Looking back at 2016

With 2017 and Canada’s 150th year-long birthday celebration merely days away, it’s time to look back at 2016 for a year in review. The past twelve months were busy with many issues directly impacting rural Ottawa. It was also a year for progress on several files and increased planning on many more.

2016 was a year of progress. More of Rideau-Goulbourn’s roads saw improvements with varying degrees of upgrades conducted on Bridge Street, Royal York Street, Ottawa Street, Moodie Drive, Mackey Road and Flewellyn Road. The village of Kars finally saw the end of construction on Rideau Valley Drive South and the end result was a main street that actually feels like a village main street. We reached a conclusion in our efforts to protect and promote Dickinson Square as a heritage district with the retention of the Carriage Shed and Dickinson House in City ownership. We also began construction on the new Remembrance Park on Dickinson Street, a beautiful addition to the Square. In North Gower, the Alfred Taylor Recreation Centre was the recipient of a new canteen building and new play equipment.

2016 was a year of controversy. City Council had many issues before it that were polarizing. In April, we brought forward a Vehicle-For-Hire By-Law creating a new policy in which ridesharing companies like Uber could legally operate within the City of Ottawa. At the same time, we loosened some of the regulations on the taxi industry recognizing the fact that, over the years, the industry had become over-regulated. In October, Council instituted a new Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rate Structure creating a system where the water and sewer rate budget can be managed in a more predictable manner with the aim of avoiding large rate hikes in the future. The new structure also balanced cost recovery of stormwater services across the City imposing a new fee on approximately 45,000 properties and lowering the fee on others. Earlier this month, Council approved an update to the Land Evaluation & Area Review which saw several changes to land designations, altering some from General Rural to Agricultural Resource Area and vice versa. Last, but not least this year, the City’s Public Library Board proposed a site for the future home of the Central Library. The new home is proposed to be at 557 Wellington Street, approximately 1.2 km west of the existing home at 120 Metcalfe.

2016 was also a year for community collaboration. The Remembrance Park became a reality thanks to the hard work of local residents and various community organizations, including the Manotick Legion. The preservation of Dickinson Square wouldn’t have been possible without Dickinson Square Heritage Management Inc., a group that represents over a dozen local organizations. The Manotick Arena Expansion is inching closer to construction thanks to groups like the Manotick Culture, Parks & Recreation Association. Community groups in Richmond have all come together to start planning the village’s bicentennial celebrations in 2018. Community organizations are what make our communities ever greater. My job would be impossible without them for which I am grateful. Whether it’s Burritt’s Rapids, Ashton, Fallowfield Village or any community in between, the countless local organizations work in partnership with my office, each other and the City to the benefit of all of us and that was never more obvious to me than in these past twelve months.

I hope that everyone had a pleasant Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year. See you in 2017!

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.

Review of the Final 2016 Council Meeting

I want to begin this week by acknowledging the unfortunate incident that took place on Bridge Street late last week. Without knowing all of the details, I’ll refrain from speculation but assure you that I will be working with the City and Ottawa Police to determine what happened and how such an incident could have been avoided. My thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by this incident.

5721-5741 Manotick Main Street

During the review of the Manotick Secondary Plan, I hosted a meeting to speak specifically about vacant lands throughout the village and how those lands could be developed. It was an opportunity for the community to determine the future of these lands rather than waiting for a developer to come in and do it for us. One such property that was discussed was the vacant parcels at the south end of the village, directly across from Century Road East, sandwiched in between Kelly Marie Drive and Island View Drive. These lands are 5721, 5731 and 5741 Manotick Main Street.

Following our meeting on January 22nd, 2015, Regional Group begun acquiring these parcels and put together a development proposal akin to their eQuinelle project in Kemptville and similar in nature to their Village Walk development in Manotick. While I briefly highlighted this proposal at my November 15th Town Hall meeting, there will also be a public meeting held on Thursday, January 19th, between 7:00pm and 9:00pm at the Manotick Arena to discuss this proposal. I hope to see you there. For more information about this proposal, please visit www.ottawa.ca/devapps.

December 14th Council Meeting

The final City Council meeting of 2016 was a busy one. In addition to the 2017 Budget, we had 46 items on the agenda. Eighteen of those items rose directly from the November 24th meeting of the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee. While the main items were the Budget and the Land Evaluation & Area Review (LEAR), Council also approved a new Medical Centre project in Richmond and a bid to host the 2021 Canada Games.

I would like to focus on the approval of the LEAR, though, in follow up to some recent columns on the matter. As part of 17 motions that were approved on the LEAR at Council, some minor changes, additions and deletions were made. We approved further studies into some lands around the village of Munster. We approved an expansion of the employment area south of Fallowfield Road along Moodie Drive. We also approved something else, though, that I voted against. It was a redesignation of 5504 Spratt Road from Agricultural Resource to General Rural.

5504 Spratt Road is the property directly behind the Tim Horton’s at the corner of Mitch Owens and River Road. It is a 66 acre parcel currently used primarily as pasture lands. However, it was subject to an Official Plan Amendment application several years ago which sought to bring the property inside the Manotick village boundary. Following that, a large commercial development would have been applied for. At the time, the City was opposed and the application was eventually withdrawn. A big-box retail development on the outskirts of a village is not consistent with any City policy. Another key factor at the time was the Agricultural zoning of the property.

