Update on LRT
By now most residents will have heard about ongoing delays to restoring service to our LRT Line 1, which has been shut down since July 17th after an inspection found an issue with one of the axle bearings. R1 bus service has been in place since that date. As R1 bus service cannot carry as many riders as LRT, this is causing further delays and increasing frustration to transit users and residents who continue to lose patience with our trouble-prone public transit system.
The most recent cause of frustration came on July 28th. After having previously been told that transit users could expect a gradual return to service for LRT Line 1 starting July 31, we learned last Friday that additional maintenance work on the tracks would require approximately 10 additional days of work prior to re-launching service.
This news came in addition to the sobering announcement that, while OC Transpo has finally identified what it believes to be a core technical problem affecting our train’s reliability (I.e. the wheel axle assembly) the timeline to address this solution will require 12 – 18 months to develop a more robust design, and then 2 – 3 years to install these new elements across the fleet.
As your Councillor, I need to be proactive, but I also need to be transparent. A lack of transparency during the last term of Council is part of what got us into this unfortunate situation in the first place. While I’m relieved to hear that RTG and Alstom have committed to covering the costs of the solutions currently proposed, the financial implications of our current situation on the City of Ottawa are of great concern. While I know that transit users will be looking for compensation for lack of service, I also need to consider the implications that the loss of fare revenue could have on OC Transpo operations.
Ultimately, what matters most of all is maintaining and growing our transit ridership. These recent events are hurting that. What I am most concerned with now is how further service cuts and increased fares could lead to what experts refer to as the “death spiral” facing public transit. As explained in a study produced by a group of 15 environmental groups, this death spiral for public transit consists of “a vicious cycle of service cuts and fare hikes that push people away from public transit and into their cars, further decreasing revenue, leading to further service cuts. If this is allowed to happen, it will make cities more congested, increase carbon emissions, and have the greatest impact on society’s most vulnerable.”
Please know just how much it angers me that we are in this situation. Few cities in the world have messed up as badly as Ottawa mismanaged the single-largest public investment in the city’s history. But I urge everyone to demand that the City of Ottawa hold itself accountable to ensuring that we commit ourselves to restoring our transit system, because whether you’re a transit user or not, the further degradation of our transit system will impact you. We must fix this.
Update on Hydro Ottawa
Following the city-wide power outage that began on Friday, July 28th, once again Ward 9 endured some of the longest outages. As I was writing this message Sunday night, the last remaining outage was in Fisher Heights, where several outages left residents without power for over 48 hours. And as has happened far too often over the past several years, many communities in Ward 9 are enduring greater hardship when it comes to losing electrical power. Specifically, the neighborhoods of Fisher Heights, Skyline and Parkwood Hills continue to experience outages more frequently and for greater duration. Here is a segment of an email that I received from a resident of Fisher Heights:
“This will be the 3rd extended power outage in the past 4 weeks. We are now approaching 30 hours of no power. This will be the 4th time this year we’ll have spoiled food. I don’t have any words besides the immense disappointment I have in Hydro Ottawa and their ability to deliver a fundamental service. Please, as a completely defeated citizen, please show me an avenue by which we can obtain power to our home."
As with the outages that we had in mid-July, I have used this opportunity to once more request that Hydro Ottawa investigate the vulnerability of areas within Ward 9. Certainly, the ongoing labor strike (now in its 4th week) is posing challenges, as is the increasing frequency and severity of heavy storms due to climate change. But clearly, there is something unique in terms of the vulnerability of the infrastructure in these areas of Ward 9 that must be addressed. Hydro Ottawa’s senior leadership team has promised me that a process to investigate and report on this will take place this Fall. I will be looking for updates on that process and will continue to remind Hydro’s leadership of the importance of this investigative work.
Update on Vacant Unit Tax
At the beginning of this year, the City rolled out its new Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) program. The initiative is one tool the city is using to help boost the number of available homes in the city. We are in the midst of a housing crisis and ensuring that all available homes and condos are available as places for people to live continues to be a top priority.
