Barrhaven residents turn on councillor as gridlock worsens
Coun. Jan Harder calls concern over developer influence 'foolish beyond measure'
With yet another major subdivision awaiting approval at Ottawa city hall, many Barrhaven residents are growing increasingly frustrated by lagging infrastructure in their neighbourhood — and some are pointing the finger at their own councillor.
Developer Caivan recently applied to build another 900 homes, most of them townhouses, on 12.6 hectares of farmland off Greenbank Road. A decision is due in August.
Our problems with traffic and transit are just going to get worse.- Dave Lapointe, Half Moon Bay resident
The development is being proposed for an area near the Jock River that's already bustling with construction projects by Minto, Mattamy, Tamarack and Uniform.
Half Moon Bay resident Dave Lapointe can see Barrhaven's appeal, but accuses the city of failing to ensure all those new residents have roads to get to and from their homes.
"Because the planning committee is just rubber-stamping all of the projects developers put in front of them, our problems with traffic and transit are just going to get worse," Lapointe said.
'Foolish beyond measure'
Lapointe believes Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder, who chairs the city's planning committee, is in a conflict of interest because she accepts campaign donations from individuals within the development community, then casts votes deciding projects in which their companies are involved.
While those donations may be legal — a point Harder often underscores — Lapointe says the practice stains residents' perceptions of how decisions are made.
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"We all believe we elect these representatives to act in our best interests, and when we see that sort of thing it makes us doubt whether or not they're actually acting in our interest, or in the interests of other third parties," he said.
Statements from Harder's 2018 campaign show she raised $38,850 in campaign donations. An analysis by CBC News found at least 83 per cent of the total dollar amount of those donations came from individuals with ties to the local development industry.
Asked about residents' concerns that her relationships with developers could influence her decisions on planning committee, Harder's response was unequivocal.
"Of course not. That's foolish beyond measure," she said.
But with the bridge over the Jock River on Greenbank Road closed for repairs this summer, residents are demanding answers about how the state of their local roads has deteriorated to such an extent.
Crystal Welsh said she regularly waits in snarled traffic on Greenbank Road for 15 minutes just to turn into the Half Moon Bay subdivision.
"It's all parents with kids, and we're all just trying to get home at the end of the day. I have never seen such congestion," Welsh said.
Harder acknowledged the city is behind on building roads, blaming the transfer of development charges collected from homes in her area to projects elsewhere that were higher in the queue.
The city may currently lack the development revenue to keep up with suburban infrastructure, but Harder said she hopes that "vicious circle" will soon end.
She's calling for a dedicated development charge for Barrhaven, a potential change she calls a "game changer".
As for the new 900-home subdivision, Harder said it's within the boundary the city has set for urban development, and the city is required to approve applications within certain timelines.
with files from Joanne Chianello