There are several significant files coming to the Finance and Economic Development Committee (July 6th at 9:30am) and the Planning Committee (July 8th at 9:30am).
City Hall is banking on folks tuning out for the summer—let’s prove them wrong. Read about what’s on the horizon below and sign up to be a public delegation (and speak to council members for up to 5 minutes) at either committee by replying to this e-mail stating which committee you’d like to delegate at.
Developer Influence at City Hall
A recent bombshell report from the city appointed Integrity Commissioner (IC) found that Ottawa’s Planning Committee Chair, Councillor Jan Harder, had an apparent conflict of interest with a developer family, and had chosen not to address it.
The report puts the revolving door between private and public sector at City Hall on full display, with the developer in question, Jack Stirling, being first a city planning official, then a developer, then an advisor to a city planning official, and then working for both concurrently (sometimes free of charge). Mr. Stirling had been advising the chair of planning, while the latter was also deliberating on applications involving the Stirling Group, and while Stirling’s daughter was also working back-to-back contracts for Councillor Harder and the Stirling Group.
The report recommended that council remove Chair Harder from the Planning Committee entirely, as well as related committees, and that council further reprimand Harder by ensuring she paid for her own legal fees (which were also being paid to a developer lobbyist lawyer) and docking 15-days’ pay. The report also called for the city’s gift registry to be amended to acknowledge the in-kind support Councillor Harder had been receiving from this developer.
Councillor Harder refused to apologize for her conduct and continues to deny all wrongdoing. She voluntarily resigned from committees before council could approve her removal, while Mayor Watson attempted to amend the recommendations of the Integrity Commissioner’s report to remove all reprimands, any acknowledgement by Council that Councillor Harder was in the wrong, and the recommendation to amend the gift registry. The Watson Club motion succeeded, though an amendment to it was carried that called on council to at least acknowledge that Councillor Harder had erred in her behaviour.
As part of council deliberations on the IC report, I introduced a motion, with the support of Councillor McKenney, that will see city staff review regulations to address the revolving door at City Hall and make recommendations on a cooling off period for developers and their lobbyists. The motion was successful, and it can be read in full here.
More Needs to be Done.
The IC report highlights something that is much more insidious than developer influence in Ottawa; it highlights a political culture that makes it hard to cleanly separate city government from the development industry.
It also highlights that, beyond this revolving door in the professional world, there tends to be long-term personal friendships that come with it—where those charged with public oversight of industry, and the leaders and lobbyists of that industry, are friends, former colleagues, donors, campaign supporters, advisors, advertisers, confidantes, guests at your wedding, participants at politician’s golf tournaments, and so on. It's the degree of social integration between political authorities and power brokers in the industry that should concern all of us, not just the breach of integrity that came before council.
There will be a vote on the next Chair of the Planning Committee at City Council. Let’s hope we don’t see the same ignoring of the public, and developer influence that we always do with the City Hall.
Democratically Created Secondary Plans Under Attack in Capital Ward
When the city allowed the community-derived Secondary Plan in Old Ottawa East to be so quickly undermined by a developer two years ago (despite overwhelming opposition from multiple quarters), we got a taste of just how influential the will of developers is in our city.
Unfortunately, more of our communities’ secondary plans are now under attack, furnishing us with more examples of our city being privately planned on a lot-by-lot basis. This isn’t about ‘nimbyism’ or ‘height’. Its about a democratically planned city and listening to residents who work tirelessly to ensure well-planned communities.
30-48 Chamberlain Ave
The staff report for the proposed development at 30-48 Chamberlain Ave is a major disappointment. It is a change in staff position after a public meeting that initially challenged the developer to do better. The report is at odds with what the existing Official Plan would suggest is appropriate for this sort of lot, and it is at odds with the forthcoming secondary plan for the area (Height and Character Study), putting the latter at risk.
This developer was invited to participate in the creation of the forthcoming secondary plan for this area through the Height and Character Study but refused all offers to collaborate from city staff. Instead, the developer is moving ahead with a plan to undermine the findings, the integrity and the defensibility of this democratic study only a short time before it is to be adopted as city policy, leaving residents—who spent the last two years engaging in a deliberative and consultative process with city planners—in the lurch.
Residents and our office were willing to negotiate and come up with a better compromise but the change in staff position, after significant lobbying by the developer and former Chair Harder’s support, has meant the developer is advantaged.
Residents are left feeling betrayed once again.
Bank & Riverside Developments
The Bank Street Secondary Plan, which was developed by community and staff less than 10 years ago—and is new enough to be included as part of the city’s new Official Plan—currently has two developers trying to change it to allow for a sky scraper (34-storeys) and taller high-rises (26- and 31-storeys) to be located where the developers want them to be, and not where the community had planned for them (closer to the major transit station).
Developments are being concurrently proposed on both sides of the Bank St and Riverside Dr intersection just south of billings bridge. The community’s plan for this intersection already called for a significant increase to density (up to 16-storeys along Bank St).
The two proposals would be located inside of the Riverside Drive traffic loop next to the dangerous Bank St and Riverside Dr intersection, where 200 accidents have occurred in the last 5 years and where lives have been lost. Some infrastructure improvements are coming to this stretch of Bank St, but nothing is currently slated for the intersection or for Billings Bridge.
Sufficient consideration of how infrastructure and other public realm needs would be met are desired but there are no details of how that would be accomplished. The city’s Urban Design Review Panel agreed when evaluating the proposed development on the east side of Bank (1335 & 1339 Bank St):
[UDRP] feels that too much density has been packed onto this small site and having the building envelope fill the site from corner to corner places too much pressure on the surrounding public lands. The proposed density should be reduced and more should be given back in terms of public realm treatment… If built as proposed, the two projects will combine to create more of a bottleneck than a gateway.
