General Meeting – 24 April 2017


Greenspace Watch

General Meeting


April 24, 2017

Hintonburg Community Centre

1064 Wellington Street West

K1Y 2Y3

Members present: Paul Johanis (chair), Erwin Dreessen, Bruce Lindsay, Amy Steele, Varvara Lobanova (note taker), David McNicoll

Regrets: Matthew Le Blanc, Nicole DesRoches, Sol Shuster, Juan Pedro Unger

The meeting commenced at 7:20 PM.

1. Adoption of the Agenda

A modified agenda was agreed upon. 

2. Administrative Items

a. Minutes of the March 27, 2017 meeting. Erwin moved to adopt the Minutes of March 27, 2017, with minor modifications, seconded by Bruce. Agreed.

b. Membership Report:

Bruce reported on membership renewals and donations. No new members, renewal by Cumberland Community Association.

c. Treasurer’s Report:

Amy moved, seconded by Erwin, to pay Bruce back for the cost of the maps used in the GA display at the Parks Summit ($63.65).

Amy moved, seconded by Bruce, to pay Erwin back for printing costs of the Development Charges Background Report ($23.99).

All agreed.

d. Webmaster’s Report:

Erwin reported that one volunteer is trained and two new volunteers are ready to start pending assignment of passwords. Action: Paul will follow up with Jason on assignment of passwords to volunteers so they may commence the work on the migration of content from the old website.

e. Volunteer Report:

Erwin reported that there are now 6 new volunteers, 2 are waiting for passwords and 2 have been working with fantastic results. There is still a lot to do and all 6 volunteers can be put to work.

Paul reported that he has found a volunteer to compile the first draft of the Annual Report. Erwin suggested that, as a back-up plan, he could do an urgent posting on Volunteer Ottawa. The Annual Report is required for the May 29, 2017 General Meeting. Paul will compile dates for the monthly general meetings following the May meeting.

Paul reported that Varvara replaced Matt as the Recording Secretary, Matt returned to Montreal but plans to stay involved and to continue as the Facebook editor.

3. New Action Items

a. Request to post Guide to Growing Your Own Organic Food. Paul was approached to post this guide under the Readings section on the GA website. Action: Paul to send to Bruce. Erwin will review and post if deemed appropriate.

b. NCC trails public consultation. Coming up on April 27. Nicole DesRoches will attend on behalf of GA.

c. Invitation to protest East End landfill project. Paul received a request to support an on-going effort to oppose Taggart landfill in the East End. One issue is that Taggart may be allowed to bring in waste from the US to the proposed landfill site; furthermore there is already excess landfill capacity in Eastern Ontario. Action: Paul will circulate the received letter for review and obtain consensus on next steps via e-mail.

d. KNL storm water strategy options. Paul and Erwin met with an engineer from the Ministry of the Environment. They had a good discussion on the options available and identified points that should be incorporated into our position on this issue. The currently known options are: 1) divert water towards Beaver’s Pond changing the natural topography of the location, this will expand the pond causing loss of some of the planned greenspace but will preserve wooded areas located uphill; 2) leave the topography unchanged, Beaverpond area remains the same and locate a new storm water pond further up. This would destroy greenspace in a different area. A third option that could be explored is a variation of option 2 but instead of a pond it would call for the use of an Etobicoke Exfiltration System that comprises a perforated pipe and weeping bed. The use of this technology would respect the natural topography of the site and eliminate the need for a storm water pond. The city staff and the consultant appear to be unaware of this technology. There is very little topsoil in the area and the bedrock is close to the surface so the storm water cannot be absorbed into the ground. In addition to the Etobicoke System, small-scale solutions that work independently in specific smaller sites may add up to a viable alternative solution. This alternative approach is supported by Councillor Marianne Wilkinson.

Another concern is the blasting on the site, which may cause a drop in the water table, which could eventually destroy the trees growing on the site, which are planned for retention in Trillium Woods. It is recommended not to blast right to the perimeter of Trillium Woods but to leave a sloping easement.

