Speaking Notes: Address to Greenspace Alliance 18 April 01
Councillor Gord Hunter
“The scope of greenspace and environmental considerations in city planning and economic development and the role of public participation in the process.”
Not an easy topic
Title contains topics within topics
I understand that I am going to be speaking to a group that knows the topic much better than I do. I feel a bit like a high school student having to present his independent study project to a panel of experts.
The Alliance is an organization that has been in existence for the last 4 years. You has been active on issues within the former City of Ottawa and across the Region
Your record shows you are a group willing to address the full range of open space and natural area issues. That is indeed a daunting task and it is to your credit that the Alliance stays together, grows and continues to address items of common concern.
In preparing for the talk I did some consultation with otir staff, particularly Dennis Jacobs who had the pleasure of addressing you earlier this year. He said to look forward to The Question Period.
I also wanted to know what we were talking about when we used the term Greenspace. For that I turned to your website. There, thanks to some fine writing I learned that even within the Greenspace community there is some debate about what is to be defined as greenspace or environmentally sensitive area. Even the acronym NOSS has some controversy.
But I can agree without hesitation with your definition as presented to the Greenspace Alliance brochure – “Greenspace is natural or vegetated area that is deemed significant by a community”. You further see waterways and wetlands as integral to greenspace.
Your group claims to be “dedicated to the preservation of Greenspace as deemed significant by a community”. Elsewhere “dedicated to the preservation of greenspace throughout the national capital area.”
Your actions have spoken clearly to that dedication. And I as Chair of the City’s Planning and Development Committee am happy to be able to thank you for rising to that task.
My talk is to be about “The scope of greenspace and environmental considerations in city planning and economic development and the role of public participation in the process.”
Let me accept your definition of greenspace as representing the scope of greenspace considerations Greenspace is natural or vegetated area that is deemed significant by a community. Waterways and wetlands are integral to greenspace.
As the Planning Board of the new city we further must consider a wide range of related environmental issues such as the preservation of farmland, the preservation of resource areas such as sand and aggregate, the need for public recreation and ranging to the rehabilitation or clean up of toxic residue on abandoned sites. We must take account of issues such as sound or noise in the consideration of things like the placement of housing subdivisions in the vicinity of industries, highways and the airport.
We must weigh what is the best way to preserve the lands which the community feels is significant. Cost to the taxpayers has to be a factor in that consideration.
How do we, as a city government do this. Largely through the planning process.
The existing Policy framework and Official Plans inherited by the City provides a good start for natural area· protection. A number of points are worth noting:
- The Regional Official Plan Review examined larger natural areas through the Natural Environment Systems Strategy (NESS) and designated these areas in the Regional Official Plan as Natural Environment Areas or Environmental Features (Schedule K). This initiative did not however, address smaller, more locally significant features such as some of the urban woodlands and open spaces within the Greenway Network in the former
- The lo.cal area municipalities all took a slightly different The City of Ottawa completed the NOSS study and began working away on implementing the results through Official Plan and zoning changes. The NOSS study assessed all the open spaces and natural areas in the former City using a variety of social and environmental criteria. The study recommended protection of a number of areas but also recognized that the feasibility of protecting some of the privately owned lands that are designated for development was very low.
- In other municipalities, natural and open space issues in developing areas have been addressed through the Master Drainage or sub-watershed planning approach associated with the community or secondary planning in the In South Nepean and South Gloucester, for example, important natural and open spaces were identified during the preparation of the Master Drainage Plans.
Now with that framework and pile of documentation where do we go from here.
- The City will have to bring all of these existing policies together into an integrated Official Plan and supporting policy There has been some discussion of expanding some version of the NOSS approach across the City and staff are currently looking at what that could involve.
- We also will surely be articulating a broader City wide Greenway System, building on the existing policies and designations and looking at opportunities to connect and enhance natural areas and open spaces through the new Official Plan, cooperative efforts with landowners and other agencies (NCC). Creative conservation and easements, and land trusts, which your Alliance has been an integral part of bringing to the public agenda, are likely to be a priority over the next year or
- Sub-watershed planning is becoming an important tool for environmental management and natural areas protection as it allows for pro-active approaches as development areas are defined, rather than re-active approvals at the subdivision
- Strategic use of the environmental resource areas acquisition fund is an important tool (the current draft capital budget has allocations of 5 and 4 million over the next two years – primarily to address some urgent issues in developing areas). It is important to look ahead, be pro-active and use this money effectively before urban designations and values are placed on important natural areas (e.g. the recent South March Highlands Purchase was very cost effective while trying to purchase an urban woodland with development zoning can be very expensive).
