE OF CANADA’S CAPITAL
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF OCTOBER 17, 2001
Revised October 22, 2001
The Year in Review
(November 2000 – October 2001)
This past year again saw intensive activity on a large number of issues. Where have we been? What have we accomplished? What lies ahead?
Where we have been:
The Greenspace Alliance was actively involved – ranging from assisting citizens and groups, to formally intervening in the decision making process – in no fewer than 17 individual development issues. Major instances which are ongoing include: the Leitrim Wetlands, Leamy Lake Park, South Urban Community-Gloucester, Quarry Forest and Moffatt Farm. Other instances, some of which are ongoing, include: Home Depot at Bank Street, the Heron/Walkley/Kitchener lands, Maplelawn, Loblaws in Westboro (OMB hearing), 3170 Conroy, 121 Clearview, Hawthorne Marsh, Upper Poole Creek Wetland (OMB hearing), 300 Central Park, and the Southern Corridor-West. We are Observers on the Public Advisory Committee for the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor study which is just starting up.
We intervened in deliberations of Committees of Council on the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee system and on the City’s Development Approvals Process.
Several of us attended the City’s Smart Growth Summit and we are participating in the Official Plan review process in so far as there is one.
We congratulated Regional/City elected officials on the purchase of 556 acres of forest, wetlands and trails in the South March Highlands, on receiving an award for their Corporate Climate Change Action Plan, and on the purchase of 400 acres of Marlborough Forest.
We pursued the idea of an Ottawa Land Trust. The Working Group held four meetings and has developed a potential administrative structure (under the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation), a set of project selection criteria and a preliminary shortlist of candidate areas.
We have not lost our dream of creating a Poets’ Pathway that will link Beechwood Cemetery, via the Eastern, Southern and Western Corridors, to Britannia Park. There was coverage of the issue in The Citizen and in Riverviews and Minister Manley’s office continues to be supportive. Our letter to Mr. Manley was copied to all National Capital Region MPs as well as to all members of City Council.
The National Capital Commission – its mandate and its way of doing business – remains a significant focus of our activities. We analyzed the Sussex Circle report and wrote to Minister Manley in support of the recommendation regarding land sales.
We have supported a motion before City Council to develop a by-law regulating the use of pesticides on private property and to develop a public education strategy.
We have monitored the application of the Botanic Garden Society for development on the Central Experimental Farm. (The Advisory Council recommended against the application on September 21.)
We have just recently formed a Greenspace Maintenance Policies & Practices committee.
Three organizations (Westboro Beach Community Association, Centretown C.A. Tree Committee, and Action Chelsea pour le respect de l’environnement – ACRE) joined, as did seven individuals.
We wrote to Mayor- and Councillors-elect in December, introducing ourselves, referencing the Mayoralty Candidates debate, and indicating our priorities at the City level (public consultation practices, the capacity for environmental policy, the environmental advisory committee system, the new Official Plan, and consolidation of zoning by-laws).
We established a post office box address and updated our brochure. We held ten General Meetings, two of which had a speaker (Dennis Jacobs and Councillor Gord Hunter); average attendance was nine persons, not counting guests. Our Minutes have become available on the website in a readable format and have come to include information about the contents of the Mail file.
The GA listserv, now with over 60 addresses, continued to function as a forum of information and discussion, averaging two messages per day. In addition to information and discussion on files of active involvement, the list carried more than a dozen event announcements, four postings of members’ personal interventions, and three on-line discussions involving a total of 14 contributors (on community stewardship of wildlife, on the role of greenspace, and on the history of NCC planning). The list carried selected postings from WildCanada.net and HDUUPesticides co-chair Mike Christie. Cumulative postings to gacc are archived on the web under password protection.
The Greenspace Alliance placed calls for volunteers on its website and in the April issue of Peace and Environment News and received considerable exposure in the Insider supplement of PEN’s July/August issue. We continue to be listed with the Ottawa Chapter of Volunteer Canada.
With the Sierra Club – Ottawa Group and the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm, we helped organize and participated in the June 3 Run/Walk for Clean Air. We promoted the Greenspace Alliance on Earth Day on April 20 and during the Natural Life Expo at Nepean Sportsplex on October 13-14.
A revised, bilingual brochure will be ready soon after this A.G.M.
What we have accomplished:
Leitrim Wetlands: During Committee debate on the City’s capital budget, we provoked a discussion on the wisdom of pre-authorizing $695,000 in expenditures on a pumping station, forcemain and gravity sewer (downpayment on some $20 million in capital expenditures), which resulted in a 3-3 vote at Committee; however, at Council the authorization was approved. An intervention on redesign of the Albion/Leitrim Road intersection resulted in a stipulation that a DFO permit is required.
Leamy Lake Park: We joined the growing coalition opposed to construction of a golf course in Leamy Lake Ecological Park and are a member of the Coalition’s Strategy & Media committee. We have formally complained to the federal Information Commissioner about the denial of access to documents through an Access to Information request with Fisheries & Oceans.
South Urban Community-Gloucester: We wrote to the Transition Board about the Local Official Plan Amendment passed by Gloucester City Council in one of its last acts. This may have helped the Transition Board decide to deny approval of the LOPA.
We have provided substantive advice to citizens’ groups and members involved in saving Orléans’ Quarry Forest and the Moffatt Farm lands and in making the best of development proposals for the Walkley/Kitchener lands and 300 Central Park. A portion of Clearview Woods the size of one and a half city block, which contains valuable trees, was saved thanks to the developer and the City agreeing to use a road allowance, at our suggestion.
Hawthorne Marsh: We succeeded in having conditions put on the sale of land that may help preserve the marsh.
