General Meeting – 21 April 2005

Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital

Minutes of the Meeting of 21 April 2005

Champlain Park Fieldhouse, Ottawa

 Attending: Ron Tolmie, Mary Forsyth, Jane Heintzman, Gemma Kerr, Agnes Lougheed, Dave Forsyth, Bill Grant, Daphne McCree, Amy Kempster, Christopher Busby, Bill Royds, Erwin Dreessen, Mikelis Svilans, Janice Seline (recording secretary)

Chair: Bill Royds

  1. Call to order: 7:45. The agenda was amended to include a response to the Greenspace Master Plan at Item 4, followed by 4a NCC Core Area Sector Item 7a New Business: Stanley Park, New Edinburgh was combined with item 4.  New Business Item 7a Carp Ridge Development was combined with item 5a and 5b.  An Item 7d Barrhaven South was added.
  1. Approval of minutes of March meeting – deferred to next meeting.
  1. Membership – Janice Seline reported that there are 46 members paid up to date, of which 4 are associations. A new mailing of membership renewal reminders should bring the membership up to approximately 65, of which 10 are associations.

     Treasurer’s report – Amy Kempster had nothing to report, as she has not received a recent bank statement.

  1. Presentation by Gemma Kerr of New Edinburgh Community Alliance concerning plan by NCC outlined in the Capital Core Area Sector Plan to develop “new cultural institutions and federal accommodations” on Stanley Park, a greenspace bounded by Sussex Drive, between Stanley Avenue and Alexander Street.

Gemma described the area as an informal park used by children, dogwalkers, and formerly by people practising tai-chi. It has young and old trees, grass, a heritage stone wall and the Fraser Schoolhouse, an historic building occupied by a tenant, is located there. The area is respected by the community and looks clean and verdant, a welcome green respite that provides a transition to 24 Sussex and Rideau Hall.

Historically NECA has opposed development in the area, unsuccessfully in the case of the building of the Canada and the World Pavilion at the site of Rideau Falls, and successfully in the case of a proposed parking lot for tour busses serving the Pavilion.

The NCC proposal is not specific, but the rhetoric would lead one to believe that more ‘animation’ would be injected into the area and the greenspace in question would be occupied by some attraction for visitors to the capital region.  NECA simply wants the greenspace left as it is.

Gemma handed out a petition form outlining the objections to any such plan. Erwin Dreessen pointed out that on the back page Greenspace Alliance is erroneously cited as representing the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of Ottawa.  This must be corrected, and separate support sought from that organization, of which Greenspace is a member only, and for which Greenspace has no authority to speak.

Motion:  Amy Kempster moved support for NECA’s action in the form of a letter to the NCC expressing objections along the lines of the petition. Bill Royds suggested that the letter embrace Greenspace’s concerns for other wooded areas under the purview of the NCC, such as Victoria Island and the cliff areas below Parliament Hill which are interesting microclimates which would be sensitive to any NCC plans for ‘animation.’ The letter should reiterate the need for commitment to respect for greenspace.

Seconded – Daphne McCree, unanimous. 

4.a     Comments on NCC’s Capital Core Area Plan

Erwin Dreessen reviewed the recent history of NCC planning documents made available to the public, and their reception of comments by individuals and groups such as ourselves.

In 2000, the NCC issued a Concept Plan.  Public comments were solicited and a questionnaire was made available. Greenspace submitted comments. The report on these comments was published, but the comments were quoted piecemeal. Some 60 comments had been received, including 22 people who filled out the questionnaire – this is a statistically insignificant number from the perspective of any social science survey.  The published comments were highly selective and ignored issues such as the use of pesticides.  It leads one to question whether it is worthwhile to respond.

The 2005 Capital Core Area Plan contains an executive summary of a visionary, non-specific character.  It is difficult to disagree with any of it.  The main document is substantial, and the content is similar to material that is published on the NCC website.  It is a draft dated January 2005 and some of the maps seem to be missing.  The Plan presents no justification for the definition of the Core Area. The boundaries of what the NCC deems to be the Core Area that appear on the maps cut arbitrarily through the City, blocks are cut off, and certain important historical sites such as Laurier House and Beechwood Cemetery are excluded. This is a major flaw in the planning document.

The document contains an inordinate amount of material concerned with lighting and illumination in the Core Area. There are about 50 pages dedicated to partnerships,  and monitoring  and evaluation  gets about 2 pages.   Again, the question is begged as to whether it is worthwhile to respond to this.

Bill Royds commented that the Core Sector Plan does not recognize the City as a vibrant entity, and constitutes an imposition with little consultation.

Amy Kempster suggests that a letter be written to the NCC expressing dismay at the Plan’s lack of focus.

Mik Svilans agreed, summarizing the discussion as suggested content for the letter, as follows:

The letter should emphasize the lack of justification for the definition of the Core area.

The paucity of evaluation should be indicated.

The lack of consultation of Ottawa citizens and Canadian visitors to Ottawa should be stated.

Amy Kempster added that an expert from Toronto once noted that Ottawa could use more green space, that visitors like to sit in a park too.

