Mark: The South March switcheroo

Many things have been postponed or cancelled in the last 12 months, but one thing that COVID-19 hasn’t hindered is our real estate market and the prospect of development for West Carleton.

It’s not hard to imagine what the next five years will bring us as many of the long-standing empty lots and farm fields have sprung to life with bulldozers, excavators, trailers and future sales centres.

A column header for Jon Mark.

The South March development has been on the table for a decade, and you can’t stop progress, but you can make sure it’s done right.

It has been discussed, debated and ultimately anticipated. But big projects bring people and people bring problems. About 9,000 new people, in fact, along with a fire station and four or five new schools.

Indeed, the plan is moving ahead despite some recent committee maneuvering at City Hall with a west-to-east switcheroo spearheaded by longtime Ward 5 Coun. Eli El-Chantiry.

What will this area look like while under construction with all the gravel trucks, dust, lane closures and heavy equipment? How much time will be added to our daily commutes, if that is what we are still doing?

“Can you imagine? It’ll be choked, there is only one way in” El-Chantiry said. “And they took all that time. So, when they dropped widening March Road (as part of the deal), we found another good opportunity with the Tewin people in the east end.”

Moving forward with the project and not widening March Road doesn’t seem to work either.

In fact, it would likely be a disaster.

So, because of this, the second parcel; 175 hectares on Dunrobin Road, North to Murphy Side Road/ Constance Lake Road is off the table for this consortium of developers.

In a jointly released press release from Claridge Homes, Multivesco, Uniform, and EQ Homes – it stated the group is “incredibly surprised” and disappointed in this turn of events.

They also went on to suggest politics got in the way and this unprecedented motion actually cuts against the city’s own scoring system for development. They went on to call this move ‘a step backwards in their supposed step in to the future with a new official plan. It has taken one of the biggest employment nodes and one of the only true 15-minute communities out of the equation that these same politicians drew up to start the process.”

El Chantiry says they have no one to blame but themselves, and now that parcel has been bundled up with some other developable lands and proposed them to the Algonquins of Ontario; the total coming to 445 hectares just west of Carlsbad Springs between Mitch Owens, Boundary Road, Ramsayville and Leitrim Roads.

The developers seemed to be of the opinion the development fees would have been more than enough to cover the upgrades on March Road, but El Chantiry says the city has not seen any of that money to date. Development fees in Ottawa are not cheap and run $30,000 to $40,000 per unit.

My guess is there was a face-off with some tight-fisted poker playing going on, and the city slammed down a hard political trump card.

The Tewin Project certainly has a nice little socio-political benefit to it, as it goes hand in glove with reconciliation efforts – while showing the world what a pro-active, nice, progressive city Ottawa really is.

And no surprise here, with Coun. El-Chantiry fronting the motion, that the mayor is also putting his weight behind, this switch in direction in spite of staff recommendations and the scoring system that the developers alluded to in their press release.

Claridge Homes did not respond to my phone inquiry by press time.

So ,the question remains, what will West Carleton look like in five years?

And if the councillor’s motion passes at council next week, I guess the answer is; not as much as it might have. 

El Chantiry has long stated “we can grow, but we need to grow wisely. I know further development (in West Carleton) would benefit a few, but most would suffer severely.”

Personally, for developers to cry politics at City Hall is like a hockey player complaining about losing some teeth in front of the net. And love him or hate him, there is no doubt that our mayor’s fingerprints are all over this switcheroo.

It’s just the kind of political masterstroke that fuels his fire and makes him so very tough in the trenches.

This has left the small cabal of progressives on council with a neat little giftwrapped conundrum – and likely nothing much left to say.

Council will vote on this Feb. 10.  More to follow.

Jon ‘Gonzo’ Mark is a radio personality with Boom 99.7 FM on the Afternoon Drive Show. Mark has more than 20 years experience on the air as a DJ and broadcaster. He was the voice of the Toronto Argonauts in 2001 and 2002. Mark moved to Dunrobin in 2009, helped launch Virgin Radio Ottawa and anchored the Gonzo Show on 106.9 FM The Bear. Mark ran for the City of Ottawa Ward 5 councillor position in the 2014 municipal election. Mark writes a monthly column on a variety of issues concerning the residents of West Carleton.