Home Depot at Bank Street: We made the planner and the consultant aware of the importance of this spot for achievement of the Poets’ Pathway. (We see this as a priority file.)
Environmental Advisory Committee Structure: We worked hard to develop a common position among former municipalities’ environmental advisory committee members, the Pesticides group and the advocates for a Forests committee. We lobbied the Mayor’s office and individual Councilors on our proposals for systemic solutions but were derailed by the divergence between what staff had proposed (decisions in principle) and what Committee and Council decided (approval of specific advisory committees).
Development Approvals Process: We argued for earlier advance release of reports; Council decided on five working days for reports going to Committees. Later, on the comprehensive review of the process, our proposals largely fell on deaf ears, though some of the changes agreed on by Committee and Council were in line with our suggestions.
City Official Plans: In March, we asked that any electronically available former municipalities’ Official Plans be made available on the City’s website. As a direct result of our request, we were informed in July that the Regional and Kanata OPs had been posted. We await the day when the site makes the final version of the former City of Ottawa’s OP available which would be of vast assistance to citizens. In August, we asked that the 1995 Community Vision document be posted, so far without response. After the Summit, as the process for a new Plan got under way, our critique of proposed growth projections elicited support from other groups and provoked substantial debate at Committee but staff’s recommendations were ultimately accepted. The Citizen declined to publish our op-ed article. More spirited debate and a close vote at Council on October 10 followed.
Quarry Forest: The citizens’ group fighting to preserve this forest accomplished the near-impossible: a defeat at Committee was reversed at Council. Today, October 17, there is an OMB pre-hearing conference where the City will defend deferring the issue until the proper studies can be performed in the context of the new Official Plan.
Walkley/Kitchener: Literally within hours before a final consideration by Committee, the Ridgemont C.A. succeeded in obtaining considerable concessions from the developer that will make the best of a bad situation: the loss of this corridor to the neighboring communities and for the Poets’ Pathway, except for a 30-metre alley.
Loblaws in Westboro: The accomplishment here was an extremely cogent intervention by Barbara Barr before the OMB on why doing what the proponent wanted to do with the parcel designated “Greenway System – Linkage” would require an Official Plan Amendment and then why such an amendment should not be granted. (The argument received coverage in The Citizen.) Unfortunately, the OMB decision of April 19 completely ignored the arguments made, and in effect denied that the former City of Ottawa’s Official Plan policies on the Greenway System bear any relation to actual land use. The relevant part of the decision by Member Makuch states: “These [Official Plan] policies do not create an entitlement to the kind of greenway linkage system advocated by the appellants. Their expectations in that regard … are not realistic or reasonable.” This was the response to having pointed out that City policy requires enhancing linkages, not breaking them, and that disrupting the Greenway System on the Loblaws property could easily be avoided. Barbara had concluded that City Council had had a lapse of good judgement in this instance. The absence of ‘sober second thought’ by the OMB undermines the confidence that citizens’ groups such as ours try to have in the rule of law – what are official plans and zoning by-laws worth if they don’t mean what they say? – and provides support for the view that the OMB should be abolished.
All of these accomplishments, and more, are solely due to the dedication of at least 24 individual members over the past year. With apologies for any omissions, their names are found in our list of «Greenspace Alliance Working Groups» which concludes this report.
At our December meeting, we devoted considerable time to establishing our priorities. These included the new City’s environmental advisory structure, saving the Leitrim Wetlands and Leamy Lake Park, the NCC, the Poets’ Pathway, the Land Trust idea, and the Ottawa River. As this report shows, in reality our pro-active, constructive agenda was largely derailed by the endless series of threatened losses of greenspace everywhere in the region. Over the next year, it will continue to be thwarted by the City’s determination to come up with a new Official Plan and by the NCC’s mandate to continue selling so-called surplus land and its invitation to rituals of its own making (after its “public” AGM in September, we will see public meetings of a three-member Advisory Committee – the NCC Chair and the two supermayors – and a first formal consultation with “interest groups” next April).
To keep up with all this, and the continuous stream of development proposals that threaten greenspace, and to devote energy to our priorities, more than a handful of dedicated citizens must be involved. It is a fact that some 60,000 adults in this region think “Preservation of green-space” when asked what local issue they personally care about the most (June 2000 Decima poll for Sussex Circle.) It is another fact that actually doing something about it requires deep understanding of official plan, zoning by-law and development approval processes and an ability to arouse broad public support at the right time, and this before a set of decision makers many of whom are well-disposed to development interests (see, e.g., Randall Denley’s documentation of the sources of financing of the 1997 election campaigns).
We will, we must, soldier on. At one of our monthly meetings the scheduled topic was how to find additional members and we concluded that the best way is to attract them through specific projects. Juan Pedro Unger has just recently agreed to take our considerable Communications challenge to heart. Bryan Hawley is stepping down from the Board this year but has initiated a Greenspace Maintenance Policies and Practices Committee. We are considering creation of a position of Vice-Chair – Development to lighten the load on the Chair. In addition, we suggest that the Greenspace Alliance should continue to aim for:
* significantly increasing its membership and the number of core members serving on the Board;
* a more functional website and listserv;
* realizing the Poets’ Pathway and taking the concept of an Ottawa Land Trust to a next level;
* writing a manual on How-to-save-your-greenspace;
* developing indicators of greenspace preservation;
* proposing systemic solutions to the problems with the NCC;
* bringing ongoing work related to the Ottawa River into the broader Greenspace forum;
* establishing a solid link with the Rideau River Roundtable through ECOS (which has just re-established its membership in the Greenspace Alliance).
Respectfully submitted by the outgoing Board of Directors.
Erwin Dreessen, Chair
Bill Royds, Vice-Chair
Amy Kempster, Member
Bryan Hawley, Member
Barbara Barr, Treasurer