2016-2017 Annual Report
Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital
May 2016 – April 2017
The Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital remains a leading advocate of greenspace preservation and expansion in the National Capital area. This year we again undertook a number of activities continuing the trend of the last several years to engage more “upstream,” on policy matters, although specific development proposals were among our major files as well.
Protecting the Central Experimental Farm – Ottawa Hospital Site selection
In November 2014, the federal government made a surprise announcement that a 60-acre parcel of agricultural research land would be transferred to the Ottawa Hospital for the purpose of building a new facility to replace the aging Civic Hospital. Since then, the Greenspace Alliance has played an active leadership role in the Coalition to Protect the Farm, bringing together advocates for science, heritage and greenspace. This file was very active all through 2016. As the result of public pressure and the work of the Coalition, the newly elected federal government decided to suspend that decision and review the process, which it felt had not been the subject of adequate public consultation. Responsibility for the review of the site selection was assigned to the National Capital Commission in May 2016. The NCC promised to consult stakeholders on the criteria for selecting a new hospital site over the summer. Based on the work the GA had done in preparation for a meeting convened by the Agricultural Institute of Canada in April, the Coalition to Protect the Farm was well prepared and participated actively in the development of the evaluation criteria.
A very well attended public meeting was held by the NCC on September 22. An online survey followed, allowing for comments on the criteria themselves and on the 12 sites under consideration. Both were widely promoted through the GA’s network and on the Coalition’s Facebook page, for which the GA was an administrator.
The NCC’s staff recommendation was announced at the NCC Board meeting of November 24, with Coalition members in attendance. The unexpected announcement of the Tunney’s Pasture site as the top rated site was the win-win solution the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm was looking for. However, it generated a lot of controversy and an almost immediate coalescence of federal, provincial and municipal politicians around an alternative option, the Sir John Carling site, which had been previously recognized by the Ottawa Hospital as one of its top four choices, as had Tunney’s Pasture. From a Greenspace Alliance perspective, the selection of the former Sir John Carling site is a reasonable compromise. It comprises three brownfield parcels and represents the least loss of greenspace of the four CEF options that were on the table. It is certainly a preferable outcome to the previous decision of cutting out a 60 acre greenfield site that has been in continuous use for agricultural research for over a century and which provides the last remaining clear sightline of the vast expanse of the Farm with frontage on Carling Avenue and the old city core. The challenge will now be to guard against undue spill-over effects such as in the widening of Prince of Wales Drive and loss of part of the Arboretum and the Ornamental Gardens.
The Kanata North Lands is a 400-acre expanse of woodland and wetland in the South March Highlands, within Ottawa’s urban boundary. It has for decades been earmarked for development, from the time of the former City of Kanata’s Official Plan. It was the site of the great Kanata tree massacre in 2002 and a confrontation in 2009 but 2016-17 saw this saga come to an unfortunate end. In early 2016 the proponents applied to the Ministry of the Environment for an Overall Benefit Permit under the Ontario Endangered Species Act as the area is home to a number of endangered species. They could not proceed with tree clearing on the site until such a permit was provided, outlining the conditions required to mitigate the impact on the species at risk. The GA provided feedback to the Ministry as part of the consultation process via the Environmental Bill of Rights site, questioning how clearing 100 hectares of forest habitat could ever be of any benefit to the species living there. It also promoted participation on this consultation along with partners in its network. The Ministry received 422 comments.
While the OBP application was being considered, the proponents proceeded with various city applications dealing with drainage, one of the very difficult engineering challenges for any development in these rocky highlands. In addition to the forest clearing, the choice of stormwater management solution can have further detrimental effects on the remaining greenspace in the area. On September 13, Planning Committee approved a Front-Ending Agreement for re-alignment of Goulbourn Forced Road; as a result of pressure from GA members and associates, specification of the size of the culvert was deleted from the Agreement so as not to prejudice the ultimate storm water management solution for KNL.
The Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee considered an Engineer’s report on the Kizell Drain and diversion of Shirley’s Brook on November 24th; GA members spoke at the ARAC meeting. Contrary to their advice that the Drain should be abandoned to allow more comprehensive planning, an Engineer was appointed under section 78 of the Drainage Act to identify needed repairs, presumably independent of KNL’s desire to divert 150 ha of Shirley’s Brook Watershed into Kizell drain as part of one of the storm water management options under consideration.
