COMMUNITY FEEDBACK FROM WESTBORO RESIDENTS ABOUT THE OFFICIAL PLAN
We love this neighbourhood and the community it supports. Over the last 20+ years, we have been as involved as possible in contributing to development conversations. Participation came at the expense of family time, free time, and often, paid work time. In the pandemic, the difficulty of participating has become even greater. This sacrifice would feel worthwhile if there was evidence that our involvement had an impact on the direction of development in our neighbourhood. Our experience leads us to now believe that residents lack the time, expertise, professional associations, financial resources, and legal support to exert equal influence on the direction the city intends to take in Westboro and the larger city. As such, we choose now to divert our energy to find another place to live.
We feel Westboro has already lost a great deal. Our street, like many others, has been a construction zone for the better part of at least a decade. The zoning changes guarantee that existing surrounding homes will be demolished once sold, leading to many more years of construction on our doorstep. The charm of diversity in style and size of houses is gone. The opportunity for interaction with neighbours is diminished. The loss of trees and green space around homes is alarming. Traffic, noise and pollution are increasing noticeably. We are concerned about the speed of development to come could be at the expense of the social fabric of this community, making it a less connected and safe community for ageing-in-place.
I live in Westboro Village, and after quickly reviewing the proposed OP I would like to make the following comments.
1. The proposed OP completely disregards the many beneficial aspects of the Westboro/Richmond Secondary and Community Design Plan. The latter already favour the “15-minute” neighbourhood concept but in a much more reasonable manner. I fear that the proposed OP will quicken the transformation of Richmond Rd., Churchill Ave and Scott St. into bland corporate corridors of high rises.
2. The proposed OP suggests that Westboro has insufficient residential density when it is already undergoing the most significant increase in actual and planned residential density in Ottawa. The Proposed OP would be much more acceptable if the increases in residential density were shared more equitable with the suburbs. Why can’t identical levels of density be permitted within 800 metres of a transportation hub in the suburbs?
3. I believe that existing residents would not object to increased residential density if the City and developers actually respected existing bylaws. Every development seems to be accompanied by a host of requests for bylaw variances which are granted the grace of suburban and rural councillors and a rubber-stamping planning department. Maybe more generous zoning would work if City Council actually abides by the rules it establishes. History suggests that they cannot.
4. Westboro and like communities subsidize Ottawa’s far-flung car dependant suburbs. The latter do not generate enough property tax revenue to fund public transport and other infrastructure they require. That said suburban communities are blessed with areas, field, parks, recreation facilities and so on. In Westboro Village, we do not even have a playground and many streets do not even have a sidewalk. South of Bryon Avenue, many streets have ditches! The proposed OP makes many vague proposals about increasing/ preserving green spaces, recreation and cultural amenities, yet for the most part, this is inconsistent with increased residential density. Again, these proposals would be more credible if there was a commitment to spend property tax and development fee revenues resulting from increased residential density in the community from which they originate.
All my comments concern Westboro, which is characterized in the plan as an Inner Urban, Transforming Neighbourhood.
The City currently shows four transects and two overlay approaches. This is much too broad and does not take into account the characteristics of the individual neighbourhoods.
- 80 dwellings per hectare: where did the City obtain this metric as being desirable for “regeneration”? On what is it based i.e. how does the City count it now and how will it count it in the future?
- Each community within the Transect has different levels of “dwellings per hectare,” therefore the “regeneration” metric should be tailored to suit each neighbourhood.
- How will the City determine when a neighbourhood has reached the metric of 80 dwellings per hectare? Will “regeneration” be paused when a neighbourhood reaches this number?
- As a result of this steep climb in “regeneration” new amenities and recreational facilities should be added to these neighbourhoods. We do not see any provision for this in the plan.
- The requirement in the plan for a greener City with lots of park space seems at odds with the efforts to jam as many people as possible into neighbourhoods. It is not clear to us how we can encourage green spaces and landscaping, given the requirement to reach 80 dwellings per hectare. Which policy point will take precedence?
- Our neighbourhood is a mix of R1, R2 and R3 with a few R4. We are concerned the City will eliminate all R1 designations in Westboro which we feel will unbalance what is now a liveable mix. We request the R1s be retained.
- The transect policy varies from the Inner Urban to the Suburban. It should not – development should be more strongly encouraged in the suburban areas where they have the space and amenities, rather than the Inner Urban, which is already intensifying.
- Westboro is already a 15-minute neighbourhood, yet it is still labeled as an Inner Urban, Transforming Neighbourhood which must “regenerate.” There should be some sort of mapping to identify which neighbourhoods already meet the City’s criterion of being 15 minutes.