The good news is that Ottawa’s VUT roll out was very successful. More than 99% of property owners successfully registered their property as either occupied or vacant. That is an astonishingly high voluntary enrolment rate, surpassing most other cities’ enrolment success rates. Another piece of good news is the overwhelming majority (about 95%) did so without needing any guidance or intervention from city support staff. That means Ottawa residents were admirably diligent about registering and that the process was easier than many expected.
The unfortunate news is the results show that Ottawa has a serious problem with vacancy—much larger than we expected. In the end, 3,268 property owners registered their properties as “vacant.” A further 2,836 failed to register at all and were “deemed vacant.”
Some additional findings from the VUT’s preliminary reporting:
- Rideau-Vanier Ward and Somerset Ward had the highest vacancy rates at 2.3%
- Knoxdale-Merivale had a comparatively low vacancy rate of 0.7%
- Out of a total of 11,911 units in Knoxdale, 66 units have been declared/deemed vacant
The city is now working through its appeal process and while it is expected that many of those homes will come off the “vacant” list, our final number will still be significantly higher than many other jurisdictions. We definitely have a problem that needs addressing and I am confident that the VUT can help. If we stick with the program and we experience the same sorts of success that Vancouver has observed in the first five years of its program (a 30% reduction in vacant properties), the VUT should help make a large dent our city’s vacancy problem and help put much-needed properties back onto the market.
Naturally, there are residents who have been charged the tax and who will be appealing this charge. Thankfully, the VUT program staff have a clear process in place for appears. Residents who wish to appeal their charge may submit a Notice of Complaint (NOC) until September 15. The VUT team will review the NOC within 90 days of receipt. If the property is declared a principal residence or occupied, the VUT and any related penalty fees will be reversed. Subsequently, the VUT and any penalty will remain on the account if the VUT charge is unchanged. Subsequently, if the resident disagrees with the results of the NOC, they may then file a Request for Review as a second layer of appeal.
Meeting space for community associations
As a former president of a community association, I’m aware of the critical role that these organizations have in community life. And while most community associations in Ward 9 have their own community centre or field house to operate out of, three community associations in our ward do not: the Merivale Gardens Community Association, the Country Place Community Association, and the Glens Community Association. All three of these communities are in the same general area, which is south of West Hunt Club and in between Woodroffe and Prince of Wales.
My office is working with our Recreational & Cultural Facilities Services staff on a long-term plan to develop a new community centre which will serve this area. In the meantime, I’m happy to announce that my office worked out an arrangement for these three community associations to access meeting space at the Nepean Sportsplex free of charge.
Residents of Ward 9 will likely remember the news that broke back in April when my predecessor Keith Egli published his personal experience of trauma and abuse in the Ottawa Citizen. Residents across Ottawa were moved and inspired by Keith’s courage in recounting his story.
In Keith’s story, he referenced an organization called VoiceFound, an organization with a mission to help survivors of human trafficking and childhood sexual abuse.
On September 26, Keith Egli will be a special guest at Trauma Talks, a fundraiser for VoiceFound, hosted by Derick Fage. My office will be one of the sponsors of this event, and I’ll be in attendance. I hope that other residents of Ward will join me in supporting this organization.
Temporary Traffic Calming measures coming soon
At the beginning of the year, our office solicited advice from residents and community associations in identifying and prioritizing road safety issues in the ward. The productive conversations we have had with residents, community associations and other key stakeholders have helped our office tremendously in isolating concerns. We would like to thank each of you for your valuable input. Over the coming weeks you may begin to notice new Temporary Traffic Calming measures (TTC), in addition to the re-installment of previously installed measures. Our office continues to work closely with Traffic Services to ensure that the rollout of these new measures provides the desired outcomes. While we are aware that new TTC measures often receive mixed feedback, please note that the primary goal of these implementations is to make our streets safer for everyone. Our office is also cognizant of the fact that there remain roads in the ward which could still benefit from traffic calming measures, and we intend to address concerns that remain.
As the recommendation and installation of TTC measures is an annual program, it is our aim to have a more extensive consultation process for the 2024 implementation. We will be reaching out to community associations in Fall 2023 to begin this process.
If you have any questions, or road safety concerns in the ward, don’t hesitate to write to Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris, at [email protected].