The Overall Benefit permit was finally issued on November 10. The large number of comments received in the consultation process was acknowledged but “no changes were made to the permit proposal as a result of the comments received.” The City issued a Tree cutting Permit for Phases 7 and 8, representing 100 hectares of mature woodlands.
The GA sought and received Registered Subdivision Agreements and plans for the area and analyzed them with an eye on developing follow-up questions for city management. On February 13, we met with City staff regarding the questions submitted. We learned that the original Conditions of draft subdivision approval (OMB sanctioned) have now been superseded by the Registered Subdivision Agreement (RSA). However, no new information was forthcoming regarding the stormwater management plans.
In early January 2017, the forest clearing started. We signaled our dismay with a letter to the Mayor, recognizing that, while all rules and regulations had been observed, this major loss of urban greenspace was nonetheless deplorable and calling upon him to make it up in the overall greenspace balance of the City. These developments generated a vigorous debate within the Alliance, resulting in a two-pronged strategy. One course of action was to push for adherence to the Protocol to Protect Wildlife during Construction, which would delay the tree cutting until the fall, to give wildlife better survival options than the winter clear cutting specified to be completed before April 15 in the tree cutting permit. Media coverage ensued and an online petition, which collected over 3000 signatures, was launched by members of the Alliance. It was eventually delivered to the Mayor’s office at City Hall and at the business offices of the proponents. Another course of action was to try to establish an open channel of communications with the proponents to build trust going forward during the development phase of the project. While an initial meeting was arranged and some communication regularly exchanged, this channel is still very tentative and of unknown benefit at this time.
The Alliance is now developing a position on the stormwater management option it would prefer for this development based on maximum preservation of greenspace.
At the start of the year, Board members were Erwin Dreessen (co-chair, treasurer and recording secretary), Nicole DesRoches (co-chair), Bruce Lindsay (membership chair), Jason Kania (web master), Amy Steele, Juan Pedro Unger, Sol Shuster and Paul Johanis. In an email to Board members before the August general meeting, Erwin announced his decision to step down from the Board effective at our September meeting. He agreed to continue to represent the GA on the FCA Governance Committee and to remain active on a number of files including the subscriber survey, the site alteration by-law, the transfer of content to the new website and co-moderating the GA List. At our September meeting, Paul agreed to become co-chair, Amy treasurer, and the search for a recording secretary would be intensified. A new volunteer served briefly in the latter role and Matthew Le Blanc did so from January till March; in April, Varvara Lobanova took up the task.
An attempt to upgrade our machine’s software led to the discovery that our ISP’s daily backups had not been functioning as expected. Web content created after October 9 and the Archive of List postings after October 14 were irretrievably lost. This included much content that had been transferred from our old, corrupted website to the new one. The following actions were taken:
- Jason would arrange for a second backup service going forward.
- Paul would identify List postings after October 14 and re-post (without distribution) so that the mailing list Archive is restored.
- Erwin would attempt to recreate the web content that was lost.
There is still potentially corrupted archival material, as a result of last year’s hacking, on our old website that has not been transferred to the new site yet. However, thanks to Erwin’s work and the cadre of volunteers that he has trained, great progress has been made this year.
The GA has launched a Facebook page in an attempt to expand its reach beyond its traditional audience.
It has been a very good year for the recruitment of volunteers. In addition to the team working on the migration of archival material from the old website to the new, we obtained assistance from the following volunteers:
- A Carleton U student, Elisabeth Robson Gordon, supported Phil Mount for the LEAR review.
- A team of two Ottawa U law students Lauriane Long-Raymond et Camille Desrosiers Ste-Marie, provided assistance with the preparation for our appeal to the OMB of the Community Design Plan for urban expansion Area 1.
- Another Carleton student, Esther Briner, produced the questionnaire for the subscriber survey (more on this below).
- Neil Kabesh worked on the Development Charges matter.
- Robert Marinov delivered a report on OMB decisions (see more below).
- Serge Latino has undertaken a greenspace inventory and mapping project.