Through the LEAR, however, the property owner brought forward a soils evaluation that suggests the property falls below the threshold for agricultural designation. Working in favour of that position is the fact that the property is surrounded primarily by residential development and is also used as pasture lands rather than for crops. Ironically, the residential lands north of this property were actually better farmland. Since the study supported a lower LEAR score, staff brought forward a change is designation for this property, which was approved.

Any development, aside from a couple of severances, on this property in the short term is unlikely. Policies are still in place that would not support retail or large scale residential on this property. My vote in opposition to this change was primarily for historical reasons. I do not approve of how the Official Plan Amendment was sought previously and I feel this is merely another avenue to achieve that goal. A retail development in this location would negatively impact surrounding communities, especially the village core of Manotick.

The LEAR will now go to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for approval with any changes requested coming back to Council. The Minister has 180 days to respond. An appeal period will then open following Provincial approval with an Ontario Municipal Board hearing process to follow. The LEAR, and the entire Official Plan, will not be completely approved until the OMB hearings take place. The projected timeline for this brings us into 2018.

Messenger Changes

As reported in last week’s Messenger, there will be changes to the frequency. With only two editions monthly, I will do my best to keep residents informed and up to date. I’ll also have to be cognizant of timelines for meetings and ensure that we are giving ample notification. This will place more emphasis on the value of our monthly e-Newsletter as well, which you can sign up for at rideaugoulbourn.ca. We send out our e-Newsletter each month one week before the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee meeting allowing us to highlight the agenda.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.

Land Evaluation & Area Review (LEAR)

There has been much discussion in recent weeks about the City of Ottawa’s update to its Land Evaluation & Area Review (LEAR). The purpose of a LEAR is to identify prime agricultural areas using several factors in addition to soil class, in order to establish an agricultural designation in the Official Plan. The LEAR is used as a tool to then help designate Agricultural Resource Areas across the City.

The Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton identified the existing Agricultural Resource Area in 1997 using a LEAR system. Key components of the LEAR system are soil capability for agriculture, land use and parcel size. New soils mapping and changes in land use and the size and nature of farms in the city over the last 20 years warrant re-examining and updating the existing LEAR system. The Ontario Municipal Board has also directed the City to complete this update.

The Statutory Public Meeting required by the Planning Act to consider the amendment and submissions from the public was held on the 22nd of November at Planning Committee. The report also came to the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee on November 24th. The report will now rise to City Council at its meeting on December 14th. If you did not submit comments to either Committee, you can still do so up until the Council meeting. Council will be considering objections submitted in writing up until it makes a decision on December 14th.   Written submissions received before December 9th will be reviewed by staff and if agreed to motions for change will be presented to Council. All submissions must include the reasons why the existing or proposed designation should be changed - this should include soil sampling and independent assessment in accordance with the LEAR model.

There have been some changes in the LEAR system that the City is using now versus what was used in 1997. Some of the weighting has changed and the threshold for lands to be considered agriculture was lowered from 130 to 125. This was the recommendation from City staff. In their involvement through the LEAR update, they discovered that some lands were scored artificially higher in 1997. The idea was that, since the City lacks substantial Class 1 lands that the scores would reflect that and Class 2 and 3 lands were given higher scores and that trickled down somewhat. For this review, a more scientific approach was taken and it was determined that 125 was a more appropriate threshold. Ultimately, the difference in the LEAR mapping is negligible and much of the land proposed to be designated as Agricultural Resource Area actually ranks higher than 130 regardless. Having said that, lands that score below 125 can sometimes get bundled with lands that score much higher and the City evaluates the lands based on 250 hectare parcels, not individual properties.

Following the December 14th Council decision on LEAR, there are still opportunities to have appeals addressed. Request for changes to Agriculture designations can be submitted to staff with supporting material (soil sampling and independent assessment in accordance with the LEAR model). Staff would review and where they agree, these could be provided to Council for Council to make submissions to the Ministry before the Minister’s decision is given on OPA 2016. Any modifications to the Official Plan Amendment would have to be agreed to by the Minister. Once the Minister makes his/her decision, those wanting to appeal then have 20 days from the date the Minister issues the decision to register their appeal with the Minister and stating the reasons for the appeal.

To retain a right to appeal, written submissions must be provided to the City prior to Council making a decision on OPA 2016 on December 14, 2016. After an appeal is lodged there is a period where mediation is encouraged. This provides an opportunity for Council to consider additional information provided as part of the appeal and which may not have been available earlier.

Submissions can be made to planning@ottawa.ca and addressed to Bruce Finlay. Please contact me should you have any questions regarding the LEAR update and the recommended Agricultural Resource Area designations.

Dickinson House

On December 3rd and 4th, between 10:00am and 4:00pm, come and celebrate the Season by making a Victorian styled Christmas ornament at Dickinson House. Ideas and craft supplies are provided, and the young and young at heart can bring home a lovely memento. Admission to the House and the crafts are free of charge. Donations toward the upkeep of the House are always welcome. 

Continuing to celebrate an old time Christmas at the House, there will be a reading of A Christmas Carol at 2:00pm on December 11th and 18th; hot chocolate, shortbread and fruitcake will be served at intermission.  Tickets are $5.00, and children under 12 are free. To reserve a seat, please call 613-692-6455, or purchase your ticket at Manotick Office Pro. The House will open at 1:30pm on the days of the reading.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.