- Trying to protect an open space or natural area that has already been zoned for development is very difficult. The ongoing controversy over a woodland in Orleans (Quarry Woods) that is owned by Minto and zoned for residential development is a case in We need to look ahead and be pro-active before general development patterns and expectations are established .
Municipal Environmental Evaluation:
There are a variety of evaluation processes built into existing planning documents. One challenge will be to assess and integrate these processes and requirements as the new Official Plan and the development review process is established.
- The Regional Official Plan includes provisions for impact assessments adjacent to wetlands and for proposals within Natural Environment Area B and Environmental Feature (Schedule K) There are also tree saving plans required during the development process. Many of these requirements were introduced in the 1997 Plan.
- The former City of Ottawa has a policy involving a Municipal Environmental Evaluation Process (MEEP) which was essentially a screening process for all proposals which, depending on the project, could lead to a more involved Municipal Environmental Evaluation Report (MEER). Other municipalities did not have similar requirements and there will be some discussion over the next year as to what kind of system the New City will put in place.
Indicators and sustainability
How to measure and assess environmental objectives (woodlands, surface water quality, etc.) and more general measures of sustainability and quality of life will be a challenge that the City will face over the next year. A report entitled “Quality of Life Indicators” was prepared by a consulting firm for the Transition Board and the Policy, Environment and Infrastructure Planning Division is actively looking at monitoring approaches and indicators for the City. The actual definition of what constitutes “greenspace” is one of the challenges when developing an indicator to measure greenspace.
Where does the public fit in to all this?
- My experience has been that the best place for the public is up
- In preparation for the last Regional Official plan we went through an extensive ‘community visioning ‘ Through it our public told us that of all the issues under consideration a clean healthy and safe environment were the values they cherished most. That counted for a lot with our staff and members of the Planning Committee and council.
- In preparation of the new official plan we will not be doing a new visioning -vision probably hasn’t changed in 5 But we will hold a brief “Summit” on a Smart Capital. Integral to that will be consideration of quality of life and environmental issues. I’m sure the Alliance will be at the front of the table at the Summit.
- We also want to put the public and stakeholders like the Alliance front and centre in the development approvals process. Working through the Environmental Advisory Committee it is expected that public action groups such as the Greenspace Alliance will be more able to be pro-active rather than reactive on development
Environmental Advisory Committee
- I know the Alliance made a submission at the meeting of Corporate Services which established the Committee structure (there will be an Environmental Advisory Committee with staff support, as well as a separate Urban Forest Committee). City staff and politicians will work with the new Committees to ensure that they have an opportunity to be heard and provide constructive advice. I have worked with many public advisory committees over the Advice and counsel is a great resource. I trust your membership will be key members in the city’s new Committee.
PROPOSED CITY OF OTTAWA DEVELOPMENT APPROVALS PROCESS
- Public consultation currently underway regarding the new development approvals process for the new City of Ottawa
- Recommendations will be considered by Planning and Development Committee on June 24, 2001
- Specifically, with respect to public consultation on proposed developments where there may be environmental issues, the proposed process envisages the following approach:
o pre-consultation by the proponent of a proposed development with members of the City’s
Environmental Advisory Committee will be encouraged in order to assist in the identification 01’
environmental issues and possible mitigation
o upon receipt of an application for a development where there may be environmental issues, a
circulation will be sent to the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee for review and comment on the proposed development
o any comments would be sent to the assigned planner and along with all other technical and public
comments, would be discussed with the applicant to resolve as many issues as possible
o the report on the application would include all comments received with an indication of how these
were dealt with
o if the approval authority is City Council, such as for Official Plan and Zoning Amendments , the
Environmental Advisory Committee would receive a notice of the Committee meeting and a copy of the report if comments were provided on the application
o if the approval authority is the Director of Planning and Infrastructure Approvals, such as for Site Plan Control applications, the Environmental Advisory Committee would receive a copy of the staff decision if comments were provided on the application
- Information packages on the New Development Approvals Process are available by contacting Françoise”‘ Jessop at 244-5300 3862 or at firstname.lastname@example.org