- Matthew Le Blanc volunteered as recording secretary and Facebook page editor. He retains latter role. He also analysed the results of the subscriber survey and produced a first draft of the report.
- As mentioned, Varvara Lobanova has now assumed the role of recording secretary.
- Ben Christie undertook the research and produced the first draft of this annual report.
A survey was conducted of the subscribers to the GA list to learn about their satisfaction regarding the content and functionality of the list. Of approximately 110 subscribers, 44 responded (40%). Overall, respondents expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the topics covered and information provided by the service. There is overall satisfaction with the frequency of posts and their length. Of greatest interest are links to media coverage, links to new content on the GA web site, science-related posts, notices of City or other government meetings; and agenda and highlights of GA meetings.
GA Management Framework
The Board has adopted an approach and a program of work for 2017 based on inventorying and mapping Ottawa’s greenspace resources, monitoring them over the year and responding to threats through collaboration, education, advocacy, agitation and if necessary litigation. Putting this in practice, the GA has initiated contact with proponents active in some of the urban expansion areas approved in 2012 to try to establish a collaborative approach through the design and development phases of these projects.
Other City of Ottawa Matters
Urban Forest Management Plan
On May 18th, the GA attended a stakeholders meeting where city staff presented a Table of Contents of the draft report and a summary of feedback received in the November 2015 consultation. We reiterated our concerns regarding the NCC’s role as steward of that part of the urban forest that is under federal ownership and the lack of clarity in the Terms of Reference for the consultants’ work. The former was taken into account in the Plan, though a firm commitment from the NCC had yet to be formalized. As for the terms of reference, the ambiguity was reflected in the table of contents which showed merely a half-page devoted to outcome indicators (e.g. measures of diversity, age distribution, tree populations, etc.) while the rest focused on process and management issues. There was also no sign of early action that could build support for the cause.
After preliminary review of the draft report, we concluded that it seemed coherent, with clearly defined scope and five 4-year planning periods. We attended subsequent stakeholder meetings on November 8 and 22 to provide feedback on the draft Plan. Paul held the pen for the Tree Ottawa-led task force to formulate comments. A coalition of inner-city community associations also made substantial submissions. A revised draft was expected in Q1 of 2017.
Review of Official Plan
The City distributed a memo on June 20 (tabled at Planning Committee on June 28) outlining how it would comply with the OMB’s February 23 Decision on the Walton-Taggart Motion regarding OPA 150. The Employment Lands study to Planning Committee on September 13. On November 12, 2016, staff made its report available regarding what it then called “OPA 2016” but which soon officially became OPA 180. The report had 12 supporting documents, including the draft amendment, the growth projections and an addendum, an employment lands review update, Volumes 1 and 2 of the LEAR report and a LEAR Implementation report, a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, a summary of changes to the OP and a list of sections of OPAs 140 and 150 that are to be repealed. We made representations at the November 22 Planning Committee meeting where these were considered, supporting the growth projections, and the concomitant conclusion that no urban expansion was required through to 2036. Council considered and approved the amendment on December 14, with many amendments related to specific properties affected by employment land or prime agricultural land designations. The bylaw to adopt the revised Official Plan was passed on January 25 and now awaits final ministerial approval, which must be given within 180 days. In general, we are satisfied with all aspects of this review, supporting the growth projections, considering the employment land changes reasonable and not deleterious to greenspace preservation, having more faith in the designations of agricultural lands under the LEAR review, and relieved to see that the next round of comprehensive OP revision will not occur until 2022 or later, depending on the disposition of appeals.
Significant Woodland policy (OPA 179)
This new policy was approved at Planning Committee on December 13 2016, where the GA made representations, and endorsed by Council the following day. Its intent is to bring the OP provisions regarding significant woodlands in line with the PPS 2014. The Alliance had had an earlier opportunity to review and provide feedback on an earlier draft, which we generally supported. Problematic sections dealing with woodlands in areas just outside the urban boundary and which could potentially be considered for future urban expansion were removed from the final version. Council gave direction to establish a working group to work out appropriate transition and implementation measures regarding this and other aspects of the new policy. The Alliance was invited to be part of a the working group, which, over the next 12 months, will work on revising the EIS Guidelines (which test for “no negative impact”) and reviewing the natural heritage policies of Official Plan sections dealing with urban expansion.
