OTTAWA – The city’s Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs (ARAC) committees will meet jointly on Monday, Jan. 25 to consider which lands should be brought inside Ottawa’s urban boundary, in line with the growth management strategy council adopted last May.

“Residents interested in providing feedback to the committees are encouraged to review the draft report, which recommends not only lands to accommodate new neighbourhoods but also industrial lands to accommodate employment projections,” city staff released in a statement today (Jan. 15).

Using council-approved evaluation criteria, city planning staff scored blocks of land to accommodate new neighbourhoods, prioritizing those next to existing communities. Selected lands were further validated to encourage growth near existing commercial areas and existing or planned transit hubs.

The report recommends approving 1,011 hectares of category 1 lands – those deemed to best meet evaluation criteria. The report lays out several options to identify an additional 270 hectares from parcels initially rated category 2 or 3, although such lands would need to meet certain conditions before they could be brought within the urban boundary in the future.

“City council approved a growth management strategy to deliver a measured expansion of our urban boundary and to enhance the formation of 15-minute neighbourhoods across our city, Mayor Jim Watson said. “Later this year we hope to approve a New Official Plan for the City, which will position Ottawa for success over the next quarter century.”

The report also recommends adding to Ottawa’s supply of vacant lands to accommodate industrial-related jobs. Staff recommend adding 140 hectares near Highway 417 at Carp Road and near Highway 416 at Barnsdale Road.

“I represent a rural ward and I’m particularly pleased with the proposal to establish a Gold Belt that would protect valuable agricultural resources and help ensure food security in this region,” Ward 5 Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said. “As the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee chair, I recognize the need for our city to grow, but I’m encouraged that staff have recognized we have reasonable alternatives to do so without touching important agricultural lands.”

The amount of land being considered stems from the Provincial Policy Statement, which requires the city maintain enough land to accommodate residential growth for at least 15 years. Staff review the city’s land supply annually and would report back to council no later than 2026 to ensure supply remains compliant.

The committees will discuss further protecting agricultural lands by establishing a Gold Belt outside the urban boundary – similar to Ottawa’s cherished Greenbelt. Named to reflect harvest colours, the proposed Gold Belt includes agricultural resource lands, natural areas and mineral aggregate resource areas. Together, they create an additional boundary for communities like Barrhaven, Riverside South, Stittsville and Orléans.

“With more robust intensification goals and rules requiring minimum densities, this Gold Belt would be an additional policy tool to limit outward growth in Ottawa for the rest of the century,” city staff said.

Leapfrogging over the Gold Belt would be prohibited. Existing lands between the Greenbelt and the Gold Belt meet Ottawa’s immediate growth needs. If approved, the Gold Belt would be established in the new Official Plan to help contain future urban expansions until the end of the century.

Members of the public can provide written submissions through the committee coordinator and can also speak for up to five minutes at the Monday, Jan. 25 meeting. Those interested in speaking during the meeting should refer to the process outlined as Annex A of the agenda.