As promised two weeks ago, I was going to use this edition of the newsletter to provide further detail on my position regarding City Council’s upcoming decision over Lansdowne 2.0. However, since so many councillors, journalists, residents and community groups have raised many of the same concerns and questions I have, I’d like to use this newsletter to speak to my growing concern over how this important civic decision has been handled.
Essentially, Council is being pushed towards having no choice other than saying “yes” or “no” to a clearly flawed plan. And as more voices speak publicly about not supporting Lansdowne 2.0, the project’s proponents have used tactics and messaging offering not so much a choice but an ultimatum.
A bolder, more imaginative vision for the future of Lansdowne might have inspired residents across Ottawa to unite in support. There could’ve been plans for new mass transit lines encompassing Bank Street and the Queen Elizabeth Drive. There could’ve been a radical investment in public realm and housing, instead of compromises in each. Instead, we’ve got significantly more retail just as the retail landscape is underperforming, an abandonment of our own housing policies, and the likely prospect of even more congestion coming into an already congested site.
It’s disappointing that the proponents of Lansdowne 2.0 are advocating for it so strongly when we, as a city, face far more urgent concerns. It’s disappointing that the financial failures of Lansdowne 1.0 are plainly visible for all to see, and yet proponents for Lansdowne 2.0 are willing to undertake so much risk on overly optimistic fiscal plans. It’s disappointing that the best that we can come up with for the crown jewel of our city’s public assets is something that appears to favor private interests more than public ones.
With public opinion against Lansdowne 2.0 resounding like a choir in perfect harmony, let’s see if enough voices on Council are properly tuned in.
For those looking for more facts and less prose, check out the well-reasoned arguments by Councillor Jessica Bradley and Councillor Wilson Lo, as well as the op-ed in the Ottawa Business Journal by local architect Toon Dreesen.
Preparing for Budget 2024
Last week, we held the initial public consultation for Budget 2024. As with last year, we held a joint public meeting with Councillors Kavanagh (Ward 7) and Johnson (Ward 8). About 60 people turned out to the virtual meeting to listen to a presentation from the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Cyril Rogers, followed by a question-and-answer session. If you missed the session, don’t worry. This is really just the beginning of the consultation process. The draft budget will be presented at Council next week and then debated in committees throughout November before returning to Council for final approval on December 6. Each portion of the budget will then proceed to the various committees of council where they will be debated and where community members will have the opportunity to bring delegations. You can also provide your feedback through Engage Ottawa, the city’s online platform for public engagement. And we’ll be launching our own Budget Survey in a special newsletter soon after the draft budget comes out.
These last couple of weeks have been particularly harrowing on Nepean’s roadways. A motorcyclist was killed in a crash on West Hunt Club Road, a construction worker was seriously injured in a hit-and-run on Clyde Ave. just north of Baseline, and a teen was badly hurt when they were struck by a car while crossing Merivale at Viewmount.
To those who have children who attend Merivale High School or if you live anywhere near it, you will be familiar with how busy and dangerous that intersection can get during peak hours of the day. My team and I spent last Thursday observing the activity around the high school and came away with a clear understanding of just how chaotic things can get. We were joined by members of the city’s traffic safety team as well as representatives from School Streets Ottawa. By mid-morning, adjustments were already being made to the timing of the pedestrian crossing signals at the corner, and we also identified several other immediate, short-term and long-term changes we’ll be assessing over the coming weeks. Those changes will help but there is a lot more to do to make that area as safe as it can be for the students and residents who travel through that area. This is definitely not the end of it. We will keep the discussion going and do what we can to keep everyone safe out on Nepean’s roads. Those who are interested can watch an interview that I did on CTV Morning News.
Hydro Ottawa Update
At last week’s City Council meeting we finally received the 2022 Annual Report from Hydro Ottawa, which had been delayed due to the recent lengthy labor disruption. At one point during their presentation, outgoing Hydro Ottawa Board Chairman Jim Durrell referenced Hydro Ottawa as something that most people “don’t pay much attention to, because it just works.” When it was my time to speak, I respectfully told Mr. Durrell that a lot of residents in Ward 9 would roll their eyes at that statement.
