Official plan approved by committees after dozens of amendments

Ottawa city councillors approved a new official plan after going through a long list of modifications Monday.

Councillors reviewed about 80 motions and directions on Monday

The City of Ottawa has set out an official plan that drew unprecedented feedback from residents, in great part because of the way its intensification targets could have ramifications for neighbourhoods in inner urban areas. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Ottawa city councillors approved a very long list of modifications to the new official plan on Monday, before approving the entire city-building document that's intended to shape Ottawa for decades to come.

Only Coun. Jeff Leiper registered his dissent on the official plan document itself, though councillors Riley Brockington, Carol Anne Meehan and Shawn Menard dissented on the map that represents the urban boundary expansion and the future suburb of Tewin.

Councillors Scott Moffatt, Eli El-Chantiry, Glen Gower, Catherine Kitts, Laura Dudas, Tim Tierney, George Darouze, Allan Hubley, and Jean Cloutier voted in favour of the whole package, which now goes to full council Oct. 27.

It's a sign of the complexity and significance of the City of Ottawa's new official plan that it drew nearly a hundred residents to speak over two days, and then led to a similarly high number of motions by councillors tweaking the document.

The smorgasbord of amendments, dealt with at a joint meeting of the planning committee and the agricultural and rural affairs committee, touched on everything from affordable housing to employment hubs in the south end to water servicing for rural businesses.

At one point Menard remarked on the long list and noted he feels "slammed" by all the city business this month. He wondered if city staff felt they could have used more time to craft the important document — some community groups have long argued it should wait until after the 2022 municipal election.

But, the City needs to wrap official plan so important work like zoning to intensify rather than spread outwards can get underway, explained Steve Willis, general manager of planning, economic development and infrastructure.

Willis wasn't concerned by the approximately 80 motions and directions councillors tackled Monday, either.

"This to me is the point where staff hand council our plan and council makes it [its] plan," Willis said.

Three city councillors dissented against this schedule of the new official plan, labeled C-17, to show their opposition to the Tewin proposal. Jeff Leiper, meanwhile, dissented on the official plan document as a whole. (City of Ottawa)

City-wide ramifications

Moffatt, who co-chaired the meeting and helped navigate the long list, said many changes stemmed from points raised during public delegations last Thursday and Friday. All of the amendments improved the official plan and made it more clear, added Willis.

Residents had repeatedly raised fears about losing tree canopy, especially in older neighbourhoods that face infill development. A motion by Riley Brockington called on city staff to drill down its target for 40 per cent tree canopy city-wide to create "sub-targets" for smaller areas within the next couple of years.

Another change sees buildings capped at four storeys for streets called "minor corridors", down from five or six.

Residents had worried six storeys would be too high and change the character of streets such as Kilborn Avenue in Alta Vista, Hemlock Road in Manor Park and Fisher Avenue along the Central Experimental Farm. Leiper succeeded in convincing his colleagues to remove the designation from Sherbourne Avenue in Kitchissippi ward altogether, meaning the street will likely remain houses. 

The committees restored language about natural heritage areas to "exclude" them from development rather than to "avoid" them, a change that had alarmed some worried about ongoing protection. 

A pair of motions also dealt with affordable housing. A motion by Menard increased the target of new units that are affordable to 20 per cent, up from 10 to 15 per cent, while one by Gower redefined "affordable".

No revisiting of urban boundary decisions

Among the many motions, not one spoke directly to the proposal by the Algonquins of Ontario and partner Taggart to create a new, sustainable suburb in the rural south-east called Tewin.

Asked if he was surprised, given four councillors registered disapproval during the final vote, Moffatt noted, "We're not at council yet." He expects a motion on Tewin to land there on Oct. 27.

Moffatt himself tried, but failed to revisit the other urban boundary change from last winter, when council allowed more than 100 hectares of agricultural lands in the Riverside South area to be developed, after originally promising to protect such land.

Moffatt said some farm owners might now let soils degrade, expecting they too might someday have their properties brought inside the urban boundary. But he didn't convince any of a dozen other councillors to support him in reversing the move.

The councillor for Riverside South, Carol Anne Meehan, said it didn't make sense to leave a gap of farmland between Riverside South and the future urban area that will grow around the future Bowesville LRT.

A motion by Moffatt did pass, however, large-scale wind turbines will not be permitted in agricultural zones.

A pair of city committees maintained their decision from last winter to add farmland, seen in green, for urban development near Riverside South, in addition to the land in yellow, because it is near the future Trillium Line. (CBC)