General Meeting – 20 July 2020


Greenspace Watch

General Meeting


July 20, 2020

On-line meeting.

Members present: Paul Johanis (chair), Nicole DesRoches, Robb Barnes, Daniel Buckles, J.P Unger, David McNicoll, Erwin Dreessen,

The meeting commenced at 7:00 pm.

  1.  Adoption of the agenda

The proposed agenda was agreed upon, with the addition of item 3g Bill 197, moved by Nicole, seconded by Daniel.

  1. Administrative items

a. Minutes of the May 25, 2020 meeting (for approval)

Moved by Erwin, seconded by David. Carried.

 b. New Board appointment

Paul put forward for Board approval, as per our Bylaws, the nomination of Robb Barnes, current Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa, as a new Board member, filling the vacancy left by the departure of Adam Caldwell. Robb’s membership with the GA and appointment as Board member was unanimously approved.

 c. New POP funding and project

The funding application to the Ottawa Community Foundation has been approved and the multi-year grant (2 years) will be used to support the ongoing collaboration between local environmental/equity organizations that was developed through the Peoples’ Official Plan process. Ecology Ottawa submitted the application and will be the lead in reporting to the OCF but the intention is to retain the collaborative leadership that has emerged. The GA is one of the organizations receiving funds to organize project activities, likely in the shape of convening or otherwise participating in workshops, preparing papers and writing submissions related to greenspace and tree canopy in the development of the City’s new Official Plan.

d. Proposal for Art and greenspace initiative

Daniel brought forward a proposal to create a space for sponsoring and displaying art works related to greenspace, nature and climate change. There was already a small start on this during the POP process when an artist came forward to create works based on scenes from our Urban Boundary video. Those works are now displayed on the website, which we created and host in support of the POP. The idea is to expand on this, engage a curator to create a collection of such art and display the works in a virtual gallery on this website.  The intention is to bring our message to the art/culture community, with whom we have had little outreach in the past. Daniel circulated the proposal and requested $500 in seed money to kick off the process. Any additional funding would be obtained through grants and fundraising arranged by the prospective curator. Nicole moved that such funding be provided as proposed, which motion was carried.

  1. Policy instruments

a. Accelerated implementation of the Tree Bylaw

At the initiative of Councillor McKenny, and supported by community activism (Ecology Ottawa ran a campaign on the issue, members of the POP coalition made representations to staff and elected officials), City Council has directed that the actual protective clauses of the Tree Protection Bylaw be implemented on January 1, 2021, eliminating the Covid related delay that had previously been approved. This decision restores the effective date that was initially approved when the bylaw was passed. Members noted that the protection of heritage trees and  trees in peri-urban areas (the narrow strip of rural land that is adjacent to the urban boundary) remain as outstanding issues that the City has committed to address.

 b. R4 Zoning review

Paul reported on the review of R4 Zoning undertaken by the City to facilitate the development of low rise multi-units in the existing R4 areas. The review has been on-going for many months, with many opportunities for consultation. The final report will be going to Planning Committee on August 27 (subsequently postponed to September 10). The recommendations of the review are consistent with our support for greater density and the concern for preservation of greenspace, tree canopy and permeability was well represented by individual community associations and the FCA, through which we followed the process.

 c. Development Charges Review Zoom meeting

After many months, the DC review consultation was restarted with a meeting of the City/FCA DC review committee on June 26, of which the GA is a member. The main achievement of the meeting was the recognition of John Verbaas as chair of the committee, replacing Erwin, and the approval of the Terms of reference for the committee on the basis of the draft that had been developed and circulated in March 2020. A process for review and input to a users guide on Development Charges was sketched out, with participation invited for individual members to address specific sections of the document. Additional meetings will be scheduled to track progress

 d. Infrastructure Master Plan Stakeholders meeting

The team leader for the Infrastructure Master plan gave a presentation on June 18 to the joint FCA/GOHBA stakeholders group, of which we are a member, on the scope and timeframes for the update to the Infrastructure Master Plan resulting from the new Official Plan currently under development. Key messages to retain are that 1) the scope of the master plan concerns new water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure required as a result of the new OP, not all City infrastructure; 2) the expectation is that in urban expansion areas, new infrastructure will be built to support a complete community, 15 minute neighbourhood concept to the extent possible; 3) the infrastructure team is currently engaged in the evaluation of the candidate parcels for expansion from an infrastructure cost and feasibility perspective (this plays into the ranking for the selection of parcels that will be included to fill out the expansion quantum); 4) there will be a provision made in the masterplan for infrastructure refits in the existing urban area to support greater intensification in target areas;  population projections are currently being developed at the neighbourhood level to assist in the identification of target areas for expansion. Paul, Carolyn McKenzie of the FCA and Murray Chown of GOHBA expressed an interest in participating in this population projection work.

 e. The 15 minute neighbourhood

 Paul reported on the multitude of initiatives and approaches that the concept of 15 minute neighbourhoods has elicited. The City’s has stated its intention to make this a strategic direction of the new Official Plan. We support this direction as it is consistent with more density, which reduces pressure on outward expansion into the rural area. Achieving intensification through such a neighbourhood design has the potential to bring more benefits and quality of life to residents affected than the current approach and be more broadly supported by the population.

