GREENSPACE ALLIANCE OF CANADA’S CAPITAL
March 22, 2021
Members present: Paul Johanis (chair), Robb Barnes, David McNicoll, Erwin Dreessen, Jason Kania, Iola Price
The meeting commenced at 7:00 pm.
- Adoption of the agenda
The proposed agenda was agreed upon, with the addition proposed by Erwin regarding Ontario Bill 257, added as item 3d. Moved by Iola, seconded by Jason.
- Administrative items
a) Minutes of the February 22, 2021 meeting (for approval)
Moved by Erwin, seconded by David. Carried.
b) Treasurer’s report
Paul reported that our membership with Volunteer Ottawa was expiring and he proposed renewing it for another year. The annual fee is $175. After a brief discussion on the value of this source of volunteers and support for the ongoing operation of the organization, it was agreed to renew our membership. It was also reported that Robert Marinov, a volunteer who produced a useful report for us in the past on OMB decisions, is again available for assignments. Paul canvassed the members for ideas. It was agreed that Paul would circulate Robert’s CV.
Action: Paul to renew our VO membership and circulate Robert Marinov’s CV.
c) Association reports:
FCA: The FCA has written an open letter to the Mayor requesting that the Official Plan review be delayed by two years, citing the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, the massive and complex nature of the draft Official Plan and the work yet to be accomplished to ensure that the proposed densification policies are tailored to the needs and possibilities of neighbourhoods, so as to gain sufficient support and social license to proceed.
Walkable Ottawa: Paul will be taking part on behalf of the Greenspace Alliance in a workshop on trees and denser walkable neighourhoods sponsored by Ecology Ottawa and Walkable Ottawa, set in the Overbrook neighbourhood. An introductory session is scheduled for April 17, followed by a half day workshop on April 24.
Doughnut Economics: Ecology Ottawa and CAFES are hosting a speaking event on Doughnut Economics on March 31. This is an international movement based on marrying social essentials and planetary limits as the floor and ceiling of sustainable economic activity. Greenspace Alliance has been asked to co-sponsor the event, allowing our logo to be used in advertising material and circulating the information on the event via the GA List. After a brief discussion, members agree to support the event.
Action: Paul to communicate our agreement to event organizers.
OETN: The Ottawa Eco-Talent Network has asked the Greenspace Alliance to report on any success stories in relation to our use of this network in the past. We have not had any recent interaction with this group but Paul with follow up on the request.
Action: Paul to research any past activity with the OETN and reply.
- Policy instruments
a) Draft Official Plan, POP submission
Paul reported that the POP collective submitted its detailed policy review of the draft Official Plan to City staff on the March 12 deadline. The end result was a 117 page technical document addressing a wide range of policies dealing with climate change, greenspace, mobility, densification and other areas relevant to the Peoples Official Plan for Ottawa’s Climate Emergency. The Greenspace Alliance was a major contributor to the document, which was a truly collective effort co-authored with Ecology Ottawa, CAFES, Walkable Ottawa, Ottawa Transit Riders, Just Food and was reviewed and commented on by many others. City staff acknowledged the value of this joint effort and a meeting is being organized with senior planning staff to go over our policy proposals. Additional work is planned to produce a summary document and a more public facing communications piece.
b) Greenspace Protection in the Official Plan, meeting with Nick Stow
As part of the detailed review of greenspace related policies in the draft OP, many questions arose regarding the exact meaning of many of them. In addition, because they are spread out over several chapters of the draft OP, it was difficult to comprehend the full scope and extent of the actual protection being extended to greenspace. Paul assembled a summary table of all of the protections and requested a meeting with Nick Stow, the City planner who is the main author of these policies. He agreed and spent considerable time clarifying and validating this work and the table has been submitted with the POP technical document as a proposed new Annex to the Official Plan.
c) Official Plan timeframes
There has been considerable debate over the rush by City elected officials to have the new Official Plan approved prior to the next municipal election in 2022. This item was put on the agenda to develop a GA position that could be communicated to the City. However, on the same day as the GA meeting, Stephen Willis, General Manager, Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development, issued a memorandum to City Councillors on the issue espousing essentially the position that the GA Chair planned to propose to members. This position was to agree to a package of policies which could be passed in late 2021, pushing forward the largely underdeveloped policies surrounding densification of neighbourhoods into the new term of council in 2022. Completing this work could then be done over a two year period in concert with the review of the Zoning Bylaw and Secondary Plans giving effect to the new policy directions. Members were generally supportive of this approach although much work remains to be done to ascertain what should be included in the pared down package, and what would be deferred.
d) Ontario Bill 257
Schedule 3 of this Omnibus Bill includes a provision whereby the Minister would he empowered to approve Ministerial Zoning Orders, overturning Council decisions, and that such orders could be applied retroactively and without regard for consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement. All agreed this was a bridge too far and that the GA should oppose it. Options include signing on to an open letter circulated by Ontario Nature and also making our own comments through the Environmental Registry of Ontario. It was moved by Iola and seconded by Jason that we do both, which motion carried.
