Canada

Community groups call for Ontario government to reject council-approved official plan

As of Friday, the city hadn’t yet sent the official plan to the minister for approval. That could happen next week.

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Several community leaders have jointly written a letter to Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, asking him to reject the official plan recently endorsed by a majority of Ottawa city council.

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Daniel Buckles, who has helped coordinate the People’s Official Plan project in response to the city’s official plan, said they knew chances were slim that they could convince the Ontario Progressive Conservative government to overturn council’s decision.

“I would say that they’re low, but not zero,” Buckles said Friday.

Council approved the new official plan in October, charting a course for development to accommodate a population increase of 402,150 over 25 years. The final step before the official plan truly becomes official is a sign-off by the minister, Clark.

As of Friday, the city hadn’t yet sent the official plan to the minister for approval. That could happen next week.

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The most politically divisive part of the plan was the urban boundary expansion that would add 1,281 hectares of new development land to the edges of the suburbs and in a new satellite community promoted by the Algonquins of Ontario and Taggart Group.

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The community leaders representing 21 organizations are interested in the provincial government’s approach to Tewin, especially since the ministry asked questions about it earlier this year.

“The ministry has itself has raised a number of concerns about Ottawa’s official plan, concerns particularly related to the Tewin project and whether it meets the objectives of the official plan and Provincial Policy Statement that the minister is required to enforce,” Buckles said.

The community leaders are urging the minister to order the city to keep the urban boundary where it is today.

They also draw the minister’s attention to the distribution of residential density, the creation and protection of affordable housing, targets for trees and green space, security of food and agricultural land and the impacts on climate change when he considers the official plan.

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Buckles said they had arguments that should make a conservative-leaning government take notice, such as the cost to taxpayers for expanding transportation infrastructure, including public transit.

“The public cost of expansion is very high and provincial government is concerned about a balanced budget, both of the province and by municipalities,” Buckles said.

The letter starts with a graphic created by local artist Magdalene Carson, contrasting “the future we want,” featuring O-Train lines and residential density (and, sneakily, a hospital at Tunney’s Pasture), with “the future we’re getting,” suggesting traffic jams, torn up agriculture land and blocks of homes.

It’s not the only letter the minister can expect to receive when it comes to Ottawa’s new official plan.

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The Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association confirmed that it, too, will be sending a letter.

The homebuilder association has warned the city about not including enough urban expansion lands in the suburbs and the challenge of building more than half of all new homes in established communities, as the new official plan dictates.

According to Buckles, the community groups were confident the homebuilder association would send a letter to the minister talking about the urban boundary expansion, which prompted them to write their own letter to “counterbalance” the argument.

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