Update on the City’s Draft Official Plan: As Far as Old Ottawa East’s concerns go – ya win one, ya lose one, ya lose some more…

Mainstreeter Staff

Old Ottawa East (OOE) has gained one concession from City of Ottawa Planning staff but has had its key request to move the area between Highway 417 and the Rideau Canal into the Inner Urban Transect that will contain the rest of OOE. The lone concession arose when the City agreed with the community’s request to move Springhurst Park into the Inner Urban Transect.

The City has been collecting comments and questions about the draft Official Plan since its release last November and claims to have engaged with more than 100,000 citizens on its draft.

Update on the City's Draft Official Plan- Rideau Canal

On June 10th, the City released a document, entitled As We Heard It, which examined and summarized feedback City-wide, and reviewed 25 major themes, or proposals, suggested by the public. The report also provided the City’s response to suggestions raised, occasionally noting changes that staff have agreed to make. What followed was a series of virtual consultations, by transect, held in late June, timed to coincide with City staff’s release of Ward-specific As We Heard It reports, including one for Ward 17 – Capital Ward. Finally, the text of the individual transect consultations, and the Q&As from each consultation, were released near the end of July. Like the massive Official Plan document itself, there has been a lot reports and documents for followers of the Official Plan process to digest.

Many of the themes listed in the City-wide As We Heard It Report were also mentioned in feedback the City received from Old Ottawa East residents; including issues such as the need to: change boundaries between transects; protect the tree canopy; build affordable housing; take reaction to COVID-19 into account and extend the time period for public consideration of the next draft of the Official Plan.

One of the major changes accepted by City staff was the need to move boundaries separating different transects. They agreed, for example, to move a few blocks of the Glebe Annex from one transect to another, and to move Alta Vista, the neighbourhoods on the south side of Baseline along the Experimental Farm, and a few other neighbourhoods, from the Inner Urban Transect to the Outer Urban Transect.

However, when it came to Old Ottawa East, staff refused to move the boundary that divides parts of our community. The As We Heard It report for Capital Ward defended the decision to maintain the initial boundary on the grounds that “the Queensway is a major separation of contexts”.

Alain Miguelez, Manager of Policy Planning for the City of Ottawa, then sought to reassure residents that all of their concerns about having a divided community would be resolved by ensuring that all of Old Ottawa East, including that part north of the Queensway, would comprise a single Secondary Plan. According to Mr. Miguelez, in response to a question raised at the Downtown Core Transect consultation, “the main thing that we did in response to what we heard from Old Ottawa East is to return the entire neighbourhood into a single secondary plan. And if you remember, the secondary plan is the document that takes precedence. So, the policy direction provided by the secondary plan is what takes precedence in terms of development”.

The announcement in the Ward 17 As We Heard It report that the City had agreed to move Springhurst Park back into the Inner Urban Transect was welcomed by OOE residents. It is not clear, however, whether the land west of Springhurst Park will also be included within the Inner Urban Transect, and residents are left to wonder if the land between Springhurst Park and the Rideau River south of the Queensway will also be included in the Inner Urban transect. This area includes the lands set aside for the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor (AVTC), which is of special interest to Old Ottawa East. Many residents responded to the draft Official Plan by suggesting that the AVTC be removed from the Plan. However, the Ward 17 report stated that “ The Alta Vista Transit Corridor is included in the new OP because Council gave the mandate to carry forward the current Transportation Master Plan (TMP).”

Residents remain sceptical that their main concerns were in fact heard by the City. The reintegration of Springhurst Park is welcome, but residents remain to be convinced that their main request, the moving of the boundary dividing the community, will be addressed by having all parts of the community included in the revised Old Ottawa East Secondary Plan. The community’s remaining requests, including greater recognition of the impacts of climate change and of COVID-19, the removal of the AVTC from the Official Plan, and the need for specific measures and targets for the protection of tree cover have not been accepted.

Many in Old Ottawa East are left wondering what opportunities remain to influence the content of the Official Plan in view of City Council’s unbending vow to have the Official Plan wrapped up this Fall.

The next draft of the full Official Plan will be released by August 20th, and the City began releasing the revised draft, chapter by chapter, on July 25th. A few days after the final report is issued in full, the City plans to hold an Open House, which means that residents will again have scant time to review the document, another impediment to meaningful consultation. Thereafter, staff will submit the Official Plan to a joint meeting of the Planning Committee and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee scheduled for September 13-15, 2021. If approved, the draft Official Plan will go to Council sometime during the following two months. Based on the process, as announced, it appears the only meaningful opportunity the public will have to make comments is during the mid-September joint committees meeting. Based on the fact that the City has scheduled three days for this joint committee meeting, it is clear that a large number of delegations are expected to speak.

While the time frame mandated by City Council leaves very little time to review the final proposals and to make informed decisions, OOE residents are still urged to review the document as it is released in chapters through August and, if concerns remain, to inform their Councillor, Shawn Menard.

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