Site Alteration bylaw
The city distributed a discussion paper in June 2016 on revising its Site Alteration Bylaw, which included links to site alteration by-laws in 20 other Ontario municipalities. A GA-FCA committee prepared feedback, which was submitted in August, emphasising that the revised bylaw must include a permit system and that it must be clear in its intent, have clear definitions, leave no loopholes, be unambiguous in its aim of preventing unauthorized site alteration and which protects sites from poorly planned and executed development activities. A draft annotated bylaw was issued in January 2017, which was again reviewed by the joint committee under GA leadership. There were many deficiencies noted in the draft and detailed comments were provided at the end of February. This led to an invitation from staff in March for further in person discussion. GA member Iola Price was instrumental in this review. The draft bylaw is expected in spring 2017.
Public Engagement Strategy
Alliance members of the FCA Governance Committee met on January 3 with an expert on public engagement. They developed a strategy going forward, combining the Governance Committee’s suspended discussions with the City on better communication, the creation of a Planning Advisory Committee required by Bill 73 and the City’s undertaking, as a result of our settlement in the OPA 173 appeal, to consult us on Bill 73 implementation matters. Through its intervention and advocacy with city councillors, the GA/FCA was successful in heading off an attempt by the city to establish a PAC with a less than satisfactory composition. This file remains high on the Alliance’s priority list.
March 15 FCA meeting hosted by the GA
The Alliance took the opportunity of the annual hosting of an FCA general meeting to present its management framework and share some preliminary greenspace inventorying and mapping work at a community level. The goal was to collaboratively engage with local community associations and devise methods to help them monitor and report on the greenspace in their areas. The approach was received with some enthusiasm and an agreement to further test it with some specific community associations.
Woodroffe-Merivale corridor/Poets Pathway
The status of this strip of greenspace continues to be a concern. The corridor is one of the most precious greenspaces along the Poets’ Pathway. It has been confirmed that the LRT maintenance shed will not be built at this location and that is remains for now in NCC ownership, albeit as identified surplus land. Various short and medium terms options to nevertheless bring the corridor under city ownership have been discussed with councillors and stakeholders. Another strategy is to persuade Canadian Heritage to designate the corridor as part of a heritage project.
A Community Design Plan for the Kanata North urban expansion area was adopted by city council in July 2016. The GA appealed the Official Plan Amendment that turned the Kanata North expansion area into General Urban designation and submitted a Part II Order request under the Environmental Assessment Act to disallow the location of storm water Pond #3 in the adjacent rural area. The grounds for the OPA appeal were: (1) In light of Official Plan Policy 3.11.2, the amendment is premature; (2) The notification requirements prescribed under Bill 73 had not been fulfilled; and (3) The determination that woodlot S20 is not a significant woodland under the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement was not substantiated.
The City subsequently agreed to settle on the matter of inadequate Notice. By dropping that part of the appeal, we secured our participation in the consultation process that the City is required to conduct on how it will implement the requirements of Bill 73 regarding public engagement. The hearing about the OPA being premature and about preservation of Woodlot S20 was held on December 8.
The appeal was not successful. As regards the Part II Order request, we agreed to drop it in exchange for the proponents not pursuing costs, as they had threatened. We agreed to accede to the request on condition that conveyance to the City of what will be left of woodlot S23 be confirmed.
Feedmill Creek Stream Rehabilitation
The City held an on-line Open House about this Schedule B Class Environmental Assessment in December. The GA provided comments, pointing out that the nearby car lot and shopping mall provide excellent opportunities for lot-level storm water management. Following the receipt of additional information, the Criteria Study and the draft Class EA report, and an extension of public consultation January 16, 2017, a further submission was made. This project is in the proximity of OPA 76’s “Area 3,” land that is designated Developing Community (Expansion Area), ref. s. 3.12 of the Official Plan. The Board wishes to recognize the work Alliance member John Almstedt on this file, and other waterway concerns such as the Carp River Restoration and Shoreline Neighbours projects.