Since the Hydro One Annual Report also addressed the issue of increasing the resiliency of the power grid, I pressed for Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad to speak to the corporation’s plans for addressing the ongoing vulnerability in Ward 9, where many areas have a ridiculously high number of outages. Mr. Conrad mentioned one critical component of their plan, which is a plan over the next 5 – 10 years to bury power lines along our arterial corridors, including Merivale.
And finally, after a long delay due to the 85-day strike, I will be meeting with Hydro Ottawa leadership in November to initiate the in-depth review of the frequent outages that have affected much of Ward 9, as well as problematic responses to those outages. From these meetings, I hope to bring Hydro Ottawa to Ward 9 for some community outreach sessions this Winter.
Graham Creek Info Session
On November 21st at 6:00pm, Councillor Devine will host the Graham Creek Info Session for residents in Trend Arlington whose properties border the section of Graham Creek that runs from Canfield Road to Banner Road. This includes specific residents on Banner Road, Canfield Road, Keppler Crescent and Parkmount Crescent. The purpose of this meeting is to provide information on upcoming preventative maintenance work to clear debris along the creek, as well as to collect agreements from impacted residents to do this work on their properties. Please go to our website for more information.
Budget 2024 Survey
The city budget will be introduced at next week’s council meeting. There is a lot to consider when bringing in a new budget. And I am interested in your views. Shortly after the budget is introduced on November 8, my office will be issuing a survey. The survey is designed to gather your views on the budget and the city’s spending priorities. We will send out a link to the survey to all of our newsletter subscribers. So, keep an eye out for that!
Vacant Unit Tax Update
Last week Council received another scheduled update on the Vacant Unit Tax (VUT) program, which will be continuing in 2024.
The one percent VUT charge was included in the 2023 final property tax bill in June for properties that met the definition of vacant under the by-law. The number of vacant units and revenue will continue to change over the next 10 months as staff goes through the appeal and audit phase. For properties declared or deemed vacant, property owners had until September 15, 2023, to submit a Notice of Complaint for the 2022 occupancy year. As of that date, 2,982 Notices of Complaint were filed. Upon receiving a Notice of Complaint, staff conduct a review and within 90 days provide the property owner with a Notice of Determination which may result in a reversal of the VUT charge. As of October 26, 360 Notices of Complaint have been denied, 2,185 have resulted in the VUT charge reversed and 437 remain to be processed. Once a determination has been issued, property owners can file a Request for Review if they disagree with the results. The Request for Review is the final determination in the appeal process. As of October 26, the City has received 72 Requests for Review. And so, as of October 26, the number of vacant residential units for the 2022 occupancy year is 3,743. This includes the results of all appeals processed to date.
In terms of customer experience with using the VUT program, our data suggests that 90 percent of residents were able to navigate the program successfully in the first year without having to contact the City. A final report on the first year of the Vacant Unit Tax, including any enhancements to improve and simplify the declaration process will be presented to Council in Fall 2024.
The declaration form for the 2023 occupancy year will be available starting mid-December, with a communications campaign rolling out in January 2024. Property owners will have until the standard deadline of March 21, 2024, to complete their declaration. Properties who have not declared by this date will be charged a $250 late declaration fee. The final deadline is April 30, 2024. City staff will be leveraging contact information collected from 2023 declarations to improve communications and reduce the number of late declarations.
Here are some specific statistics from the data collected:
- Out of 336,865 registered properties across the City, 3,743 properties were either declared or deemed vacant, representing a total of 1.11%.
- Out of 11,911 registered properties in Knoxdale-Merivale, 98 properties were either declared or deemed vacant, representing a total of 0.82%.
- The wards with the highest percentage of vacant units were Somerset Ward (2.40%) and Alta Vista Ward (1.95%).
- The wards with the lowest percentage of vacant units were Kanata South (0.51%) and Kanata North (0.56%).
Tennis & Pickleball
We are inviting Ottawa residents to share their experience or ideas with outdoor tennis and pickleball courts through a survey available on Engage Ottawa. The survey is now open and will run until December 31. Input received will help with the creation of a strategy that will serve as a reference guide for management, oversight and development of public and municipal club-operated outdoor tennis and pickleball courts. The project team will also be undertaking virtual consultations with the general public and targeted stakeholder groups. Further details are to come and will be available on Engage Ottawa.