- There needs to be much more work done on the plan to assure affordable housing. Inclusionary zoning should be considered. For example, in this neighbourhood, single family homes have become very expensive; therefore, the City is telling us we must allow more multi-family dwellings to allow people to reside here who can’t afford a single-family home. Although these new dwellings cost less than a single-family home, they are not affordable – rent for a two-bedroom apartment is typically over $2,000 per month. Three-bedroom apartments are not being built which is a problem for families. How is this affordable? We see no elements in the plan that will address this issue: indeed, we see that it will continue to encourage new multi-dwelling buildings that will be expensive to rent or buy and be outside the price range for the very people the City purports to support living here.
- The plan is silent on alternative housing concepts such as co-operative housing – we have one in Westboro—and co-housing. Policy around this should be encouraged as part of the “regeneration” in all areas of Ottawa, not just the Inner Urban Transects.
- Westboro has lost a considerable amount of its tree canopy in the last twenty years. Good infill projects will include landscaping that includes shrubs and small trees; bad infill projects have nothing: neither will plant trees like maples that will contribute to the kind of tall tree canopy that we have lost and will continue to lose.
- The proposed “regeneration” levels will simply make it worse. As mentioned, the green policy and the “regeneration” policy seem at odds with each other.
- The City should develop a tree canopy inventory and standard so they can be protected. Existing trees should be preserved where possible.
Accountability and Measuring Success
- The plan provides no indication of how it will measure the goal metrics it mentions in the plan. There should be a mechanism to report to City Council about the policies and the impact they have having in the real world.
- The draft plan was presented in November 2020 during a pandemic. Comments are due from community associations by March 12 2021. The plan is not available in print form and is difficult to read and understand. More time should be given for communities to provide feedback and compare this proposed plan with other plans in Canadian municipalities.
Thanks for the outreach and for the opportunity to provide input.
Having recently watched the Planning Committee discussions and the eventual perfunctory approval of proposals relating to the development of 1705 Carling and the Westboro Infill Study, I must admit that what little faith I had in citizen advocacy making a material difference, has diminished. Sadly, I am not alone especially in this neighbourhood. The process has been a real eye opener.
With respect to 1705 Carling, Councillors were not engaged (other than our own councillor) and it was obvious by the few questions that were asked, that most of them likely had not read the documents. As for the Westboro infill study hearing, the obvious, pertinent and real arguments about cars and parking in the face of this intensification were summarily dismissed. And in the end, I was left wondering whether the well-being of the current residents/taxpayers is even considered in these approval processes. Planners and developers, however, clearly realized a significant improvement in their overall well-being. This is all hard to swallow, especially as those very residents/taxpayers had made it clear in their filings that they were not against change and were, in fact, in favour of much of what was being proposed.
As for the OP, it takes us into a whole new dimension of incredulity. Provincial density targets (80 units per hectare) are currently patently unrealistic for Westboro where narrow streets, no sidewalks, outdated and underperforming water and sewage systems dominate. Storm water runs openly in culverts along many streets. Much needs to be done and money needs to be spent to ready Westboro for such a future.
The timing of the OP is particularly peculiar as the lessons from covid 19 are far from learned. Increased density, especially in multiple story dwelling units, make virus control and mitigation very difficult. Likely we are only at the beginning of understanding a new health reality. This plan ignores the pandemic altogether. Some of the necessities brought on by the pandemic have opened our eyes to new and more efficient ways of working for many. City-centric workspaces of the past with all their environmental consequences have proven to be far from the only way to do business. Some of the historical drivers of intensification have mutated along with and because of the virus. Person trips to the workplace have drastically decreased and so potentially have many of their negative societal and environmental impacts. At least the affect of pandemic driven events like this on any future planning need to be assessed. Maybe intensification on such a dramatic scale is now not as obvious at all. Given these recent events, the OP, coming as it does with its enormous scale and straightened deadlines for input and feedback, is sinister to say the least.
The OP is also single family home adverse. The situation is ironic in that this notion of owning a single-family home was the dream of most of us in the not so distant past. As our Councillor points out in his warning note on the OP, the target density raises a question as to whether R1 zoning will at some point be eliminated altogether. Is it possible that every single lot will be higher density by law… frightening to say the least. As you mention, there is irony and puzzlement in that the OP sets building height at 9 stories for main streets like Carling when, as we speak, 20 plus story towers are being approved up and down the length of Carling.
I am not being very constructive and strategies on how to make this OP palatable and not so outrageous escapes me. Tainted by the recent experiences mentioned above leaves me at a loss to be constructive and I apologize for this.
I have read the plan and overall I see within the plan clear targets for development. The rest does not have the same clear targets. Even in the climate change part the targets are there but we are not given ways to make sure they will be reached.
