OPEN LETTER on the Zoning amendments for 1015 Tweddle
To: The outgoing Council of the City of Ottawa
Cc: The newly-elected Members of Council
Dear Members of Council,
On November 9 you will be asked to endorse a recommendation from the Planning Committee to adopt Zoning amendments for 1015 Tweddle. These amendments will see four very large towers built on a narrow strip of land between Jeanne d’Arc and the Ottawa River, within 30 meters of the Provincially Significant Wetland at Petrie Island. We strongly urge you to reject this Committee recommendation, on the basis that there has been insufficient community consultation which could erode trust in local government, and significant flooding risk and weakened resilience for citizens and communities in Ottawa.
Insufficient Community Consultation
Communication of this proposal was issued only nine days before the Planning Committee meeting, catching the community by surprise. A similar proposal, then for two towers, came forward two years ago and generated significant negative reaction. It was then declined. Three intervenors, including the Greenspace Alliance and CAFES, made submissions and strongly advised against the adoption of this zoning change, despite the fact that there was very little time, and hampered by the fact that many Councillors were still in election mode and could not be easily contacted. Agents for the applicant admitted that work on the proposal over the past two years had not been communicated properly to the community and had not been the subject of further consultation. They also admitted that important engineering analyses were still incomplete but would be addressed in Site Plan review. The Committee was told that the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) had authorized filling of the shoreline in 2004 and, more recently, the reduction of setback from the Wetland from 120 to 30 meters. However, the rationale and documentation for both these decisions were not provided and remain unexplained.
Risk of Flooding and Weakened Resilience for Citizens and Communities
At issue is whether the proposed development is in the 1:100 year floodplain of the Ottawa River. According to the staff report, the subject site is currently zoned with a Floodplain Overlay. It also states that the proposed development's lower parking level is within the 1:100 year flood level. This comment from the Ottawa Riverkeeper is also included in the report: "It should be noted that a significant portion of this property is within the floodplain raising a number of concerns regarding how a development on this property would both be impacted during flooding events as well as impact the area’s resilience during high water periods." The CAFES presentation to Committee included photographs and screenshots that showed that the area was completely flooded in 2017 and also in 2019. So while the proponent claims that there is no risk of flooding in the area, and that the development can proceed on the basis that it is not technically in the 1:100 year floodplain, it is extremely high risk to proceed when we have clear evidence of flooding in 2017 and 2019, and every reason to believe this will get worse rather than better. The climate emergency is real, with real life consequences for urban planning. The flood maps require verification in light of the evidence.
Better Solutions Available
Members of Council, it is completely unacceptable that this proposal go forward, and to do so would severely undermine the trust that the public can have in its local government. We expect vision and broad priority considerations in addition to site appropriateness for development when zoning changes are made. Rather than approving this zoning change for a higher-risk development riverside in Ottawa, Council should be asking the question: Is there a more appropriate use for this site? Developing this site (walkable from the Trim Road LRT node) for all of Ottawa as a natural reserve and protected wetland with appropriate recreational use is a better forward-looking alternative with benefits for all of Ottawa.
Furthermore, as the Greenspace Alliance suggested in its submission, a land swap with City-owned land immediately south of the subject property should be investigated and may provide vastly superior siting for the development. In summary, we urge you to reject this Committee recommendation and to send it back to staff with instructions to reveal all documentation available and hold consultations.
Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability
Alice Irene Whittaker
Greater Avalon Community Association
Greenspace Alliance of Canada