Bank Street in Old Ottawa South is a traditional mainstreet with a more human scaled urban design that is more conducive to an animated streetscape that fosters community and small business. We believe that this traditional mainstreet style should be extended, or better approximated, in the billings bridge area.
Again, however, it looks as though community plans will be trampled by the site-specific interests of developers: the city is recommending approval of the east side development, which will be coming to planning committee on July 8th. This is also within 400 metres of a major transit station but because the city does not yet have an inclusionary zoning policy for affordable housing, it will not qualify.
Consider letting members of council know that you think that community plans should be respected by signing up to delegate at Planning Committee (reply to this email).
2022 Budget Directions
Some city politicians will tell you that they want better services for everyone in Ottawa, but real political priorities are best discerned in the city’s budget. What our city chooses to spend money on reveals whether rhetoric matches reality. In Ottawa, there continues to be a disconnect.
Policing Over Public Health
We continue to see inadequate results from large spending on Ottawa’s police force, when we should be shifting to models more suitable to addressing mental health issues, which both saves money and lives. Last year, I put forward a motion to re-allocate funds from the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) projected budget increase to Ottawa Public Health (OPH). We then tried again to make a modest re-allocation of funds from policing to preventative measures that get results (reallocating revenues generated from Red Light Camera enforcement to go towards traffic calming measures).
We put forward another motion, however, which attempted to set the stage for a future budget re-allocation within the OPS budget in favour of alternative models of community safety response. This motion was successful, and members of the Police Board, including the Chair and the Chief, claimed they would be working toward a zero increase police budget. They have now come back saying they need to hire an ‘outside consultant’ and it could take another year to even consider a freeze.
Budget directions for the 2022 City budget will be voted on this month, and the directions report is calling for another large increase to the OPS budget ($13.5m, which would bring the total annual budget to just under $400m); meanwhile, our new commitment to OPH is again less than a $1 million increase while the pandemic and an overdose crisis continue in Ottawa.
I will be working with Councillor colleagues to once again push for a sensible reallocation of funds to the services that need it most in our city. The thinking of current city leadership is that giving more to developers and more to police will solve our problems. This hasn’t worked, and the 2022 budget is another chance for us to change course.
Consider letting members of council know your budget priorities by signing up to delegate at the Finance and Economic Development Committee (reply to this email).
City staff have developed a lengthy report on the possible future of Lansdowne Park. The report addresses the infrastructure needs of the park—including how to deal with the north side stands and civic centre—as well as how to better utilize the public amenities and animate the site in order to improve the day-to-day experience of residents.
This report will be reviewed at the FEDCO meeting this Tuesday, July 6 at 9:30 am and would go to Council July 21st if approved.
You can read the full report on our website.
We released a visioning document for the future of Lansdowne Park two years ago, and it can be found here.
If you would like to speak at the FEDO meeting, please contact Carole Legault at (613) 580-2424 x28934 or [email protected] or reply to this email.
You can also email your comments to Ms. Legault, though speaking at the meeting tends to have greater impact on the decisions made by Council.
The Ottawa Hospital
On Tuesday, June 29, the city and the Ottawa Hospital hosted a public consultation on the development of the new Civic Campus to be located at Dow’s Lake. The consultation was well-attended, with 230 residents logging on to get details of the proposal and raise concerns with the direction the development is taking.
While a new hospital is certainly a needed and welcome development for the city, there are serious concerns remaining about the current plans in this location. Residents are worried about the loss of greenspace, the inadequate transportation planning (LRT is not currently planned to be on the hospital site itself), the development of a 4-storey parking garage right by Dow’s Lake and the environmental impact of the development’s direction including how best to retain as many trees as possible.
This will be a long process, but it is important that we address these problems early in the process.
We have provided our preliminary feedback to the hospital’s developers and city planners. You can read it here.
As well, Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper has posted some of his concerns about the development on his website.
You can submit your feedback to the city here: https://engage.ottawa.ca/the-ottawa-hospital-master-plan
Residents 12 and older eligible for second dose after 28 days
Starting Monday July 5 at 8 am, residents who are 12 years old and older will be eligible to receive an accelerated second dose of COVID-19 vaccine 28 days after receiving their first. If you already have an appointment booked for an interval of longer than 28 days, you are encouraged to rebook for an earlier date.
To book a first or second dose appointment, visit Ontario.ca/bookvaccine to access the provincial booking system or call the provincial vaccine booking line at 1-833-943-3900 between 8 am and 8 pm, seven days a week. You may also be able eligible for vaccination at a pop-up clinic, local pharmacy, or at the Bruyère vaccine clinic.
You can also register daily on the new vaccine wait-list tool to book last-minute, same-day COVID-19 vaccinations at community clinics for unclaimed doses. These appointments can open up at any time during the day and registered residents will be contacted by Ottawa Public Health by text, email or phone as they become available.
If you have a second dose appointment scheduled in the provincial booking system and you end up booking another appointment elsewhere, please remember to cancel your original appointment. This will free up the old appointment for someone else.
- First Nation, Métis and Inuit populations
- Second doses
- Transportation to and from appointments
- Health cards
- Health care workers
- Searchable clinic map
Follow the City’s social media channels for updates on the provincial booking system. Sign up for the COVID-19 vaccination update e-subscription for regular news on the vaccine roll-out.