The New Official Plan for Ottawa—Should You Get Involved?

Since early December, the Transportation, Transit and Infrastructure Committee (TTIC) of CBLCA has been working on a submission to the city in response to the draft of the new Official Plan.

The CBLCA Executive intends to give final approval of the submission and then post it on the association’s website. The CBLCA views this process as worthy of considerable effort.

You might ask, Does this submission merely reflect the worries of obsessed volunteers or is there something to be concerned about in this “new Official Plan”? Should you look deeper and get involved? In our opinion, the answer is clear: yes, there is something to be concerned about and yes, you should get involved.

This following report is divided into three sections. The first section is a brief summary of the committee’s thinking. The second is a guide to further information. The third reviews potential impacts on Crystal Beach Lakeview.

Finally, we apologize for the length of this document. There is much to absorb and we have tried to condense it without compromising on information we feel the community should know. We hope you find it helpful.

TTIC—What We See and Why We Are Concerned

There are several themes that encapsulate TTIC’s concerns about the new Official Plan.

1. Its usability as an official plan is just not there yet

The document is filled with visions of what the future city of Ottawa in 2046 will look like. Many of these visions actually conflict with each other. In most cases, the outcomes are not specific, with no measurement or guideposts along the way. We believe the document needs to be rewritten with specific goals throughout and include an accountability framework that reports back to citizens at regular, specific intervals on progress towards the goals.

This includes a formal review process throughout the plan life cycle to allow for proactive updating of the plan. The pandemic of 2020 and beyond shows that major changes can and will occur. An official plan has to be a nimble and living document.

2. The Growth Management Framework is confusing or absent

Reading the document, one is left with the impression that it only concerns population growth, intensification and development. How it integrates with other community needs is not explicitly clear. Nor does it incorporate other master plans, such as infrastructure and transportation, that are also being updated by the city.

With all of the various types of development being considered, what governs their development is confusing. For example, a redeveloped community around Bayshore Station would be all of the following: a “Hub”, a “Protected Major Transit Station Area”, an area of “Regeneration”, an “Evolving Neighbourhood” and a “15-Minute Neighbourhood.” It would also be governed by an Area-Specific Policy. All of these have differing and overlapping rules and visions. Furthermore, the development plan can be initiated and largely controlled by the proponent, and once approved cannot be appealed.

3. How the concerned citizen follows a development is not user-friendly

The average citizen or community should be able to navigate this process using a much clearer path than what is hidden in this draft of the Official Plan. They should not need the help of city staff. The average citizen should be able to look at a proposed development and answer the question: What does this mean for my neighbourhood and how will it affect my life? Currently, the draft Official Plan does not give that citizen any hope of answering that fundamental question.

Where Do I Go and How Do I Navigate?

All of the documents are found at https://engage.ottawa.ca/the-new-official-plan

Besides the 263-page New Official Plan document, there are a number of additional Schedules, Annexes and one-pagers that offer an elevated and graphic look at the big picture or thematic summaries of where the plan is headed. You may find it helpful to look at:

21 one-pagers

Annexes 1-10

Schedule B 1-8

Schedule C 1-13

Drilling Deeper and What it Might Mean for Crystal Beach Lakeview

Many of the types of change to come are targeted at specific areas of the city and along specific roads identified as Major Corridors. While parts of Carling Avenue and Richmond Road are included as “Main-street Corridors” with “Design Priority Areas”, these corridors and priority areas end at the south end of Holly Acres Road and essentially Bayshore Drive, but include all of the Accora Village community. Carling Avenue, Holly Acres Road, and Moodie Drive within Crystal Beach Lakeview are not designated corridors; they are arterial roads. Corkstown Road and Crystal Beach Drive are Collector Roads.

CBL is not a design priority area. We are also not a so-called 15-minute neighbourhood nor will we be in future.

To fight climate change and create more affordable homes for everyone who wants to call Ottawa home, we need to develop the city in a more thoughtful way. The plan calls for 47 percent of new development to occur within the urban part of the city, preferably close to transit hubs and corridors.

As the draft document states: “This Plan supports regeneration throughout the built-up portion of the urban area through residential and employment regeneration opportunities. Regeneration is directed to hubs, corridors, and neighbourhoods within a 15-minute walk to concentrations of services and transportation options for daily and weekly needs.”

The plan defines regeneration as the development of a property, site or area at a higher density than currently exists through the following methods:

  • the creation of new units, uses or lots on previously developed land in existing communities, including the reuse of brownfield sites;
  • the development of vacant and/or underutilized lots within previously developed areas;
  • infill development; and
  • the expansion or conversion of existing buildings.

By our understanding of the draft Official Plan, Crystal Beach will be in the Outer Urban Transect (the city is divided into transects with different kinds of intensification policies). As mentioned, we will not be a design priority area; rather, Crystal Beach Lakeview will be considered suburban in “built design” (if not in location), and the future intensification will be consistent with our suburban design characteristics.

Neighbourhoods located in the Outer Urban Area and outside of a 15-minute neighbourhood (that’s us) may continue to develop in accordance with the established suburban context as defined in Section 5, Table 6. CBL is clearly suburban in context.

So, what the plan appears to saying for Crystal Beach Lakeview is that we are in the outer urban transect, not in a design priority area, suburban in “built-design”, if not in location, with regeneration (intensification) in the future under this plan to be consistent with our suburban design characteristics.

Does this mean we have nothing to be concerned about?

Before we get too comfortable, consider 33 Maple Grove in Kanata.

This is a development proposal at Maple Grove Drive and McCurdy Drive in Kanata currently going through the approval process under the current Official Plan. The proposal is recommended for approval by the City Planning Department. It is a suburban neighbourhood that is not in a design priority area and not located on a Corridor. The plan calls for two six-unit buildings on a residential street with a local bus route. Remember also, the now-approved Woodridge Crescent development at Bayshore was, in our opinion, not well handled by the city planning process.

This activity renews our concern about trust.

With all of the efforts to develop a plan for the next 25 years with community engagement, surely the end product must mean that developers cannot simply apply for amendments to the Official Plan and by-laws to build bigger and taller. The city’s aim is to build the best mid-size city in North America. This plan will not achieve that.

Ian McConnachie

Chair, TTIC

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