Ottawa groups want to know how park money is spent

A City of Ottawa program keeps the amount of money available for park construction and redevelopment hidden from the public, but some groups want that to change.

Cash-in-lieu program leaves financial decisions up to city councillor

This lot has piqued the interest of Katherine Hobbs, councillor for the Kitchissippi ward. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

Some Ottawa community groups want a say in where and when park land is built or redeveloped in their area because a cash-in-lieu program at the city puts the plans solely in the hands of their councillor.

A current system at the City of Ottawa has developers pay the city cash in lieu when they don’t include any park space on their project site.

Councillors are then given more than half of that money to spend on creating new parks or fixing up old ones, but the public is not given a say in what work the councillors want done.

Fisher Park was recently redeveloped with the cash in lieu of parkland fund. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

Coun. Katherine Hobbs, who represents the Kitchissippi ward, has received about $4 million through the program as her area is busy with a lot of construction.

She said her office has spent more than half of that and now Hobbs wants to buy a vacant lot on Wellington Street in Hintonburg and turn it into a community garden.

The same idea was used to revamp Fisher Park nearby and community groups support that, but they don’t agree with the process.

Community groups want open meeting

Linda Hoad, a member of the Hintonburg Community Association, said her group was surprised by Hobbs’ idea at a recent meeting.

“No one had heard of this project. There’s been absolutely no consultation,” Hoad said.

Hoad and Lorne Cutler, president of the Hampton-Iona Community Association, said all Kitchissippi community groups should hold an open meeting to discuss how the money is spent from the cash-in-lieu program.

Hoad said she asked the program to make public the amount of cash in lieu available one year ago, but that has not happened.

Lorne Cutler is president of the Hampton-Iona Community Association, one of the Kitchissippi community groups not happy with how the cash in lieu of parkland fund is being handled. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

But Hobbs defended the program and said she has a priority list for deciding on what parks should get revamped. That includes criteria for how badly upkeep is needed.

The councillor also argued the community is consulted “widely” for each redevelopment project funded by cash in lieu.

“Not everything is driven by the community association. There are 5,000 people in Hintonburg and I get lots of requests,” Hobbs said.

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