WEST CARLETON – The Carleton Landowners’ Association (CLA) past president says Monday’s (Sept. 23) Official Plan (OP) Engagement Session is an opportunity to make sure the rural voice is heard during the re-writing of Ottawa’s guiding document.
City of Ottawa staff and councillors have been working on a major rewrite of the OP for the better part of the last year. The OP will map out the city’s future for the next 25 years or more. The city says it has engaged more than 15,000 residents during the process. The city hosted a workshop in Carp last June and the Carp Road Corridor Business Improvement Area says the city has accepted their input.
Monday’s session, hosted by Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, is an opportunity for rural residents, agricultural businesses and small businesses outside of the BIA’s territory to provide their concerns and comments.
Carleton Landowner Association past president and Stonecrest Road resident Shirley Dolan spoke with West Carleton Online yesterday (Sept. 19) on the importance of rural residents giving their input and the OP process in general.
“I’m interested in two things with the OP,” Dolan said. “The direction and the process.”
Despite the City of Ottawa being more than 80 per cent rural in geography, Dolan worries that area is not getting the focus it deserves.
“There are a lot of documents on the website and I haven’t read them all, but it does seem very urban focused,” she said. “I’m glad to see Eli have this meeting, but I think we need more rural input.”
The city has used a variety of methods to provide input and has even formed a rural ambassadors’ group that includes West Carleton’s Ken Holmes, a well-known activist on rural issues such as Internet service and road quality.
“I was very pleased to see the ambassadors’ group and than Ken is sitting on it,” Dolan said. “I wouldn’t even have known about the ambassadors if I didn’t know Ken. Hopefully Eli’s meeting will spotlight this group.”
Dolan is concerned the city’s Number One method of communicating OP news is through the Internet.
“Some of those documents have to be downloaded before you can read them,” Dolan said. “I understand that is very cost efficient but many people in the rural area don’t use the Internet, the service isn’t always great. It always goes back to doing things online. I know that’s the most cost-effective way of doing things, but maybe not the best way to get people involved.”
Last August the city released its Five Big Moves, the themes the city thinks will be its focus as it moves through the re-write. The new OP will be the direction for such things as land use planning, economic growth and will guide the development and evolution of communities. Dolan says the CLA has a few priorities for the rural landowners to be addressed by the OP. Those include waste to energy; new technologies for septic and wells; better Internet; and less red tape for rural severances.
“Those came out of our Sept. 9 meeting and I thought they were good suggestions,” Dolan said.
As far as transportation is concerned, Dolan is mulling over the idea of a ring road – a road that circles the city providing an efficient way for motorists to get around to the rural community without having to drive through the downtown.
“I could see that as something the city might be interested in especially if they want to reduce downtown traffic,” she said. “That will put more traffic on the rural roads, but I think it’s worth taking a look at.”
Some community leaders in West Carleton talk about bringing back the Rural Summit, a day long event of meetings and workshops that have happened in the past, but not recently. The city hosted two so-called Rural Summits in the past.
“I go back and forth on Rural Summits,” Dolan said. “Mostly I’m not in favour of it, but this time, with such a narrow focus such as the OP, I’m for it.”
Dolan says all these factors are why attendance at Monday’s meeting is so important. The 5 Big Themes process for input closes at the end of September.
“It’s a busy, busy time with elections, harvest and back to school,” Dolan said. “I’d like to see something a little long than one-and-a-half hours. Face-to-face is the most effective. I do think the city is putting an effort in to engaging the public, but mostly over the Internet.”