Woodroffe Watermain Repair
The Woodroffe & Vanier Watermain Repair project is an expedited infrastructure renewal project to replace one pipe on Donald St and three pipes on Woodroffe Avenue. Please note that at this stage the construction timelines provided are estimates only. Once the City has found a contractor, staff will be able to provide more accurate timelines. Watermain construction is expected to take approximately 6 weeks to complete. Upon excavation, if determined that additional repairs are required based on condition of watermain, construction may extend into January 2024. Here are the tentative timelines:
- Construction start: mid-November 2023
- Substantial completion: December 2023
- Landscape reinstatement: Spring 2023
Merivale Transformer Station Update
Residents in Tanglewood are likely already familiar with the ongoing Hydro One Merivale Transformer Station modernization project, which is a multi-year project with a goal of upgrading the station’s power output capacity and overall resiliency. These are critical objectives for the City of Ottawa. Councillor Devine has been in regular contact with representatives of Hydro One to communicate about residents’ concerns, as well as get updates on progress.
Recently, we were made aware of complaints by residents living immediately adjacent to the construction site about consistent noise resulting from construction happening on the weekend. We reached out to Hydro One to inquire about their planned work schedule and were notified that they have planned weekend work on the following dates: October 28th, November 4th and December 16th. We will continue to seek updates about any further weekend work.
In our last newsletter, we referred to planned vegetation maintenance work that Hydro One will be conducting along the length of the hydro corridor that runs from Merivale Transformer Station to Hawthorne Station. Only a short segment of this line is within Ward 9. Our office has spoken with Hydro One about their plans, and we’ve been assured that the impact on residents will be minimal, and that they will be issuing notices to residents most immediately impacted by the maintenance work.
Yard & Leaf Waste Update
It’s officially peak leaf and yard waste season. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, waste collection operators have until 8 pm to pick up separately set out leaf and yard waste to accommodate the increased volumes of yard waste. Green, black & blue bins and garbage will continue to be picked up as usual between 7 am and 6 pm. Did you know setting out your leaf and yard waste separate from your green bin saves money because it can be composted at the Barnsdale leaf and yard composting pad at the Trail Waste Facility? Setting leaf and yard waste out separately will be required in 2026. To learn more about our green bin program and leaf and yard waste, visit: Ottawa.ca/greenbin.
OC Transpo LRT Stage 2 – New Website
The O-Train Extension Project has a brand-new webpage on OCTranspo.com/o-trainx! The new webpage will continue to provide the latest information, including public notices, construction photos, and project details. Stay connected by signing up for the newsletter here.
Tree Canada’s Community Tree Grants
Each year, Tree Canada helps schools, community groups, Indigenous communities and municipalities across Canada looking to plant trees or develop green infrastructure through creative projects. This includes supporting planting projects as well as developing and implementing urban forest best management practices and innovative urban design solutions. Their grants provide support for community greening, innovation and stewardship initiatives. Grant recipients received funding and technical support to help start, upgrade or achieve their greening goals. Tree Canada’s Community Tree Grants program has three funding streams:
- Greening Canada’s School Grounds: Helps support school greening projects that in turn enhance the learning experience for students and strengthen their relationship with nature.
- Edible Trees: Helps fight food insecurity by offering financial and logistical support to plant fruit- and nut- bearing trees and shrubs in communities on publicly accessible sites.
- Treemendous Communities: Encourages and supports community tree planting projects that create long-lasting benefits where people live, work or play.
Tree Canada’s funding program will be accepting applications until December 3, 2023.
Pineglen Park Lifecycle Playground Replacement
The City is looking for input on the new play equipment being proposed to replace the existing play equipment at Pineglen Park, located at 22 Brisbane Road in Ward 9. The community is invited to identify their preferred option and to provide comments on the proposed equipment. Interested residents can participate until November 13 via this direct link to Engage Ottawa.
