WEST CARLETON – Consultants were faced with an existential question during the Sept. 22 rural-focused Ward Boundary Review session – If people don’t live there yet, does that make a large development an urban or a rural area? 

As round two of Ward Boundary Review public input comes to an end, the Zoom session specifically targeting the rural wards on Sept. 22 had the largest attendance yet.

The City of Ottawa held several public consultations, via Internet video, between Sept. 10 and Sept. 22. Three sessions were geared city wide and three more divided by urban, suburban and rural interests.

Consultants Beate Bowron and Dr. Gary Davidson
Consultants Beate Bowron and Dr. Gary Davidson lead the Sept. 22 public consult session. Courtesy Beate Bowron

The sessions were hosted and moderated by the independent consultants leading the review process Beate Bowron and Dr. Gary Davidson and focused on the six options presented to council.

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry signed up for every session.

“It was the biggest one yet,” El-Chantiry said of the Sept. 22 consult. “Quite well attended. Especially in the east end where much of the change is going to happen.”

Regardless of the option selected, West Carleton is set to get a little bigger as it returns to its 2005 boundary.

Although the Sept. 22 turnout was the largest of the consultation sessions, everything is relative. With a decision that affects every one of the 1,393,000 residents of Ottawa, 75 signed up to attend the rural consult and 49 actually logged on to the event.

“There was a lot of council and staff as well,” El-Chantiry said pointing out he and Coun. George Darouze had eight people logged in between the two of them.

El-Chantiry says most of the questions came from the east end.

“One of the biggest points is in North Cumberland where the majority seems to want to be with Orleans,” he said.

There was one interested party representing West Carleton. Huntley Community Association President Judy Makin was tuned in.

She told the consultants she’s “all for that,” referring to not mixing rural and suburban populations in the same ward – something the consultants repeatedly said they wanted to avoid.

Makin then pointed out all six options follow the March Valley and will add an area to West Carleton that is currently being prepped for 1,681 new units and expected to add potentially 8,000 new residents.

“I wonder why you didn’t use the urban boundary,” Makin asked.

“Council brought that up and we’re going to have to look at that,” Davidson replied. “We have to look at when they will start living there. We count people who can vote.”

The consultants say that development project is “probably the biggest one in the city.”

“That’s a fairly large number of people but we are looking at when they will be on the ground,” Davidson said. “We are definitely looking at this.”

El-Chantiry is also keeping his eye on this developing issue.

“There was a rule in the Ontario Municipal Board way back in 2003, I think,” El-Chantiry said. “Whenever something becomes urbanized, it should be included in the urban boundary. I will pay quite a bit of attention, but we all agree, if it should become urbanized, it should go to an urban ward.”

El-Chantiry says he keeps his other eye on the big picture.

“Some here are closer to Almonte than Ottawa,” El-Chantiry said. “Some on Herrick Drive are closer to Arnprior. The border is the border. I’ll say it again, we are elected in our ward, but out job is city-wide.”

There were also 2,000 surveys filled out by the public during the second consultation process. El-Chantiry says the results of those surveys should be available soon.