Building a Liveable Community Through Responsible Development
Capital Ward is a collection of long-established neighbourhoods with proximity to Ottawa’s downtown core making it a desireable place to live, work and play. It is also desireable as a development location, which presents significant challenges to communities as they seek to have their voices heard to ensure that new developments respect and enhance the character of the neighbourhood. There are currently two Community Design Plans and related Secondary Plans in the Ward which are meant to guide development within those corridors. However, many other areas are challenged by individual developments. Within this context, the City of Ottawa is undergoing a visioning process which will establish development for the future under the next Official Plan.
I believe the hopes and needs of local communities are especially important to a liveable community. As President of the GCA, I provided leadership to a very successful visioning exercise for Bank Street that implemented creative strategies for community engagement and informed discussions/negotiations with developers and the city. I also strongly promoted a more constructive approach that resulted in improved proposals, particularly with respect to “the Beer Store” site, and the Taggart building on Carling in Glebe Annex. Here is my plan for ensuring a stronger voice for communities and more responsive development:
A Better Planning Process
- Develop and embed “community expertise” in the planning and development to complement City staff’s planning expertise, with a view to increasing the responsiveness to community input in planning decisions. This would include a review and analysis of the current planning and development process, with a particular focus on innovative means of broadly engaging and balancing of all interests, a comparison of best practices from Canadian and international cities to inform the best options for Ottawa and a resource review to identify staff, training, process and technology investments required to achieve community-based planning decisions.
- Insist that planning recommendations abide Community Design Plans and related Secondary Plans and are supported by their respective councillors and communities; challenge planning recommendations without community support. Lead Capital Ward in providing input reflecting our local context into the development of the next Official Plan, ensuring priority is placed on our communities and values our neighbourhoods, to create a city that includes vibrant “Complete Communities” where people can live, work and play.
- Ensure a Vision is created for the numerous development projects planned in the near future near Carling and Bronson (e.g. Booth St, Canada Lands Company proposal, City property development etc) to create value for the community and mitigate development impacts.
- Establish city-wide and ward-specific targets for intensification to ensure appropriate and manageable growth across the city, which would be embedded in the new Official Plan.
- Work with staff/Planning Department to develop benchmarks/improved tools to measure key cumulative impacts – so that we know when we have either maxed out on density or reached point when we can’t reasonably increase or risk serious impacts related to overdevelopment. Such benchmarks could be provided to the Committee of Adjustment such that it can develop an understanding of the cumulative impact of variances on the character of a neighbourhood. Such benchmarks would address, for instance, community amenities, trees, greenspace, rainwater runoff, traffic impacts, and be established against internationally accepted indices of livability and sustainability.
- Lead Capital Ward community input on planning initiatives such as the R4 zoning review, to ensure a legal framework exists for development that is compatible with established neighbourhoods.
Traditional Mainstreet Development
- Establish certainty for development along Traditional Mainstreet and other commercial/retail corridors. In places where Community Design Plans exist (Old Ottawa East, Bank Street south of Rideau River), abide by and implement recommendations of CDPs. For other areas of the Ward, establish vision and legal planning documents, with thorough community engagement, to provide certainty for development, paying particular attention to what is most valued in neighbourhood character, appropriate interfacing with existing neighbouring low-rise residential buildings and increasing diversity of housing options.
- Work closely with City staff, neighbourhood businesses and existing Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) to promote vibrancy/health and character of TM
- Initiate a study to examine causes behind empty storefronts, derelict properties and incentives that inadvertently encourage vacancies and underdevelopment (e.g. reduced taxes when properties are vacant). Develop recommendations to reduce storefront vacancies.
New developments have the potential change the character of local communities, impact neighbours, liveability and sustainability of neighbourhoods and the success of traditional mainstreet businesses. The community often feels unheard and unheeded in development decisions. All of these perspectives must be considered appropriately to determine the best outcomes for communities.
As councillor, I will be a strong advocate for a better planning process that includes the community and neighbourhood perspectives and respects existing Community Design Plans, secondary plans and by-laws.