ACORN Ottawa Renovictions Forum
For every new unit of affordable housing built in Ottawa, seven units are lost. A big cause of that huge gap are renovictions, where tenants lose their homes through no fault of their own and are forced into a housing market where rents are skyrocketing due to limited supply. On November 8th Councillor Devine will be joining several of his Council colleagues at a forum discussion on the prospect for getting a renovictions bylaw here in Ottawa. Join us on November 8th at 6:30pm in the Unitarian Room in Heartwood House (400 McArthur Avenue). For more info click here.
Protect your PC – free computer course
The Ottawa Public Library is hosting a course for adults that will show you the simple steps needed to protect your PC from being hacked on Wednesday November 1 at 10:30 am. Chris Taylor, President of the Ottawa PC Users’ Group will show you the simple steps you need to keep your PC safe. You can sign up for the course here.
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
COVID-19 & Respiratory Virus Season
We are entering the heart of the fall respiratory virus season and Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is asking city residents to do what they can to help reduce the spread of the viruses. There are some good tips and suggestions on OPH’s website for staying on top of things and ensuring you don’t spread illness to others. New vaccines for COVID-19 are now available and you can book an appointment for your shot with OPH or participating pharmacies. You can even double up and get your flu shot at the same time! Take care of yourself and your loved ones and book an appointment as soon as you can.
Unsafe at Home
Unsafe at Home Ottawa is a secure text and chat service for women and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Ottawa and Lanark County who may be living through increased violence and abuse at home. The program launched during the COVID-19 pandemic and has extended their service to provide emotional support, practical advice and referrals using encrypted technology, so conversations are confidential and secure. The service is in English and French and operates every day except Sunday. The crisis line is 613-704-5535, and the chat link is Unsafe at Home Ottawa: Web Chat (resourceconnect.com)
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
Meeting with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada to discuss 780 Baseline
As we reported in our last newsletter, the application for 780 Baseline is moving forward. No date has been set for hearing the application at Planning Committee as yet, but that does not mean we are not still working hard to make improvements to this development that will serve our community better.
Later this week, Councillor Devine will be meeting with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada to talk about the impact of development around the Central Experimental Farm. Our hope is to keep the conversation going and to bring the right partners to the table so that we can come up with solutions that best serve everyone involved. Stay tuned.
Speaking of development along Baseline, there is a new application just outside the boundaries of Ward 9 that nicely reflects the kind of intensification we are going to need along that corridor if we are going to be successful in building a better, more livable city with good, working, in-demand public transit. The application at 222 Baseline is looking to replace an old single-family home with a new, four-storey building with 18 units. It’s the perfect development for the area, with a bus stop right out front. More of this, please!
A lot of residents have been inquiring about the status of the development at the intersection of Woodroffe / Medhurst, where the current gas station site will expand to include a restaurant (presumably another Tim Horton’s), car wash and a cannabis store. Residents have understandably been concerned for why this development has been stalled for so long. Our office has communicated with the city planner assigned to this file to learn that the owner/developer will likely register their site plan agreement later this year, but that environmental remediations are still required before construction commence. It is unlikely that they’ll be breaking ground this year.
We also learned that there will be road widening associated with this project, which are required to accommodate road improvements associated with future transit along Woodroffe.
COMMUNITY NEWS & EVENTS
Christmas Craft Events are Coming!
The Christmas season is coming quickly, it would seem, because we’ve got a lot of announcements about some upcoming craft and bazaar events in Ward 9. Here’s a list of what’s coming, with the event posters further below:
- From November 2nd – 5th, craft lovers should head out to the Nepean Sportsplex Christmas Craft Show. Councillor Devine will be there on November 4 from 10:00am – 11:00am.
- On November 4th from 9:00am – 1:00pm, head over to the City View Annual Craft Fair at 50 Capilano Drive.
- On November 18th from 9:00am – 2:00pm, Merivale United Church (1876 Merivale) is hosting their Christmas Craft Market & Luncheon. This is also when you can pick up a Christmas wreath, so long as you reserve by November 5th.
- Also on November 18th from 10:00am – 1:00pm, you can head over to the Knox United Church Christmas Bazaar.
Living Healthy with Chronic Conditions