OP needs to respect rural landowners

CARP – Last week’s Official Plan (OP) engagement session brought out a big crowd and has the councillor and the community ambassador relatively pleased with the outcome.

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry hosted the engagement session On Monday, Sept. 23 in the Roly Armitage Hall of the West Carleton Community Complex.

“We have a great opportunity to share ideas on the new OP tonight,” Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said at the time. “Let’s focus on the opportunity to provide feedback.”

There were about 10 City of Ottawa staff on hand to answer questions and facilitate the process and Business and Technical Support Service Manager Charmaine Forgie led the initial conversation regarding the OP.

She said the city has reached approximately 25,000 people through various engagement methods as council and staff put together the city’s guiding plan for the next 25 years. The city is planning for a population that is expected to grow from one million to 1.4 million residents by 2046 and three million by 2100. She said the city has been pro-active about collecting input.

“This time we’re going out to the community,” Forgie said. “In the past we asked you to go down to City Hall. We’d get the same people out. If we got 400 out, I knew 380 of them my name.”

West Carleton Online knew many of the roughly 53 residents at the Kinburn engagement session by name. Community leaders such as former West Carleton mayor Dwight Eastman, community association members Judy Makin, Allan Joyner and Angela Bernhardt, business leaders Roddy Bolivar and a handful of developers, community volunteers such as Mary Braun, Shirley Dolan, Tamara Awada and Stan Carruthers – a real broad representation of the West Carleton community.

Following the opening pep talk, the group divided in to smaller groups to discuss the 5 Big Moves in round-table format.

“This is the very beginning of the process,” Forgie said. “In no way what the document looks like now, will it look like at the end of the process.”

Although Forgie added she “didn’t see a lot of significant changes in the rural aspects of the plan, but there are things that need improvement.”

The consultation period goes to the end of October. Council will consider policy directive and the growth management strategy in December. The draft OP will be presented to city council in June of 2020. It will remain in draft form for eight months as staff and council continue to work on it with the expectation council will adopt the plan in March of 2021.

Those in attendance were given an hour to provide feedback on the 5 Big Moves.

Following the input session and the closing of the engagement session, Ward 5’s first councillor, Eastman spoke to West Carleton Online about the concerns he is hearing.

“People are concerned with the rural way of life,” Eastman said. “Our villages are dying on the vine, our roads are in terrible condition but there were a lot of good ideas at the table and people are happy to take advantage of the opportunity to give their suggestions.”

Coun. El-Chantiry was pleased with the meeting’s turnout.

“It was a well attended session and the city received great comments and feedback from residents including topics involving land preservation; preserving rural gems like farmland and trees; limiting urban sprawl; Internet; transit; and business accessibility along Carp Road,” El-Chantiry released in a statement. “There are still plenty of opportunities for residents to have their say and be engaged in this OP update process.”

West Carleton Online ran in to Fitzroy Harbour resident Ken Holmes at the Carp Fair Sunday afternoon (Sept. 29). Holmes, who was also at the engagement session, has been picked as a community ambassador for the OP process. There are 24 to 30 community ambassadors across the city and their mandate is to be a working group providing advice and feedback on the OP. The group will be the primary mechanism for engaging diverse communities in the process of creating a new OP. The ambassadors don’t just represent geographical areas, but cultural groups as well.

Official Plan Community Ambassador and Fitzroy Harbour resident Ken Holmes spoke to West Carleton Online at the Carp Fair Sunday afternoon (Sept. 29). Photo by Jake Davies
Official Plan Community Ambassador and Fitzroy Harbour resident Ken Holmes spoke to West Carleton Online at the Carp Fair Sunday afternoon (Sept. 29). Photo by Jake Davies

The Ambassadors Working Group is chaired by city staff and the term of membership is two years beginning last May. They meet once a month and can also be part of ad-hoc sub-groups to work on specific issues.

Ambassadors were recommended to the city “to ensure community voices are heard,” Holmes said.

Holmes will represent rural groups, specifically those in west Ottawa. Holmes said he thinks last week’s engagement sessions was worthwhile.

“The evening worked out better than I expected,” he told West Carleton Online. “I liked the format but it’s a challenge to collect thoughts on all 5 Big Moves in an hour. It was a good process.”

Holmes has a website up he is also using to collect feedback from the community on the new OP (click the link to see some of the input he has received).

“We received about 400 pageviews in the first two weeks,” Holmes said.

He will leave the site up until at least next summer.

Holmes says he will be working with El-Chantiry to “boil the list down to 11 or 12 thoughts.”

Holmes says he has seen a unifying theme from the feedback he has received from the rural community. He says the city has to recognize the value of rural landowners.

“Landowners are generally good stewards of the land and have been for a very long time,” Holmes said. “We need to recognize that and not feel a need to put so many controls on the land. There’s a big difference between the urban and rural residents. Urban residents often rent, live in condos, or their homes are on small plots or their ownership is not long term. In rural areas, landowners often have larger pieces of land and live there for long periods of time.”

Holmes would also like to see the city develop a rural transportation department “that goes out and works on this, not just wait for ideas to come to them.”

Holmes mentions a transportation meeting hosted by the Huntley Community Association last April.

“Where’s the follow-up on that?” he said.

Holmes says he thinks the Community Ambassadors Working Group will be “very effective” in providing community input on the OP.

“We work much more directly with city staff,” he said.