What I would like to reinforce in the plan are two majors chapeau key perspectives
1) ottawa is a capital city, the capital of Canada. All new developments (building, transport, parks etc) should grow the vision of Ottawa as Canada 🇨🇦 Capital. I don’t see any mention of it in the plan.
2) ottawa is a greenfield city. It is not urban vs rural. It is a unique mix of greenfielded urbaned areas. Urban areas are greenfielded. Rural areas are urbanized. The beauty of nature makes Ottawa special and should be enhanced: its water system, its agricultural richness, its greenfield, forestry, flora and wild life ( so absent from the document). All new developments should account for this growth of our nature.
Those two points are keys according to me to enable change in the minds of developers (so obviously present in the current plan and understandably so given the city revenue structure). Developers must think Capital city and Nature.
Here are some in the plan, p. 29
Enable local food production.
• Protecting agricultural lands;
• Supporting the diversification and resilience of the agricultural economy; and
• Supporting community gardens and enabling produce to be grown, processed and distributed across the City.
I would like to put an emphasis on distribution. It is not enough to let farmers to grow It is more important to enable organic farmers to sell and reach out to customers
So I would rephrase
Enable local food production and distribution
• Protecting agricultural lands;
• Supporting the diversification and resilience of the agricultural economy; and
• Supporting local organic farmers and community gardens and enabling produce to be grown, processed and distributed across the City.
Subject: Fake consultation on Westboro over intensification
I’m not going to waste your time or mine in a detailed critique because my earlier more detailed analyses have been completely ignored and I have no doubt that the decisions have already been made. Lefties like Leiper and the young city planners who live downtown have such deep ideological biases that they are not about to be persuaded by anything said by the people who actually live in Westboro. We have always said that we accept some intensification but not the extreme intensification that is being pushed even now and will be supported by these changes that have already been effectively adopted. This consultation is a complete sham and everybody knows it.
I will limit my comments today to 3 points:
(1) The city consistently ignores the reality of the “secondary units” which were never intended to apply to new builds, they were to allow basement units for family members or modest additional income in existing homes. Greedy developers saw this loophole so what are described as triplexes are actually 4 units. They use the illegal “long semis” to take an existing lot with one family, apply for a severance formally stating they are building two singles, then the day after severance approved proceed to build two long semis on each half so with secondary units they are actually building 2 four unit apartment buildings for 8 families. 800% intensification is not gradual intensification for existing older communities and are completely not consistent with existing neighbourhoods. If they were a good addition, why would all neighbours unanimously oppose them?
(2) Planners think you can design your way to putting 10 pounds of jelly in a one pound bag. This is nonsense. But they know that they can get away with this sham because there is no citizen recourse with lefty Leiper, a neutered Committee of Adjustment and a sham in LPAT. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I would have more respect for the city if they were less hypocritical: why not just say we don’t care about current residents of Westboro, we have to force people to take our LRT and we want money from development.
(3). To justify this over-intensification as New Urbanism is nonsense. I am probably the only commentator to this sham exercise to be writing from my winter home in the widely held model of New Urbanism, Venice Florida. It worked here because it was built before wide usage of cars, on virgin land that was an island. The city of Venice has done a good job of protecting what was built 100 years ago, but they understand today that Nolen’s vision could never be maintained off the island, not even where there was no existing development. The lead planner today for Venice told me that it was patently ridiculous to think you could impose New Urbanism principles on an existing suburb without destroying the essence of that neighbourhood. On Venice Island every street has sidewalks, people bought knowing they would be adjacent to commercial development, no secondary units are allowed, streets are extra wide usually not on a grid and many with boulevards, existing trees are sacrosanct, no building is over 3 stories, all major traffic is diverted to the by-pass off the island…none, not one, of these attributes exists in Westboro. Leiper and city planners should be ashamed of themselves trying to pass off the rape of Westboro as New Urbanism.
Subject: Official Plan response
Thank you very much for your continued support in these matters.
Just wish to reinforce the chorus of concern over the following issues:
– 80 dwellings per hectare (up from 20-30 ha) is far too large an increase
– apply flexibility to the ‘upzoning’ in R1, R2 zones, ie. not a ‘requirement ‘ that single dwellings be replaced by multiple units.
– recognize that the proposed increases mean increased demand on already stretched services, that will need to be paid for: water, sewer (and associated runoff, already a problem) and hydro/gas.
– damage to tree canopy, loss of porous surfaces caused by associated infill
– lastly, with the recognition that Covid 19 has accelerated change in our living/ workplace habits, allow room for flexibility in the growth plan for the future.