Colonel By Day (August 7) Notice of Schedule Changes
Monday August 7th is Colonel By Day in Ottawa, in commemoration of Colonel John By, an English military engineer best known for having supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal, and for having founded Bytown. Those are some pretty noteworthy accomplishments!
The City of Ottawa would like to remind residents of schedule changes and impacts to City services for this holiday. Most notably:
- The City’s 3-1-1 Contact Centre will be open for urgent matters only. Please visit ottawa.ca/311 for more information.
- The Client Service Centres at Ottawa City Hall, Ben Franklin Place, 580 Terry Fox Drive and 255 Centrum Boulevard and the City’s Provincial Offences Court at 100 Constellation Drive will be closed.
- There will be no curbside waste / recycling collection on August 7th. That schedule will resume August 8th. In addition, the collection will be delayed by one day for the remainder of the week.
- Multi-residential garbage containers will be collected on the regular scheduled day. Collections of multi-residential recycling containers, bulky items and green bins will be delayed by one day for the remainder of the week.
- OC Transpo will operate on a special Colonel By Day schedule on August 7. Bus service will operate on a Saturday schedule. Customers are encouraged to use the Travel Planner to plan their trip or to visit the Schedules & Maps section of the OC Transpo website.
- Para Transpo will operate a holiday service. Regularly scheduled trips on August 7th will be automatically cancelled. Customers can book trips for Colonel By Day between Monday, July 31, and Friday, August 4, by using My Para Transpo or calling 613-560-5000.
Mailout to residents from Service Line Warranties Canada
Ottawa residents can expect letters from Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC) to reach their mailboxes in the coming weeks. The letters will provide homeowners with detailed information related to the optional and voluntary Service Line Warranties program, including coverage options and the enrollment process for interested residents.
Water and sewer/septic service lines, including the stormwater sewer line, connect a homeowner’s property to the City’s water and wastewater systems. Homeowners are responsible for repairs to the portion of the service lines located on their property. If a leak, break or clog occurs in the private portion of these lines, the homeowner is responsible for hiring a plumber and paying any of the associated repair costs.
The City of Ottawa is endorsing the SLWC program to offer Ottawa homeowners voluntary and optional protection plans to assist in the costs of possible future repairs. Ottawa is one of 79 municipalities endorsing the SLWC program. This warranties program will help address issues such as unpredictable failure, aging infrastructure and the high cost of repair.
The letters from SLWC are being mailed in phases and will reach the mailboxes of all eligible residents by mid-summer. For more information, residents may wish to consult the City’s FAQ on Service Line Warranties Canada.
Register for Fall recreational and cultural programs
Starting Monday, July 31, residents can browse the city’s website to start planning your Fall activities and PA days for the 2023-2024 school year. The actual registration dates for the various programs are:
- Registration opens August 14th at 9pm for Fall swimming lessons
- Registration opens August 16th at 9pm for all other Fall activities, as well as programming for school PA days
Take fun to new heights by sharpening your skating, swimming or fitness skills. Try a group sport and learn leadership and fair play skills on and off the rink, court or field. Nurture your love of the arts through painting, dancing, music or cooking. Improve your social well-being and mental health through yoga, Pilates, martial arts and other mindfulness practices. The City has programs for all ages and skill levels, in English and French, in-person and virtual.
Let’s Use Our Green Bins!
Did you know that of the current residential waste flow in the City of Ottawa, only 27.6 percent currently gets diverted to green bins? 18.3 percent gets diverted to blue and black bins, and the remaining 54.1 percent of residential waste flow is treated as garbage. That’s over half of the residential waste flow going straight to landfill!
Want to make a bigger impact when it comes to helping the environment and reduce your household’s waste while you’re at it? Use your green bin! While garbage is picked up bi-weekly, green bins are picked up every week. Using the green bin, along with other recycling efforts, is one of the easiest things people can do to help our environment. Diverting organic waste from landfill lowers the amount of methane – which contributes to greenhouse gases.
Much more can be placed in your green bin than you may be aware. Have a look at the City’s waste explorer and see for yourself!