Loss of greenspace at Stanley Park in New Edinburgh
Having been informed by the local community association, the GA attended an information meeting in February and spoke with city staff present concerning work planned for Part of Stanley Park (a.k.a. New Edinburgh Park). It is planned to be a staging area for the Combined Sewer Storage Tunnel (CSST) project, which will result in the loss of 42 mostly mature trees. There was no likelihood that this project could be in any way delayed or modified at this late date. However, the GA has requested and obtained from city staff detailed restoration plan and landscaping plans, which call for planting 2 trees for every 1 lost. The GA will monitor the implementation of this plan.
Airport Parkway/Lester Road widening
The notice of completion of the Environmental Assessment was considered by the Transportation Committee on June 1. The GA restated its position during the 30-day review period following the notice. The final report was posted for public review until October 11. Given that we saw no grounds for requesting a Part II Order under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act, there was no reason to make a submission on the Environmental Study Report by the deadline. Our position on this remains that the widening should wait until the impact of the O-Train extension has been ascertained and that better supports for wildlife crossings be established across Lester Road.
Leitrim Urban Expansion Area
The Alliance, in line with its new management framework, has established an effective channel of communications with the Regional Group, proponents for the development of the Reimer and Idone lands in Leitrim. An initial meeting attended by provided an opportunity to address management and professional staff on all aspects of the development proposal and opened the door to future site visits and collaborative projects. One such project is a joint collaboration on the preparation of a homeowner’s guide on the ecological and natural features of the site, focusing on protection and preservation of greenspace.
CFB Rockcliffe (Wateridge Village)
Alliance member Al Crosby has continued to provide close attention to the greenspace issues surrounding the initial phases of this development. In coordination with city staff and the proponent, his involvement has demonstrated how continuing to engage beyond the Community Design Plan stage is crucial to actually preserving the greenspace identified in planning documents such as the CDP and tree cutting permits. It was this experience that inspired us to reach out to proponents in the urban expansion areas to try to establish similar collaborative arrangements.
Other National Capital Commission Matters
NCC Annual Public Meeting
The GA attended the NCC’s Annual Public Meeting on June 27, where CEO Mark Kristmanson provided highlights of the year that was. The agenda for 2017 includes a review of the Master Plan for Gatineau Park and a renewed Plan for Canada’s Capital. Its call for “17 Big Ideas”, to which the GA contributed, resulted in 1200 suggestions, which the draft Plan would distill into 17 projects. During the consultation portion of the meeting, the GA advocated for unified governance across the Region, starting with public transit, implementing the Greenbelt Master Plan and building popular support at the neighbourhood level.
Plan for Canada’s Capital
The draft Plan for Canada’s Capital 2017-2067 was released on July 7. In the consultation leading up to it, the two most frequently suggested ideas were Renewing the urban forest by planting more trees (115 ideas), and Increasing access to the Ottawa River and shorelines (81 ideas) (out of 1200 ideas overall). These align very well with the GA’s objectives and is a reflection of the importance that citizens place on greenspace issues. Of the 17 milestone projects, three directly support the GA’s aims: Secured ecological corridors and protected natural environment; Regeneration of the Capital urban forest; and Accessible and enhanced shorelines and green spaces. Many more indirectly support our goals. These, and other greenspace related initiatives, are detailed in Chapter 4 of the draft Plan, A Picturesque and Green Capital, which is sure to be the focus of the GA’s attention in coming years.
NCC Environmental Strategy
The NCC is renewing its 2009-2017 Environmental Strategy and commissioned a survey directed at groups, including the GA, for input on priorities. We developed a collective response to the survey and submitted it by the deadline. Our general concern, however, which we have formulated to the NCC since, is that this strategy is an internal NCC management strategy, addressing the environmental impact of its own actions, for example the efficiency of its vehicle fleet or the extent of waste diversion from its own operations. It is not an environmental strategy for the environmental assets under its stewardship, for example the part of the urban forest under its management.
Other Federal Matters
Federal Environmental Assessment Act review
The federal government created an Expert Panel to review its environmental assessment processes. Alliance member David McNicoll attended a workshop on November 8. On December 22, the Greenspace Alliance made a submission to the Panel. It argued that, if an environmental assessment amounts to assembling short-term data assembled to support a proponent’s proposal then this is “little more than a land delivery system, unmoored from the larger environmental realities in which the project exists.” True strategic environmental assessment “needs to be rooted in ongoing time series data that track the complex flow of appropriate ecological goods and services on which the sustainability of human communities depends and which make possible the assessment of the potential disruption of these flows brought about by the proponent’s project.” Any individual EA “should have as its first purpose the protection of the environment, as stipulated in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, not primarily seek to attenuate negative impacts.” The Expert Panel’s report was issued in April 2017, with an opportunity to provide further comments, to which the GA has responded. Many thanks to David for all his efforts on this file.
The Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Attorney General issued a discussion paper on reforming the OMB in October 2016. The GA prepared answers to the Ministries’ 24 questions. Erwin was part of a panel at the FCA General Meeting on November 7, where OMB reform was the theme. His presentation was well received. He has worked with an FCA task force to help prepare their response. Our comments includes the suggestion that the OMB should not be in the business of de novo hearings, instead acting more like a judicial review or appeal court; that a Community Liaison Office could be helpful in maintaining a list of experts and lawyers who would consider assisting community groups; and that there should be intervenor funding for eligible not-for-profit organizations and individuals. We attached a report written at our request by volunteer Robert Marinov and some fellow students at the University of Ottawa. It analyzed 23 OMB decisions that dealt with “green space” in Ottawa and its conclusions illustrate and support some of the positions put forward in our response
Green Plan for Eastern Ontario
A round table discussion was held on June 10 at the West End Well, in the context of the Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Environmental Network. The theme was protection of natural and agricultural areas in eastern Ontario. There were lessons from the experience with regional plans in the Golden Horseshoe, of which the Greenbelt Act was thought to be the most relevant. It and the other regional plans are currently undergoing their 10-year review. The government has issued an RFP to hold consultations for an Eastern Ontario plan but no news had come out of Queen’s Park to date. Regulations for invasive plant species, sustainability and protection rather than growth were seen as issues that should be addressed in such a plan. That is also the perspective that Sustainable Eastern Ontario is bringing to this issue.
After the conversation, a follow-up meeting was attended by GA members, with representation from the FCA and CPAWS-OV. Subsequent meetings were held every second month, with other organizations having an interest in the matter, such as the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, the Algonquin to Adirondack Collaborative and the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust joining in. The Alliance has assumed a leadership role in this informal initiative, lending its management framework as a guide for action.
Goulbourn Wetland Complex
An Ontario provincial court decision has been made on the Goulbourn wetlands, which found the developer guilty of destruction of a Provincially Significant Wetland and requires its restoration at the developer’s cost. This is an important precedent. Friend of the Alliance, Ken McRae, deserves great recognition for his work on this issue.
Review of the Conservation Authorities Act
The Greenspace Alliance sent in a comment, responding to the three questions posed in the Discussion Paper and indicating what Actions it recommends under each of the five priorities identified by the Ministry. It concurs with several of the Actions proposed by the Ministry and reiterates several of the recommendations of our October 2015 submission.
Ontario Wetlands Policy Review
We received draft comments from Ontario Nature as well as a submission by Fragile Inheritance Natural History (Fred Schueler and Alina Karstad). We drafted our own letter, supporting these excellent comments and adding some of our own for emphasis. However, in the end, we co-signed, along with 34 other environmental organizations, the Ontario Nature submission.
Celebration of Greenspace Alliance’s 20th anniversary
The Greenspace Alliance turns 20 in 2017 and plans were initiated for a 20th anniversary celebration. A first idea, combining Canada 150 and our 20th, was abandoned when a funding application to the City as part of Canada 150 was turned down. Other ideas being considered including a tree planting event, with trees being contributed by Ecology Ottawa; or b) a beach restoration day in conjunction with the Shoreline Neighbours project. Either would likely happen in the fall.
Greenspace inventory and mapping
We expect this activity to take off during 2017, leading the first full inventory and map of greenspace assets in Ottawa, a project we would undertake in partnership with the City of Ottawa. If it is well maintained, it would allow us to evaluate the extent to which Official Plan policies regarding greenspace targets and resident access to greenspace are implemented.
2018 Municipal elections
The Alliance could start laying out its expectations in regards to greenspace issues for candidates to consider and advancing issues with other organization in view of the upcoming municipal elections.
Submitted by the Board
29 May 2017