Action: Robb to forward the Ontario Nature link to Paul. Paul to sign on to the Ontario Nature letter on behalf of the GA and also make a comment opposing this measure via the ERO.
a) Rural Greenspace
i. Chalk River update
After years of advocacy on this issue led by the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County, which the GA has supported throughout, the planned nuclear waste storage facility at Chalk River has finally made it to the agenda of City Hall. On a motion from Councillor Kavanagh, Council has directed that the question be considered by the Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management Committee, where public delegations will be heard. The meeting is scheduled for March 30. There is some confusion over an additional motion sponsored Councillor Brockington inviting industry representatives to speak at committee as well. J.P., who has been the lead on this file throughout, will make representations at committee on behalf of the GA.
ii. Goulbourn PSW appeal settlement
Paul reported that the City has reached a settlement with one of the appellants on the designation of the Goulbourn PSW as Significant Wetland under the Official Plan designations. Some minor boundary adjustments have likely been agreed to by both parties. Another appeal remains outstanding.
b) Major urban greenspace
i. Embassy Row
Paul gave a brief update on the status of advocacy efforts led by Daniel Buckles to preserve this greenspace north next to the Ottawa River, adjacent to the Mechanicsville neighbourhood. The Mechanicsville CA is also actively opposing this development application by the NCC. Paul mentioned the security risk posed by locating a multi-embassy complex so near a residential area, a point highlighted by a resident of nearby Champlain Park, a retired architect with a security background. This seems to have gained some attention, Iola mentioned that the location would also expose the site to surveillance and even assault from the river, a new point that will be reported to Daniel.
ii. Parliament Hill reforestation
The GA was invited to a special briefing by the team at Public Services and Procurement Canada responsible for shoring up and reforesting the northern slope of Parliament Hill. Paul, Daniel and Owen Clarkin, of the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club, attended. It was clear that our previous advocacy for the parliamentary elm had raised our profile at PSPC and motivated this invitation to a special briefing. A very comprehensive presentation was given by the deputy project manager on the engineering and construction side, and also by the lead biologist on the project, whose task involves coordinating all the professional input. Detailed reports were shared and invitations extended to host site visits in the spring. An update was also given, at our request, on the propagation of saplings from the parliamentary elm that was removed in April 2019. Happily, a half dozen young scions are flourishing as part of the elm recovery project at the University of Guelph Arboretum. Iola offered to share her expertise on the removal of invasive plants, in particular buckthorn, stemming from her leadership of the Ontario Invasive Plant Council for many years, which offer has now passed along to PSPC.
c) Other greenspace
i. 60/40 agreement win
A Provincial court decision upheld the 60/40 agreement struck between the former City of Kanata and Campeau Corporation in 1985, meaning that 40% of the Kanata Lakes development is legally required to remain as greenspace, including the Kanata Golf and Country Club. Clublink, the current owner of the golf course, had made an application to the City, in partnership with Minto and Richcraft, to convert the golf course to a residential development. The City took the case to court to enforce the 60/40 agreement, and won their case. The Kanata Greenspace Protection Coalition, a grassroots community movement that emerged from the controversy, gained intervener status and was very successful in mobilizing the community and raising funds. They deserve a share of the plaudits for this outcome.
ii. Lanark Avenue infill, tree preservation
We have reached out and provided advice and assistance, along with other tree preservation advocates, dealing with an infill application that could result in the removal of several distinctive trees. The builders has submitted a variance application on zoning matters for the project and, while the City had no zoning based opposition to the application, the forestry staff did have issues with the proposed tree removals. The new tree bylaw was judged not to apply as the application to COA predated the coming into force of the bylaw, which was January 1 2021, but new internal City processes to catch potential threats early in the planning stages, including variance applications to COA, have come into effect and this case is thus being treated under these new guidelines. As a result, a COA decision was deferred until additional information and potential design changes were worked out between the builder and the City. The case will be taken up again by the COA on April 7.
The Meeting adjourned at 8:49 p.m.