OTTAWA – While numbers are expected to be absolutely terrible in the year of COVID-19, Ottawa’s Planning committee heard of growth in 2019 during today’s (Sept. 24) meeting.

 Ottawa’s economy grew in 2019, according to the annual development report.

“The committee received the report, which tracks a variety of demographic information and indicates solid job growth and a low unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent,” city staff released in a statement today (Sept. 24). “Ottawa saw strong employment with the number of employed residents increasing by 5.8 per cent from 2018 to 2019.”

 Ottawa’s population grew 1.5 per cent in 2019, rising to 1,006,211 by the end of the year.

“The city saw a 1.6-per cent increase in the number of households, along with 7,069 new housing starts to ensure space for the growing population,” staff said.

The City’s Planning committee approved a new zoning strategy to “better balance front-yard features with soft landscaping and tree planting.”

“This landscape-first approach would help maintain the streetscape character in older communities as the city continues to encourage more higher-density dwellings in established neighbourhoods,” staff said. “The biggest challenge when introducing more units or larger homes to an established neighbourhood has been balancing the community’s desire to retain trees and landscaped yards against the demand for driveways, walkways and projections on narrower lots. The new strategy would require setting aside a fixed percentage of the front yard and corner side yard for landscaping before the City would permit a driveway, walkway or other projection.”

The changes would impact 12 wards: Bay, College, Knoxdale-Merivale, Gloucester-Southgate, Beacon Hill-Cyrville, Rideau-Vanier, Rideau-Rockcliffe, Somerset, Kitchissippi, River, Capital and Alta Vista.

The committee also approved changes to the definition of what constitutes a minor zoning amendment in the Planning Fees Bylaw, which is subject to lower fees.

“By reducing financial barriers, the city aims to encourage new small businesses, grow existing businesses and help with economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19,” staff said. “Right now, amendments that seek to add a new permanent land use to a site are automatically classified as major.”

Based on a review of the last five years of applications, staff propose some such requests could be classified as minor, given the staff time involved. The cost to the city would be negligible while the impact on individual applicants would be significant, lowering fees by about $9,500 per application.

Recommendations from today’s Planning committee meeting will rise to council on Wednesday, Oct. 14.