We need you to take action! Please contact your councillor before Wednesday morning (June 28) at 9 am with the three requests below.
The City has been contemplating updates to the Use and Care of Roads Bylaw (No. 2003-498) pertaining to community stewardship of the boulevard—the land between a building and the road that belongs to the City. They’re trying to make it easier for people to use it for things other than turf grass, which is the current requirement. (For background, see here.)
The City of Ottawa’s Transportation Committee met June 22 to consider staff’s proposed amendments. (Watch the meeting here.) These were quite conservative, and arguably would have put Ottawa further behind on a few fronts. Because of overwhelming advocacy from community groups and individuals across the city—over a thousand people signed our rewilding petition, numerous individuals and groups spoke at the meeting, and staff say they received “well over 100 e-mails”—Committee members voted to make three changes. These include
- Removing any setback from the roadway, including where there is no curb
- Expanding the list of prohibited invasive species
- Clarifying that responsibility for planting lies with residents doing the planting
This said, there remain a few areas where the amendments need improvement.
1. Allow planter boxes.
The Transportation Committee voted to prohibit hard landscaping in the right of way, and they’re considering planter boxes as hard landscaping. Yet planter boxes are great: they increase soil supply, which increases what you can grow; they get around soil contamination concerns; and they help with stormwater retention. After all, these all help meet City commitments, like mitigating and adapting to climate change, or increasing biodiversity! They should simply clarify that responsibility to remove planter boxes—say, for utilities work, for which noticed would be provided—lies with residents.
2. Limit height restrictions to visibility triangles.
Transportation Committee has approved a limit of 0.75 m on any plants grown in the right of way. They are concerned about visibility for cars entering and exiting driveways. Interestingly, they’ve only cited visibility triangles as a concern (as well as other City structures like hydro poles and fire hydrants). If that’s the case, we think height restrictions should be limited to those situations they’ve cited as a concern. The City tolerates mounded snow, for example—and plants are visually permeable.
3. Remain silent on food production until we know more.
City staff stated that they don’t have enough information to make recommendations on the question of food production. We think allowing food production is critical: food prices are high and rising, and many people live beyond walking distance to a grocery store. The Transportation Committee asked staff to come back with recommendations “before the end of Q2 2024.” We believe that in the meantime, they shouldn’t make growing food illegal. The bylaw has been silent on this issue for 20 years, and surely it can remain so for the remaining four months of the growing season—particularly since many Ottawans will have already planted food for this year.
So what can you do?
We’ll also be preparing a summary of tomorrow’s outcome so you know what you can and can’t do on the right of way. Please stay tuned!