Exactly what, where and how to achieve it remains to be determined.  The City is currently working on this in the draft Official Plan, more or less behind closed doors. It has posted an online survey on what features constitute a 15 minute neighbourhood. The survey closes on September 15. The FCA plans to follow up the work it did in Barrhaven with the Telfer School of Management at UOttawa on assessments of neighbourhoods from this perspective. Plans to conduct similar assessments in Overbrooke and Carp are underway. Ecology Ottawa is running a major campaign on 15 minute neighbourhoods and Roseline Hill, an architect who is a member of GOHBA, is running a series of webinars and discussions, called Walkable Ottawa, on transitioning and building typologies for 15 minute neighbourhoods. Finally, through the POP process we initiated, the GA will focus on the preservation of greenspace, canopy and permeability in the context of 15 minute neighbourhoods.

f.  Climate funding cutback

The City reported on the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on its finances. It forecasts a large deficit, which under provincial legislation it cannot run. Among the measures be taken to eliminate this deficit, it has identified the entirety of the $2.6 Ottawa Hydro dividend payment earmarked for the Energy Evolution project in 2020 for elimination. This the City’s main greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy. It is the only budget item that would see its entire budget eliminated rather that cut back as per other City activities. This has raised quite a bit of reaction on the part of the environmental community and many representation have been made for the City to reverse its course. (Note: With the announcement of federal and provincial relief payments, this funding as now been restored.)

g. Bill 197

Erwin gave a brief presentation on Ontario Bill 197, another omnibus Bill this time using post-covid19 economic recovery as the vehicle for weakening environmental protections, promoting development and increasing ministerial power in local planning affairs. It was introduced on July 16, with an accelerated to get it passed into law without review or public consultation. (Note: It subsequently was given Royal Assent on July 21).

  1. Threats

a. Rural Greenspace

i. LPAT Hearing major warehouse, North Gower

We have been in conversation with a group of residents in Goulbourn ward concerning an appeal they have made of a City decision to approve the construction of a large warehouse and distribution facility near North Gower. Our advice to date was to stall as much as possible as the City has yet to announce the quantum and location of urban expansion for new employment lands for the same purpose in the current Official Plan review. This may add some relevant information for the appellants and change the state of play for the developers. In the event however of losing the appeal, members suggested that the community organize to push for conditions on any approved development such as access by public transit, green infrastructure and other features.

b. Major urban greenspace

i.  Jock River floodplain and other development proposals in Barrhaven

Paul gave an overview of the many different yet interrelated development applications being reviewed and approved by the City for new residential and industrial uses on lands in Barrhaven. These lands have long been designated urban but left undeveloped as a result of being in or near the Jock River floodplain. With Barrhaven having expanded north and south of the Jock River, these lands are now centrally located and take on a special importance in the re-imagining of the Barrhaven town centre. What is missing, at least from publicly available information, is an overview plan that shows the interrelationships between all of these developments and implications for road and water infrastructure and preservation of greenspace, canopy and permeability. Some of these projects involve repurposing quarries and mineral extraction sites for residential purposes, with risks to ground water levels. There is also a potential involvement of the leachate plume from the Trail Rd landfill, which is immediately to the west of the area, across Highway 416. Some of the developments require large alterations to the floodplain, which in general should not be made, or if they are, only in concert with broad public and scientific consultation. At present, these decisions are being made by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority under City pressure and through extraordinary decision processes closed to the public. While there has been some media interest in the area and some pointed questioning at committee by Coucillors McKenny and Leiper, there is no easy way to grasp or address the overall topic. Meanwhile, greenspace and natural resources get destroyed. Members suggested that the Jock River Subwatershed Plan might provide an underpinning for anchoring a review of these developments. Also, members pointed out the recently published local climate change projections should be taken into account.

c. Other greenspace

i.  Scott Street reconstruction

City staff gave a presentation to local residents on the reconstruction of Scott Street between Island Park Drive and Grange Street. The main purpose of the work is to replace sewers and water pipes. However, as the street is being teared up, the City has also proposed to include in the rebuild a protected bike lane of the south side of Scott. This would require using some of the right of way, which is now used as garden and greenspace by some residents, and the loss of several mature trees. Most of the local residents oppose this addition, pointing to the Multi-use path that runs along the north side of Scott Street. In response to questions, City staff indicated that is unlikely that any right-of-way currently being used by residents for greenery can be saved if the plan goes ahead but that with a few small tweaks, it might be possible to save some the mature trees. Following the presentation, we supported the residents in communications with Councillor Leiper but also recognized that the cycling community supports the plan, to which he is also sensitive. At a minimum, the tweaks required to save some to the mature trees should be made.

 ii. Kanata Golf and Country Club court hearing

The court hearing regarding the validity of the 60/40 agreement in Kanata Lakes was held remotely from July 13 to 15. A good summary is given <here>. A court decision is expected sometime over the next few months.

iii. Old Ottawa East tree removal lawsuit

The GA has been assisting a local resident who has sued a developer for the loss of a distinctive tree as result of a construction project on an adjacent property. The case has been in Ontario Superior Court for going on two years now, with the defendants using every tactic to delay and complicate the process. The latest move was to file for the case to be dealt with through a summary judgment. This hearing will be held in November. In the absence of any legal capacity, members discussed how we might be able to otherwise assist the plaintiff. Suggestions included offering translation services (the defendants have recently taken to providing all of their affidavits in French only, knowing the plaintiff is unilingual English), documenting the case history from its beginning, seeking volunteer law students from the local university placement programs, using our media contacts to get coverage of the story. These ideas will be proposed to the resident.

The Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.