Noise exemption for construction on West Hunt Club
In order to facilitate and expedite scheduled re-paving and crack sealing work on different segments of West Hunt Club Road, Noise Exemptions have been granted to facilitate the timely completion of this work. The following noise exemptions have been granted:
- For re-paving of West Hunt Club from Knoxdale Road to Woodroffe Avenue, a Noise Exemption has been granted for the hours of 10:00pm – 7:00am from July 30th to October 11th.
- For crack sealing of West Hunt Club from Cedarview to Greenbank, a Noise Exemption has been granted for the hours of 10:00pm – 5:00am from August 7th to August 18th.
While we recognize that this work will produce bothersome noise which may inconvenience and disturb adjacent residents in the Trend Arlington and Manordale communities, this road work is an important construction project. Granting these noise exemptions will allow the work to be completed much faster.
Bentley stormwater management pond clean-out
The City of Ottawa is undertaking the clean-out of accumulated sediments from the Bentley Stormwater Management Pond. Sediments excavated from the pond will be temporarily stored within the pond property to dry out. The dried sediments will then be trucked to the disposal facility. The clean-out of the pond commenced in late-July and will be completed by the end of August. Sediment hauling to the Waste Facility will be completed by the end of 2023 or in the spring of 2024.
Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee is recruiting
Councillor Devine recently met with the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee (OYEC), which is a program within Youth Ottawa. OYEC consists of youth aged 13 – 24 working in partnership with the City of Ottawa to inform decisions and actions “that help make our city a better, safer, and more equal place for all youth.” OYEC is currently recruiting youth members to form the committee’s leadership. Participants make a one-year commitment to attend monthly meetings and work on action plans to help ensure that youth are valued stakeholders in charting our city’s future. To get a sense of what OYEC does, please watch their webinar.
Councillor Devine will be working with OYEC starting in Fall 2023 and would love to see more involvement from Ward 9 youth. This is a fantastic volunteer opportunity and would look really good on a young person’s resume!
Public engagement on Trend Arlington Pavilion
There is currently an active community engagement opportunity, where the City is looking for your feedback on the draft concept plan for a new outdoor wood pavilion to be located adjacent to the community building in Trend Arlington Park.
This is a project that Councillor Devine has been actively involved in since before he took office, as he initialized the project after the 2018 tornado, when the Trend Arlington Community Association made successful applications to the federal / provincial Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program as well as the City’s Community Partnership Major Capital Program.
The intent of the pavilion project is to memorialize the tornado of September 2018 and the community’s rebuilding through the creation of an outdoor community gathering place that incorporates some of the wood from the fallen trees that was collected and milled for community projects.
This online consultation is open for community feedback until August 10. The project is slated for completion in Fall 2024.
Community action - Excessive noise in Grenfell Glen & Merivale Gardens
The Councillor has recently become involved in specific local community advocacy efforts pertaining to excessive noise issues in the Merivale Gardens and Grenfell Glen areas of Ward 9. Specifically, these refer to the seasonal use of an air cannon at a private farm on NCC land off Woodroffe Avenue, as well as frequent low-altitude flights emanating from the Ottawa Flying Club.
Councillor Devine has been in discussions with resident groups from both communities and is looking to enter productive discussions with the various stakeholders involved to see if we can arrive at remedies to address the excessive noise impacting these neighbourhoods.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
Ottawa Crime Rate
There has been some recent attention paid to announcements regarding increases in the crime rate for Ottawa in 2022. Our office felt that it would be informative to put the numbers into perspective and to offer some context.
Whereas Ottawa’s crime rate increased by 15% in 2022, when compared to other Canadian cities, Ottawa ranks 27th out of 35 in terms of lowest crime rates. In terms of numbers, Ottawa has 4,019 crimes per 100,000 people. The city of Kamloops had the highest crime rate among Canadian cities, with 10,532 crimes per 100,000 people. In other words, we live in one of Canada’s safest cities!
It’s also worth noting that different wards across the City of Ottawa experience different rates of crime. Somerset Ward saw the highest ratio (15,162 crimes per 100,000 people), and Rideau Jock Ward saw the lowest ratio (1,363 crimes per 100,000 people). In terms of ratio, Knoxdale-Merivale is a mid-ranking ward (3,160 crimes per 100,000 people).
