By Barbara Popel
Summer was not a time for rest and recreation for the Dow’s Lake Residents Association (DLRA). Autumn has been even busier. But before I report on one of our major initiatives concerning the new Civic Hospital campus, let me give you a bit of history.
The DLRA’s existence predates the Glebe Community Association (GCA). When the GCA was formed, the DLRA decided to continue as a community association. Recognizing that the Dow’s Lake neighbourhood is part of the Glebe, it has been designated the GCA’s Glebe Area 1. The DLRA president represents Glebe Area 1 at GCA meetings and most of the DLRA’s members also pay GCA membership fees.
The DLRA does much more than work on issues specific to our neighbourhood, such as Winterlude, the Tulip Festival and Eugene Forsey Park. For example, the DLRA had a very active role in the first Glebe Traffic Study, in opposing the Airport Parkway and in the environmental assessment of the first LRT line.
So it should come as no surprise that the DLRA has been responding to some of the serious flaws in the plans for the new Civic Hospital campus in the Experimental Farm near Dow’s Lake and the Arboretum. Our Special Committee on the New Civic Hospital, chaired by our president, Carmen Sanchez, formed in early July.
The June 29 public information session had raised more questions than it answered. Regrettably, it alerted us to the fact that The Ottawa Hospital’s approach is first to build the hospital campus, then if there are problems, see if there are ways to fix them. This is, frankly, incompetent project management. On a well-run project, risks that would result in major problems are mitigated before the problems occur. Afterwards, it is invariably more expensive and sometimes impossible to correct them.
There were thousands of pages of official documents published in May and June and then most of them were revised (with no indication of what the revisions were) in July and August. We couldn’t read everything. So we focused on transportation, finances and the environment. We not only enumerated the major negative impacts of the hospital campus, we also formulated 37 practical actions that the hospital and the city could immediately take to mitigate the most serious impacts. We stressed that although we support building a new hospital, the plan includes far too many uncertainties and ensures that nearby neighbourhoods such as the Glebe will suffer predictable negative impacts that the plans have failed to identify and therefore failed to mitigate. For example, there won’t be enough parking for staff and hospital visitors, so they will park on Glebe streets.
We want to be seen as potential partners in preventing problems. We want real community involvement in addressing the many problems with the current plan.
We prepared presentations and background material, including the 37 mitigating actions and presented them to Ottawa’s Planning Committee on October 1. If you’d like a copy of these documents, contact me at email@example.com. Prior to that, we sent questions to the City’s senior planner on this project, Sean Moore. His answers weren’t very helpful, but we made sure they were part of the Planning Committee’s official record, along with our presentation material. We submitted the same presentations and background material to City Council on October 13.
I’m sure you know the outcome: the Planning Committee voted 6 to 2 in favour of recommending the holding provisions be lifted on the master site plan. City Council then approved lifting the holding provisions, with a few minor restrictions. Individual site plan control applications will be submitted for City approval based on the phases outlined in the master site plan. There are 11 more phases from 2022 to 2048, the first of which is building the parking garage.
Given the composition of the Planning Committee (mostly suburban councillors) and the voting history of City Council with respect to development, neither of these votes were a surprise. However, we felt we made progress. Risks and potential mitigations are now on the public record. Some risks – including major financial risks – were made visible to councillors and to the public beyond the Glebe. There were several newspaper articles and a lengthy CBC radio interview after the Planning Committee meeting. We shared information with several community organizations such as the Botanica Residents Committee for New Civic Development and ReImagine Ottawa. One of us produced a persuasive YouTube video.
We hope to apply pressure to ensure mitigating actions are designed and implemented.
Barbara Popel is secretary of the Dow’s Lake Residents Association.