Glebe Community Association
President Glebe Community Association
GCA looks for accountability
The City of Ottawa continues to push ahead with OSEG’s proposal for Lansdowne 2.0 despite significant public concerns about the redevelopment. The city claims the project will be “revenue neutral” – a misleading term that implies no cost to taxpayers. In fact, the city will spend $400 million of taxpayer money on the project, taking on hundreds of millions in unsustainable new debt at a time when many other vital priorities are not being funded.
OSEG’s original deal did not produce the promised financial returns to the city and left taxpayers exposed, with the city on the hook. OSEG’s latest proposal, rushed through the previous council, holds greater risk and spends more taxpayer dollars, adding to city debt.
Many residents are concerned that council has not learned the lessons of the LRT, another failed Public Private Partnership. They are asking what it takes for city hall to be accountable and for council to provide proper oversight and stewardship of public funds, particularly when it involves projects with such significant financial cost and risk for taxpayers.
What can you do?
Ottawa’s Finance Committee is expected to vote on Lansdowne on October 18, followed by council consideration the following week. While minor changes are possible, Lansdowne 2.0 is currently expected to be approved. If you are concerned, the time for action is now.
First, join us now in calling on the mayor and council for a new approach to revitalize Lansdowne – one that will not lead to unsustainable municipal debt or increased property taxes. Write firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Share your views with friends in other parts of the city – ask them to write or call their councillor and the mayor. There must be a city-wide response to get changes in this plan or it will go ahead as is, and Ottawa taxpayers will pay.
Second, the city must rezone lands that they rezoned only a decade ago with Lansdowne 1.0. Contrary to Ottawa’s newly minted Official Plan, these planning applications will permanently change the designation of this part of Lansdowne Park from recreational and leisure public uses to a mixed-use, commercial-residential zone. Designated green space, in an area that is already underserved, will be reduced significantly as more residents move in. You can comment on this application online by searching for Application #D02-02-23-0047 in the City of Ottawa’s Development Applications Search. devapps.ottawa.ca/en/applications/D02-02-23-0047/details.
No matter how you respond, please share widely some key points about Lansdowne 2.0, especially to friends in other parts of the city (see box).
Queen Elizabeth Driveway – what about next year?
There are differing opinions about the closure of QED to cars this summer. Traffic patterns seem to have changed this year, due in part to closure of Colonel By, but also transit failures and more folks going back to work. The GCA has received complaints about the negative traffic impacts on streets like Fifth, O’Connor, Pretoria and Strathcona.
In 2021, during the pandemic, the GCA was generally supportive but wanted to see how things evolved and get some data. This summer, we met separately with both the city and the National Capital Commission and invited both to get together to try to understand the data and mitigate impacts on Glebe streets. While the city was willing to engage, the NCC refused to meet with the city.
We hope to see better collaboration in future and will try to meet again with both organizations this fall. While we don’t vote for the NCC, its prominent role in our city means it too needs to be accountable to the people who live here.
The next meeting of the Glebe Community Association is Tuesday, September 26 at 7 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre. Please join us.
Key Points to Share
The city will spend $400 million of taxpayer money on the project, taking on $239M+ in new debt when other priorities are not being funded.
Lansdowne 1.0 has been a financial failure every year since OSEG launched operations in 2014. The ability of the city to pay down the new debt and avoid costs to taxpayers is based on unrealistic financial projections for both retail leasing and the Redblacks.
OSEG proposes that the city divert 90 per cent of the property taxes from new housing units to pay for the redevelopment, leaving very little to pay for services. That will clearly put pressure on property taxes.
The flawed planning process and opaque funding model resemble the kind of decision-making that gave us the LRT mess.
The headache of getting to Lansdowne for events will get worse – Lansdowne 2.0 includes no plan to address traffic or transit.
The plan calls for a new arena on the existing green space – a permanent loss of a public park area.
The development calls for 40-storey towers. Out of scale with the rest of the area, it will cast a huge shadow and reduce light on the Aberdeen Pavilion, public gathering areas and restaurant patios.
The plan for 1,200 units is too dense for this location, particularly given lack of access to rapid transit. The luxury development includes no deeply affordable housing despite Ottawa’s housing crisis and the fact that Lansdowne is publicly owned land.