Action: Paul will prepare and circulate summary of our recommendations, to be forwarded to the City.

e. Watershed Council discussion paper. Erwin reported that we have been asked to provide feedback. Action: Paul will ask John Almstedt to review and comment.

f. Development charges bylaw update and background study. The issue is that regular taxpayers are subsidizing the developers and the non-transparency only compounds the negative implications of an issue that is vital to the city. Everyone agreed that this is governance and not a greenspace issue and therefore GA ought not to lead. Everyone agreed that GA should continue to speak out on non-transparency and failure to hold public consultations. 

Amy noted that we should make a statement that the City is encouraging growth that doesn’t pay for itself. Bruce and Erwin agreed that FCA should lead on this issue. Paul suggested that we should give FCA time to settle after the recent change in leadership.

Amy suggested that GA could involve the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Erwin proceeded to give a summary of the Background Study document, noting that it adhered to the Bill 73 on the timing of release of documents. The scope of the Study is three-fold:

1) Transition to new rules

2) Road design and charges

3) Infrastructure review

Of the many opportunities identified for streamlining, the study only developed two. In one of these cases, the Study suggests that $12 Million could be saved over 10 years as a result of small road design changes (bike lanes, medians). How much more could be saved if all opportunities were further developed? The following documents referenced in the Background Study are not yet available:

Infrastructure standards review

Strategic asset management plan

Plan for tax-supported assets

The Study makes a reference to “adopting Ottawa’s unique cost methodology”, it is not clear what this means.

The conclusion of the development charge review would see transit fees increasing per single and semi-detached house. While the working premise was to keep overall costs unchanged as a whole, the study concluded that there would be a marginal increase, with the charges going up considerably outside the greenbelt and a smaller increase inside the greenbelt.

David noted that it takes many years for MPs to learn to understand budgets and they often leave before they fully understand the issues and the same applies to City councillors.

Paul suggested that the GA should continue to ask questions and raise awareness about green infrastructure.

Action: Wait for By-law to come out April 25 to see if there is anything about green infrastructure review. Erwin will confirm once By-law is posted, if not then he will raise questions. We will not appear at Planning Committee on May 9 but we will send a letter.

4. Report on Previous Action Items

a. Federal Environmental Assessment Review Report

David confirmed that the Expert Panel’s report has been issued. The review is large in scope, with cross-Canada coverage, addressing native communities and the impact from oil and gas industries among other things.

The issue is that the report shifted from environmental assessment to a multi-faceted model for impact assessment. Impact assessment does suggest it’s about moving resources to market. Some phrases used are without definition and are hard to interpret. Some areas of the report are commendable: investing in Canada’s future, referencing First Nations priorities, need for monitoring.

We have until May 5 to comment on the report. Action: David will draft a submission for Board approval by email.

b. Poet’s Pathway Strategy/Moodie Drive LRT Extension. The Merivale-Woodroffe corridor, a key link in the Poets’ Pathway, is currently owned by the NCC but remains available for sale to the City. The GA’s position is that the corridor, as a green link, is vital green space for the area. We hope to have the Pathway recognized by Canadian Heritage as a commemorative project, which would empower the NCC to keep it. We are working with Jane Moore to advance on this issue. Jane came to the Parks Summit on April 22.

c. Parks Summit, April 22.  Park People, a Toronto-based grass-roots group dedicated to improving parks, had partnered with Ecology Ottawa to organize a Parks Summit on April 22 – a gathering of people involved in parks to outline, who is who in this community; what links can be established; and what information can be exchanged. 

This was a good opportunity for networking. The GA co-sponsored and had a table at this event. Bruce and Erwin attended. In all, there were about 80-90 people in attendance. One of the keynote speakers was the founder of Park People, who delivered a very inspiring address.

There were 9 information booths, including some new names, i.e. “Group to declare Ottawa a Monarch Friendly City” comprised of one person, Clara.

There were breakout working sessions to brainstorm on issues, discuss assistance required; a lot of ideas were presented. Report is coming.

