Planning Committee and Employment Lands

By Aya Helal

At the Planning Committee meeting held on March 26, 2013, the last agenda item  discussed after a long meeting that lasted until midnight was the Building a Livable Ottawa 2031-Official Plan and Master Plan Review. Building a Livable Ottawa is a city-wide review of land use, transportation and infrastructure policies, the outcome of which will be an updated Official Plan that will impact the City of Ottawa for years to come. The proposed plan ultimately aims to make Ottawa a more vibrant, healthy and sustainable city, and focuses on reviewing 14 current planning issues which you can find summarized in these preliminary policy proposals.

Of the 14 planning issues being updated, Employment Lands was the focus of discussion at the Planning Committee meeting, where city staff explained that it saw no need for additional employment lands to meet the city’s needs until 2031 and therefore ultimately there was no need for urban boundary expansion. Heated discussion ensued, however, after representatives from Walton International presented a report questioning the numbers presented by city staff. Councillors were ultimately unsatisfied by the numbers presented, and collectively felt that numbers presented by delegations did not match up with what city staff presented. Councillors’ concern with the city potentially not having enough employment lands available to attract business resulted in the unanimous decision to defer the item back for further consideration at the next Planning Committee meeting scheduled to be held on April 9th in order to give city staff the chance to present more information on the availability of employment lands. Take a look at this news article for more information on the dynamics of the Planning Committee meeting.

Ecology Ottawa would particularly like to direct you to this article indicating that the developers’ argument that the city is lacking employment lands is not as clear cut as was presented at the Planning Committee; in fact it appears that Orléans and Barrhaven, and the city as a whole, have enough employment land available. Ecology Ottawa would like to emphasize the  positive environmental, public health and financial implications of freezing the urban boundary. Doing so  should have a public health benefit for Ottawa’s residents, whereby limiting urban sprawl will ultimately encourage residents in the the City of Ottawa to be less auto-dependent as we live in more densely populated communities that are well-served by affordable public transportation. Better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists will encourage residents to lead a more active lifestyle. Making Ottawa a healthier, more financially and environmentally sustainable city are part of the goals the city aims to achieve through this Official Plan review, and this direction was further enforced by Mayor Jim Watson’s announcement on March 23rd to freeze the urban boundary as part of the city’s commitment to decrease its greenhouse gas emission. As part of this commitment, councilors should not be swayed by developers’ pitches to take advantage of this review and instead put the health of Ottawa’s residents a priority in their decision making.

Consistent with the mentioned article, city staff came back to the planning committee on April 9th with a detailed report proving that the City of Ottawa does in fact have an ample supply of employment land to last until 2031. Ecology Ottawa congratulates the Planning Committee and the City for approving the staff’s recommendation not to expand the urban boundary, a decision that Ecology Ottawa was pleased to see officially reinforced by full city council on April 10th.

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