August 18, 2023
The year that was
The election of a new Glebe Community Association board of directors is a good time to reflect on the activities of the past year.
A new board was elected at the Annual General Meeting in June, and it is a sign of stability and commitment that nearly all the board is returning (see the GCA website for committee chairs and regional reps). But there is always some turnover, so we said farewell and thank you to board secretary Janet Mayhew who stepped down. Janet Sutherland, who has been on the board before, has assumed her vital work.
It was a busy year and here are just a few highlights:
The GCA Membership Committee and Block Reps were out knocking on doors in May. The personal contact paid off, and the GCA now has many new members. And the number continues to grow via the registration link on our website (glebeca.ca/membership/). Thanks to all the volunteers who worked hard to canvass the neighbourhood so the GCA has a strong base and funds to run its business.
The Health, Housing and Social Services Committee has been advocating for affordable housing in a proposed 16-storey, mixed-use building at Chamberlain and Bank. Adding affordable housing to the project would be a small step in dealing with the crisis in Ottawa. On the health front, our partnership with Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South has focused on trying to establish an innovative health clinic in our area for seniors, as well as working on more creative options for seniors housing and aging in place.
The GCA’s Transportation Committee secured a large grant from Infrastructure Canada to conduct a study on Active Transportation in the Glebe – how we walk, cycle, scoot or skateboard around the neighbourhood. The objective is to create an Action Plan for a safe, inclusive, bike- and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood well-connected to other communities in central Ottawa. A community consultation is underway, including an open house held on June 7 at St Giles Church to gather ideas for the study. More than 60 people attended and an online survey continues to pull in ideas.
The Environment Committee surveyed Glebe streets to count properties lacking a front yard tree on city-owned right of way and worked with the membership team to hand out Neighbourhood Tree Canopy Regeneration Project postcards. They also co-hosted a Climate Resiliency webinar with Centretown Community Association in partnerships with Carleton University students. Outreach activities included promoting the Green Bins in Schools program at First Avenue Public School and holding an Anti-Idling session with Mutchmor PS and GNAG parents. Presentations were made to city committees on different topics, and numerous articles were published in the Glebe Report and elsewhere.
In April, the GCA approved a motion from the Parks Committee that the city approve funding for a pilot project to provide the budget for winter stairway maintenance for Central Park West and East from Bank Street. Through the parks committee, the GCA also passed a motion recommending the city bring in stronger rules about where film production crews can park or put their “base camps.”
The Lansdowne Committee has been working with community associations in Old Ottawa East and Old Ottawa South to engage with city staff and councillors and to ensure meaningful consultations on Lansdowne 2.0. Given the lack of a transparent and informed consultation by the City, the GCA held a session for the public to comment on the proposal. About 130 people came out on June 19 at St. Giles to look at the site model. Attendees reviewed different aspects of the project that could cost taxpayers more than $300 million.
The Great Glebe Garage Sale was a huge success this year and raised almost $15,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank. This happened thanks to a big publicity campaign to recommit the neighbourhood to fundraising for the food bank. The word got out through traditional and social media and a massive poster blitz. Thanks to all the organizers who put an enormous amount of time and energy into the Glebe’s largest annual event.
During last year’s municipal election, the GCA and other community associations organized a councillor candidates’ debate at the Glebe Community Centre and a mayoral debate at the Horticulture Building. Both were extremely well attended.
Finally, I want to salute our Education Committee and everyone involved in getting the Mutchmor rink back.
The fate of Lansdowne 2.0 will be decided when city council returns in the fall. The GCA will be watching closely to see what is in an update report requested by the city’s environment committee due no later than the end of July. Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard moved the motion after release of a letter on the need for “financial disclosures and transparency” signed by former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page and other prominent Ottawa residents. This letter reinforces concerns raised by the GCA about the lack of financial transparency on Lansdowne 2.0.
Also, by fall we will have a draft report on active transportation in our community for further public review and approval by the GCA board.
The next GCA board meeting will be in person at the Glebe Community Centre on Tuesday, September 26 at 7 p.m.