But there’s certainly some good news for Knoxdale-Merivale. Among all of Ottawa’s wards, ours is the only one that saw a decrease in the crime rate for 2022! While Beacon-Cyrville Ward saw an astonishing 47% increase in reported crimes for 2022, Ward 9 saw a decrease of 0.4%! That’s great news for Ward 9 residents.
The other item worth noting, especially for suburban residents, is the kinds of crimes that we are seeing in Ward 9. Motor vehicle theft continues to be the leading concern among reported crimes.
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
Provincial Policy Statement 2023
In the spring, the provincial government issued its new draft Provincial Policy Statement 2023 on development (PPS 2023). This Policy Statement is a critical piece of policy guidance for municipalities. It guides development across the province and sets priorities and ground rules for cities and developers. The province is committed to ensuring more housing gets built in Ontario, an overall goal that Ottawa City Council shares. The PPS 2023, however, has raised some legitimate concerns about some of the changes the province is proposing.
- The PPS 2023 proposes to remove references to affordable housing, including the definition, and the requirement for municipalities to establish minimum targets for affordable to low- and moderate-income households.
- References to housing affordability would no longer be framed as “affordable housing” but rather “a full range of housing options”.
- Municipalities would no longer be required to provide minimum targets for affordable housing.
- Policies pertaining to air quality have been reduced and weakened, which puts healthy and liveable communities at risk. Many references to “preparing for the impacts of a changing climate” throughout the PPS are proposed to be removed and weakened.
Perhaps the most concerning new measure is that the PPS 2023, as it is currently drafted, would open the door for a developer to submit an independent request for the city to expand its urban boundary, without any requirement of the typical process for a Municipal Comprehensive Review. In other words, these new measures would make it very difficult for municipalities to control their own boundaries and to ensure that development activities are in line with local planning. As bluntly as can be said, this is the latest example of the provincial government taking a bulldozer to municipal planning, and seemingly to the benefit of developers. But, as we have said before, municipalities are “creatures of the province”.
While City Hall will certainly voice its concerns to the province, we hope that residents across Ottawa will do the same.
780 Baseline/1801 Carling Ave.
Those who follow the planning files in Ward 9 are likely aware of the proposed development at 780 Baseline (the Lonestar plaza). We have provided recent updates on that file and continue to monitor its progress. There is another file that is not in our ward but might also be of interest for reasons similar to 780 Baseline. A proposed development at 1081 Carling Ave is heading to the Planning & Housing Committee later this month. The application is looking for a by-law amendment to allow the construction of two towers on the site (one 16 stories and the other 27 stories), which sits across from the northwest corner of the Experimental Farm. As with 780 Baseline, neighbourhood associations have been engaged and some changes have been made to address residents’ concerns. But concerns about both developments have also been raised by the Experimental Farm. The development, like 780 Baseline, will cast shadows onto the fields at the farm, changing the light conditions—the taller the towers, the greater the impact. This has implications for the research conducted there. While the federal government carries responsibility for the farm’s operations, Councillor Devine is looking closely at the situation and communicating with his colleagues about the potential implications for development around the farm. He wants to be sure the city is making conscious choices about the future direction of the area around the farm and carefully managing the city’s relationship with that long-standing institution.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Congrats to the Nepean Eagles
Our heartfelt congratulations to the East Nepean Eagles! This local team (youth players aged 13 – 16) that plays at Hamilton Yards Field at the Nepean Sportsplex recently took the Senior League Canadian Championships and are now representing Canada at the Senior League World Series taking place in South Carolina from July 29 - August 5. Good luck!
Parkwood Hills Bike Rodeo
Residents in Parkwood Hills and the surrounding areas should check out this great free event taking place on Wednesday, August 9th from 1pm – 2pm at Inverness Park.
Let us know about your events!
Do you have an event coming up this summer that you’d like our office to promote. Or perhaps you’d like Councillor Devine to come out and attend. Please send us information about what you’ve got in store this summer by emailing Councillor’s Assistant Alex Harris at [email protected].