Motion: That a letter be sent to the NCC including the above points.

Moved – Amy Kempster, seconded – Mik Svilans. Unanimous.

Erwin Dreessen will draft the letter and send for comments to Mik, Amy, Bill, and Gemma.

5.      Presentation by the Carp Ridge Society – Chris Busby

Background: Two years ago at the NCC AGM, commissioners were asked as to who among them knew of the Carp Hills.  None did.  The Carp Hills are the only outcrop of Precambrian bedrock within the urban boundary. They feature beautiful landscape, abundant wildlife, interesting geology and water that
accumulated from rainfall, held in many small ponds and lakes, feeding the aquifer.  The City of Ottawa has acquired land in the area piecemeal, and the area is pressured by rampant development.
The NCC commissioned Andrew Haydon to make a report on the Carp Hills.  The report was received but not adopted. It is perceived as preliminary.

The Carp Ridge Society was formed to counter one development in particular: Cromdale, on the northwest side of Carp Road at 4900 Carp Road, north of Thomas Dolan.  The land was purchased in 1991 and zoning for some 30+ estate lots on 140 acres was approved despite objections.  In 2003 the land was sold again.  The Carp Ridge Society wanted, and still wants, to encourage responsible development, and has observed many violations so far.  Alex Munter wrote a comprehensive article on the problem in the Ottawa Citizen which appeared on 25 September 2004.  The recommendation from many quarters is that the City of Ottawa should purchase the land for a park, preserve, or conservation area, like Mer Bleu. Many studies were done in the 1970s and the recommendations have been for preservation.

Water in the area is a major concern.  The small lakes and ponds on the rocky highland supply the aquifer. This water is fed through fissures in the bedrock and is not filtered through any sand.  It can be easily contaminated.  Nonetheless, test site wells for new developments have not been enforced.  There is worry that water for existing wells is at risk.

Amy Kempster suggested that the Carp Ridge Society might pursue a zoning change, given that zoning changes can be proposed by persons other than landowners.  This has been a successful strategy in the past – Al Crosby pursued this strategy with Montfort Woods – an initiative which fell by the wayside when the NCC (prodded by Mauril Belanger) struck a deal with DCR Phoenix – but succeeded in exerting leverage.  The residents of Fairlea Crescent also employed such a strategy and eventually prevailed.  There is support among councillors and City staff for such a move.  It might cost $1000.

The question of whether the land is in fact prime agricultural land was raised by Bill Royds.  The new provincial policy statement which came into effect in March 2005 says that prime agricultural land cannot be rezoned.  Erwin Dreessen noted that this would only apply to applications made after the law came into effect.Amy Kempster questioned whether or not a public meeting had been held, as required by the Planning Act.  Apparently not.  This is a key step in the approval of a subdivision.

Amy Kempster recommended that a letter be written to Councillor Eli El Chantiry asking for a public meeting, and that other councillors be contacted.

Erwin Dreessen recommended a publicity campaign to prove public interest to the councillors.  This might include organized tours of the area, both for those generally interested and to find supporters in the area.  The serious water and sewerage questions should be raised with the help of expert opinions from the City planning staff.  He suggested that the Sierra Club of Ottawa might be interested in the issues and that their support would be valuable. He recommended that the Carp Ridge Society join the Greenspace Alliance.

Amy Kempster reiterated the necessity of a letter to Councillor El Chantiry and suggested that it be drafted by the Carp Ridge Society, also that the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority be contacted.
Mik Svilans suggested that the hydro geological data be supplied to City planners.

6.      Previous business:

6a.    Response to the Greenspace Master Plan

Amy Kempster will organize comments for the May 10 meeting of the Planning and Environment Committee.  Bill Royds will draft a response to the Acquisition Policy.

6b.     Official Plan appeal was not discussed.

6c.     Kanata Special Study Area Appeal

Ron Tolmie and Mik Svilans reported. A response has been received from the OMB dismissing our appeal as it affects the Richardson lands (motion heard at the pre-hearing conference of Feb. 28). Richardson Forest is not saved.  The reasons given included a lack of expert testimony.  Money is required to pay expert witnesses.  Ron Tolmie wants to appeal it and said that he has located several expert witnesses, some of whom will appear for no charge.  He suggested a horticulturalist who worked at the Arboretum; a hydrologist (whose services may cost $3000); a wildlife specialist who works for the federal government; and a forester whose professional status is in order.  Dan Brunton, who consistently has said that the area should be zoned NEA, may also be useful.  Ron noted that there is considerable difference (200 acres) between Council-approved and detailed maps of what will be designated as Natural Environment Area (NEA).

Bill Royds will write a request for appeal, but needs support material from Kanata.  Chris Szpak’s notes from his response at the hearing would be useful. Our key objection to the Decision treated the definition of the Urban Boundary.

Motion – Amy Kempster moved approval of an expense of up to $180 for professional advice on the matter from Nancy Smith. Seconded – Daphne McCree. Unanimous.

9.      Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 11:00 pm, with the remainder of the agenda deferred to the next meeting due to the late hour.

Moved by Erwin Dreessen.  Unanimous.