Paul reported that based on a survey conducted by the organizers prior to the Summit, 70% of respondents listed their top reason for engagement with parks as nature appreciation, 50% ranked as their top priority going forward in parks as nature restoration.

Bruce requested a copy of the presentations made at the summit.

All agreed to continue developing the relationship with the Park People and to maintain our own presence with them, not just through Ecology Ottawa.

Erwin noted that the City is going against the principle of “designing with nature.” Paul explained that there are different designations for city parks: woodland park, district park, neighbourhood park, parkette. Paul suggested that this is something we can look in to, there is an opportunity for GA to promote the idea of a woodland park.

d. Healthy Transportation Coalition event on road tolls, March 28

Erwin provided an update. There were about 60 people in attendance. Vijay Gill presented a report commissioned by 4 Councillors with the goal to alleviate congestion. The report recommended introducing more parking fees.

e. Eastern Ontario Green Plan, April 6

The working group on this agreed to further explore the possibility of developing greenspace mapping for Eastern Ontario as a foundation for any future planning. The GA will take the lead on this file as an extension of its greenspace mapping plans for the City of Ottawa.

f. FCA Transportation Workshop, April 8

Erwin found little to report. Bruce commented that a new plan is to be delivered by 2021, nothing will happen until then. Exercises are being done to set priorities. A report will be disseminated.

h. GA Survey report. Paul reported that he sent out a Draft Report V.4 this morning to all directors but it seemed not to have been received. Action: Paul will resend for final Board approval.

j. First Meeting of Significant Woodlands Working Group. The Significant Woodlands policy has been adopted by Council but is under appeal. Council required that a study group of stakeholders be formed to work out transition measures and other implementation issues. 

Paul represented us at the first meeting of the Working Group on April 24. There were 2 industry representatives, an FCA representative in addition to city staff in attendance.

The working group went through terms of reference, agreed on a process. The plan is to have 7-8 meetings before Dec. 31/17.

The Council-approved policy is that any woodlot inside the urban area that is over 0.8 hectare and 40 years old is deemed to be significant. It can still be developed, subject to a no negative impact test.

The issue is that how will it be determined that there is no negative impact? Current EA guidelines do not cover this.

The working group is tasked to come up with criteria to be used for assessment.

Paul will share the worksheet prepared today.

Cultural and economic factors will be considered in assessment. The issue is how will they be measured? The criteria have to be transparent and repeatable. Everyone agreed that we need to be pro-active and recommend that the City evaluate these areas now to decide what needs protection.

Paul noted that two current appeals are on hold pending criteria the working group comes up with.

Nick Stow is updating greenspace mapping in Ottawa and is willing to engage with the GA to further this work.

5. Upcoming Events

a. Healthy Transportation Coalition AGM – April 27. No one from GA will be attending.

b. Clean the Capital – April 29.

c. CEF Advisory Committee meeting – May 11. GA is on the agenda as a member the Coalition to Protect the Farm; Paul and Leslie will make a presentation on expanding the terms of reference of the Committee. This is an open meeting and the public can attend.

6. Information Items

a. Ontario Snapper hunt banned. MNRF has banned the hunt of Snapper turtle in Ontario (March 31, 2017 decision — ref. EBR No. 12-9170)

b. NCC Board confirms transfer of SJC site for the new Ottawa Hospital. This is posted on the website. Paul will do a Jane’s walk in this area on May 7 at 1:30, starting at Hintonburg Park. Action: need to advertise this event.

c. Mud lake restoration activity. Is anyone interested in helping out? Dave noted that NCC is redoing all the boardwalks, so this area is closed during restoration. The area will be designated as a blue trail by the Rideau Trail association.

d. Peoples’ Climate march – April 29

e. 8th Annual Green Energy retreat, May 5, 25$ fee to participate.

f. Court decision on Goulbourn wetlands. Everyone agreed that Ken McRae should be recognized for his work on this issue.

g. GA 20th anniversary. Bruce is looking for another partner to help him, as Velta is not available due to injury.

The meeting adjourned at 10:00 PM.

The next meeting will be on May 29, 2017 at the Hintonburg CC, starting at 7:15 PM.