Official launch of “Building a Liveable Ottawa” – January 29, 2013

“Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031” was launched at City Hall on January 29.  From an environmental protection point of view, the best news coming out of the event was that once again staff is proposing to forbid country lot subdivisions in any form. (Even so, some immediate concerns arise, noted below.)

The other good news is that, in response to a question, Planning Committee chair Peter Hume ensured that mapping and identification of natural linkages will be done and that any implications resulting from that work will be incorporated in the Official Plan in this round.  The exchange is set out below.

The evening started out with a presentation by Dr. David Mowat, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region.  Evoking the insight of 19th Century’s Sir Edwin Chadwick that led to the “sanitary movement” (building sewers), he asserted that problems of obesity and diabetes (which both are assuming epidemic proportions) are due to a lack of physical activity — a trend which is “built into” our current lifestyles.  He stressed the need to increase one’s “utilitarian” physical activity.  His most hilarious slide was the picture of a staircase to a gym entrance, featuring escalators on both sides.

In his introduction to the staff presentations, Councillor Hume stressed that the current OP review is an update.  It is not, for example, about environmental protection — these and other provisions “are working,” he said, “we’re not touching them.”  He also committed to immediately following up the OP review with zoning by-law changes, as well as the Development Charges update (the latter by June 2014).

Bruce Finlay then made a lengthy presentation of what staff is working on, more details of which are promised for a report to Planning Committee in March, followed by an actual OP Amendment in June.  He ran down the 12 themes identified in the Executive Summary of the proposals, available here (2.9 MB).

Following was a very brief presentation by Roman Diduch about the Infrastructure Master Plan.  (An interesting observation was that water consumption in Ottawa has decreased dramatically over the last 10 years.)

Finally, Colin Simpson presented at length about the Transportation Master Plan.  He explained that one aim is to increase the modal share of “sustainable transportation” (walk, cycle, transit, or carpool) from the current 47% to 50% by 2031.  Several new service indicators will be introduced, including for walking, cycling and transit.  Unusual as apparently transportation master plans go, an affordability analysis will be performed.

Fifteen minutes of question period followed.  My own (see below) squeezed in as the last.

At the end, everyone was invited to watch a video from the recent Youth Summit, first in English, then in French (same images), but by then most people had left.  I estimate the original crowd in Andrew Hayden Hall to have been about 150.

Before and after the presentations, people were invited to read a large number of boards in Jean Pigott Hall.  Fully half the number of boards was devoted to the cycling and pedestrian plan. You are invited to fill out a lengthy on-line survey.  The survey is available until March 1, 2013 [Ed.: No longer available online].

Note about the proposed prohibition of country lot subdivisions

Two immediate concerns are:

1. The proposal is framed as “continuing the moratorium.”  A 5-year moratorium on country lot subdivisions was adopted by Council in 2009.  It was appealed but the OMB ruled that the moratorium was consistent with good planning.  The appellant received leave to appeal to Divisional Court.  The Reasons (1.5 MB) for granting Leave to Appeal strongly indicate that the Court will disallow the moratorium.  It seems wholly unnecessary to reference a moratorium, and to practically invite another appeal.  Simple prohibition will suffice.  Other Ontario municipalities have done so.

2. The proposals’ Executive Summary  states that “The Official Plan envisions that at least 50% of rural growth will occur in Villages.” (Q: Where is that to be found in the current OP?)  According to the OP, rural households will increase by 13,000 between 2006 and 2031.  That would mean that up to 6,500 houses would be created outside Villages.  It remains to be demonstrated that, after accounting for country lot estates and severances allowed since 2006, the remainder can be absorbed by future severances alone, even assuming that Council will agree to increase the total number of lots created through severance to three from the current two.

Q & A about natural linkages

E.D.: The staff presentation clearly reflects a lot of work that is going on.  Still, I wonder if you have listened sufficiently to what the public wants.  As you likely know, the Federation of Citizens’ Associations held a Workshop on the OP review earlier this month.  About 35 people in the room, 6 tables.  Each table was asked to identify the top three concerns.  It was striking that four of the six tables included an environmental concern.  And yet, there is nary a word about the environment in the staff proposals. By Terms of Agreement signed by Mr. Moser and Mr. Marc last January, “Prior to the next comprehensive Official Plan Review in 2014, the City will identify and map existing and conceptual natural heritage linkages at a City-wide scale, including consideration of regional linkages outside the City boundaries.”  Why is there no sign of this commitment in staff’s proposals?

Clr. Hume: We signed it, it will be done.

E.D.: The context is —  this work is not to be done for its own sake.  The intent is to have the results cause changes to the Official Plan.

Clr. Hume: Any implications flowing out of the analysis will be incorporated in [this round of] the Official Plan.

Post-meeting notes

– The detailed staff proposals are found here (1.8 MB), or read them on-line in pieces [Ed.: no longer online].

– The Greenspace Alliance issued a media release commending Councillor Hume for his commitment to implement the results of the studies and staff for again recommending the end of country lot subdivisions in Ottawa.

– At short notice the public was invited to another consultation session at City Hall on February 13.  Amy Kempster attended.  She reports:

A suggestion was made as well that severances to allow smaller sized farms might be considered,  There was really no discussion re country lots but I indicated my support for not allowing them.  As well I suggested the need for zoning to reflect the natural system features and those present seemed to agree.

I attended this meeting and there was a very short preliminary introduction which referred to the 12 issues.  Tables were already set up and we broke to go to the tables.  There were at least 2 rural tables –I went to the one where Nick Stow went.  There village questions and concerns dominated the conversation.  The villages are divided into groups:  4 where most growth is supposed to occur since they are already more complete, namely Richmond, Manotick and Greely; an intermediate group where infill will be encouraged but boundaries are not likely to change;  and a group where little or no growth is likely to occur.  Some concern was expressed by one participant over the few opportunities for growth that were thus left to the intermediate group.  The other intermediate group participants were worried about the nearness of water sources and septic systems if more development occurred there.

The next table I went to was about design and community design plans.  The conversation was partly about the city not respecting them.  I do not recall any significant points coming up.

The last table I went to was about Employment lands and we discussed the problem of ensuring that especially those at transportation nodes are kept for non-retail type of employment.  We seemed to agree that employment of today’s sort could be spread not only to employment lands but to mixed use centres and main streets. No new solution to the Orleans problem (lack of employment) was suggested and the idea that the “campus”  type of employment lands was perhaps passé was expressed by one participant.

The wrap-up reflected to topics at the tables but only one of the two (or perhaps more) tables tackling the same topics reported.  The city has promised that a report on the discussions will be on the web site.

There was good representation in the fairly large turnout –The hall was full and included a fair number of suburbanites and rural residents.

Media coverage of the Feb 13 event: Laura Mueller in the EMC papers, February 21, 2013 [Ed.: no longer available online].

– FCA held another community consultation workshop on February 25, this time at the Mlacak Centre in Kanata.  About 50 people attended.  Laura Mueller reports in the Kanata EMC paper [Ed.: no longer available online].