June 9, 2023
Community Transportation Study
Did you attend the GCA’s consultation open house on June 7 for our Active Transportation Study? If not, there will be other opportunities to comment on the project looking at how we walk, cycle or otherwise move around the neighbourhood without using a motorized vehicle. “Active transportation” is an important component of a livable city. If you have ideas, check out the survey at Glebeca.ca – it’s open until June 16.
Street Trees are Infrastructure
The Glebe is one of Ottawa’s oldest communities, and many trees have aged along with our neighbourhood. Thirty years ago, our street had a good share of large trees. Since then, the infamous ice storm, warmer winters that allow insect pests to thrive, last spring’s derecho and this winter’s wind and ice storm have taken their toll. Not to mention the chainsaws that came out when the road was rebuilt.
In his campaign for mayor, Mark Sutcliffe promised to double the city’s annual tree planting goal to about 250,000 a year – 148,000 street trees and another 50,000 in parks. The 40-per-cent target is in the city’s New Official Plan and climate change master plan. Although there is no plan yet to indicate how it will be achieved, it’s a good goal and important as we try to cope with a rapidly changing climate.
To this end, the Glebe Community Association has a suggestion. At our May meeting, we passed a motion calling on the city to adopt a proactive tree-planting strategy where City of Ottawa staff automatically plant street trees on the city-owned frontage of private properties to achieve the 40-per-cent tree canopy coverage necessary to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Ottawa neighbourhoods.
The motion refers to the city-owned part of front lawns. This is where the city infrastructure goes – lamp posts, hydro poles, fire hydrants, traffic signs, etc. Trees are infrastructure and, like other infrastructure that is damaged or destroyed, the city needs to replace it.
This approach would eliminate the requirement for property owners to request replacement trees. Many people assume the city does it automatically – it doesn’t.
What Makes a Liveable City?
Trees, green space, accessible amenities, good roads and efficient public transportation – these are all important elements of a liveable city. Another important component is openness, transparency and due democratic process. When it comes to democratic process, the City of Ottawa often falls short.
Which brings us to Lansdowne 2.0. Again.
The GCA has been working with the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and the Glebe BIA for many years to make sure Lansdowne Park is a vibrant site that will benefit both our community and residents across the city. The effects and costs of the proposed Lansdowne 2.0 is not “just” a central Ottawa issue. The proposal on the table has city-wide implications – that’s why it was on the agenda of the Federation of Community Associations Annual General Meeting in May.
The GCA is on the record as being in favour of the city’s objectives for intensification, which include increased density in the Glebe and the downtown core. We have called for the City to build deeply affordable housing, and the Lansdowne redevelopment plans provide an opportunity to ensure additional units are built.
Nevertheless, the GCA is concerned about overdevelopment, the loss of accessible green/park space and the impact on public space of the proposed redevelopment – which includes apartment towers of 40 storeys or more.
The main question: Is this a good deal for taxpayers? Has due diligence been done? Is there a proper financial analysis, or are taxpayers massively subsidizing a private venture?
An example is the roughly $200-million proposal to build a new arena/performance centre. Is this a good investment given all the buzz about potential new buyers for the Senators hockey team and discussion about whether a new arena will be built on LeBreton Flats or some other location closer to the LRT? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to slow down the decision-making process on Lansdowne until we know for sure if a new arena is in the cards?
These considerations were part of a motion passed by the GCA at its last meeting that calls on the City to develop alternative concepts for the revitalization of Lansdowne. Specifically, it requests:
No decisions on a potential Lansdowne redevelopment plan to be taken by Council until decisions are taken regarding a new Sens arena;
The City to develop and commit funding to a transportation plan to get visitors and new residents to and from Lansdowne Park in keeping with whatever decisions are made to redevelop or enhance the site;
The City to provide detailed financial analysis for any alternative redevelopment plans; and
The City not to schedule any decisions on such an important file during the summer months when it is clear to all that public engagement is compromised.
Ramming through a decision during the summer months is something the old City Council might have tried. We expect more from the current Council. The GCA has produced a graphic on the proposed financial scheme for Lansdowne 2.0. Just scan the QR code on this page to follow the money.
Please join us for the GCA’s Annual General Meeting at the Glebe Community Centre, Tuesday June 13, 7–9 p.m. After a short business agenda, there will be time to socialize with your neighbours. The next GCA board meeting will be held online Tuesday, June 27, at 7 p.m.