Boundary meeting a two-day marathon

WEST CARLETON – While City of Ottawa councillors and staff were able to host the meeting from the comfort of their own homes, a two-day joint committee meeting on urban boundary expansion was still a test of endurance as more than 100 delegations shared their opinion on city staff’s proposed changes.

On Monday (May 11) the city’s Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs (ARAC) committees hosted a joint meeting to consider city staff’s proposal on a growth management strategy. City staff studied three scenarios that would accommodate projected population growth which is an expected 400,000 new residents within the next 26 years.

City staff recommend the balanced scenario to to the joint committees – a scenario which accommodates 51 per cent of residential growth through intensification (building within the current urban boundary), with an intensification target that increases to 60 per cent in the 2041 to 2046 years. City staff also recommends the inclusion of a new urban residential and employment land expansion of between 1,350 to 1,650 hectares selected using already identified criteria on the basis of strategic additions to the urban employment land base. To put it in to perspective, one hectare is about the size of one sports field.

The main thrust of the joint committee meeting was a discussion on extending the urban boundary. To that end, 112 public delegations signed up to speak on the issue which made Monday’s meeting last in to the evening and a second full day on Tuesday running in to late afternoon.

ARAC chair Ward 5 Coun. Eli El-Chantiry spoke with West Carleton Online today (May 14) about the marathon meeting and next steps.

“We’re preparing for next week,” El-Chantiry said.

Next week on Tuesday (May 19) and Wednesday (May 20), the two committees will debate and discuss the issue as well as have the opportunity to ask city staff more questions based on the feedback received during the joint meeting. The committees will come to a decision to either recommend one of the city’s proposals or reject staff’s proposals and vote for no boundary expansion. The committees will forward their decision to council for approval. Those meetings will be virtually open to the public on the city’s YouTube channel starting at 9 a.m.

Ottawa's border and its current urban boundary. Courtesy City of Ottawa
Ottawa’s border and its current urban boundary. Courtesy City of Ottawa

“I’m looking forward to it,” El-Chantiry said. “It’s going to be a long couple of days, but it will be good.”

Looking back, El-Chantiry said this week’s joint meeting was huge in terms of delegations, but not the biggest he has been a part of. A couple of years ago, the meeting to discuss a Salvation Army so-called ‘mega-shelter’ proposed for the Vanier area drew more than 150 delegations. El-Chantiry says the public has a misconception about council’s goals.

“When people say we want intensification, they’re not telling the truth,” he said. “The city has not added land to the urban boundary in the last 16 years.”

El-Chantiry says that expansion included a piece of South March in the St. Isidore area.

And even if an expanded urban boundary is approved, “staff has to go back and make a business plan on each parcel of land,” El-Chantiry said.

During the joint meeting, El-Chantiry forwarded a notice of motion to protect prime agricultural land. The motion states “lands in an Agricultural Resource Area are to be excluded from any and all consideration as parcels for inclusion in the urban or village boundary,” and lands in an Agricultural Resource Area are not to be evaluated, considered or ranked in any way that would allow lands to be even remotely associated or considered for inclusion in expanded urban or village settlement areas.”

El-Chantiry expects the motion will pass at the council level.

“I think it will pass because most councillors want to protect agricultural land,” he said. “Especially during the pandemic, they understand the importance of food security. We need to protect that agricultural land. We need that food security.”

Bu El-Chantiry says he wants to make sure the rural villages can also be a target of intensification.

“The report recommends villages have the capacity to grow,” he said. “We need that growth in the villages. Look what happened in your hometown of Kinburn. You lost your school. You lost a church. In the last 10 years we’ve lost two schools and two churches. Growth in the villages doesn’t mean expansion of the boundaries. We need room to grow and expand. We’re going to be welcoming some 450,000 new people over the next several years.”

One of the goals of council is to create ’15-minute communities’ within the city, meaning a resident can find everything they need within 15 minutes of their home including employment.

“Carp is one,” El-Chantiry said. “You can get anywhere in the village in 15 minutes by foot. But to get a job is going to be a bit of a challenge. We know we have to support the rural economy. It was from this we established the Rural Economic Development Strategy.

El-Chantiry says he and city staff have worked hard to get input from the West Carleton community.

“We did a tour to show staff some of our rural businesses (July 24, 2019). We had two meetings after that involving the Carp Road Corridor Business Improvement Area (CRCBIA) and the Carp Village BIA. We had an Official Plan engagement session last September. The city’s economic development team was at the Carp Agricultural Hall last June. Transportation was the biggest issue to come out of that meeting. The community wants to see more options available.”

El-Chantiry says he feels the staff’s proposal discussed at this week’s joint meeting, and his motion, were in line with what he is hearing in his community.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve got lots of positive feedback. I heard back positively from seven or eight large operation farmers. They were pretty happy. I read a couple of those letters at council. The minute you lose five acres of agricultural land, you never get it back. We do hear from some agricultural landowners who were hoping to be able to use the land for development. I ask them if it was agricultural land when they bought it. The zoning hasn’t changed on that land in the last 50 to 100 years”

One of the local delegations to speak at the joint meeting was the CRCBIA’s board chair Wayne French and executive director Roddy Bolivar.

French said the CRCBIA already has the ability to serve the city’s employment land needs.

“Our members anticipate the 450 hectares of vacant land within the CRCBIA can go a long way to meeting the city’s planning needs,” French told the joint meeting committee members Monday (May 11) morning via tele-link.

French said the land is already zoned for light industry and warehousing and is strategically located near a 400-series highway. Currently the CRCBIA has more than 4,000 employees working on the several businesses in the designated area. It is also Ottawa’s largest stock of vacant employment land.

“The CRCBIA supports the recommendation for a balanced approach,” Bolivar told the joint committees. “Affordability of land is becoming a challenge.”

Bolivar said the CRCBIA has proposed three policy ideas to city staff with the main thrust being providing services such as connecting the CRCBIA to nearby city water services available in Stittsville.

  • Official Plan (OP) Policy Strategy 1: OP Policy Strategy 1: Strategy 1: A policy in the OP directing a City led risk based examination of the land use and economic outcomes from Provincial direction for rural land use planning – the dated 1996 Provincial D-5-4 (septic systems) and D-5-5 (wells) guidelines;
  • OP Policy Strategy 2: OP Policy Strategy 2: Strategy 2: A policy in the OP directing and including a framework within which to balance new cost to the City with broad scale economic benefit including opportunity for stimulus from allowing servicing of parts or all of the Corridor;
  • OP Policy OP Policy Strategy 3: A policy in the OP directing creation of a City design guideline for the technical elements of rural employment area subdivision and lot level development and in particular a risk based approach for integration of stormwater management, groundwater protection and economic development.

“We think there are opportunities for the city to maximize the land here,” he said. “Fifty-five per cent of vacant industrial land in the city is in the corridor and we look forward to working with you to maximize that land. Are there any new ideas out there, or old ideas that weren’t used properly that we can go back to? We’ve brought ideas to city staff in the past and staff have responded positively, and we have more ideas.”

Bolivar says the CRCBIA will continue to work with the city to encourage further developing the area’s existing employment land while continuing to lobby to bring city service to the area.

“There are many factors which impact the efficient use of land,” Bolivar told West Carleton Online following the meeting. “Those factors can be used to ‘change the equation’ that past development predicts future need.  We wish to engage with the city on what flexibility there is in existing policies and look for new policies which can help extend how long existing designated lands will serve needs.”