By Joan Freeman
This month, the City of Ottawa intends to approve a new Offi Plan (OP). On October 14, the fi draft went to the combined Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, and it will go on to full City Council on October 27. It’s not small potatoes. This new 30-year plan is mas- sively consequential. It will affect how the city grows and develops for decades. For the Glebe, it will guide how our neighbourhood changes as more intensification happens. Will we gently intensify with additions to existing housing, low-rise units and missing middle multiple units that allow for lots of greenery, healthy transportation and small shops within walking distance? Or will we be surrounded by towers, fragmented by six-to nine-storey corridors and suffer from urban heat island effects, expensive housing and a lack of the amenities needed for healthy, car-light living? The OP doesn’t tell us, and it should. But the gaps in this OP strongly suggest that the tall grey-tower scenario is what we have to
look forward to in the Glebe and across the city.
The OP contains good policies and ideas, but the details aren’t worked out. Without a well-thought-out and complete plan, Ottawa will remain stuck with ad hoc, conflict-ridden development that won’t solve either the climate or housing emergencies. It doesn’t have to be this way. The deadline can be changed, and the problems can be fixed. But to do so, people need to let the mayor and council know what they think.
The OP is a brick: 268 pages plus hundreds of pages of annexes, maps, secondary plans and attachments.
Fortunately, there are excellent materials to help citizens quickly understand the OP’s problems and solutions. The People’s Official Plan (POP), an alliance of over 20 local organ- izations, has been working since April 2019 to understand and shape the OP and related city council decisions. POP’s top concerns: first, that the new plan is not moving far enough and fast enough on the climate emergency and on the related housing and homelessness emergency; and second, that the people most affected by the plan, namely residents, have not been mobilized and engaged in co-creating this import- ant public policy.
POP recently released eight one-page summaries of the problems with the plan, proposing solutions to fix it. They were prepared by POP experts and advocates for housing, design, greenspace, planning, environment, equity, agri- culture, municipal finances and public transportation. On September 28, the POP positions were unanimously sup- ported by the Glebe Community Association Board. Visit the POP website at ottawaclimatesolutions.net.
If you want to voice your concerns about the OP, I rec- ommend reading the POP one pagers of interest to you and using these to send a message to the mayor and councillors demanding that the plan be fixed before it’s too late. Ottawa deserves better.
Joan Freeman is a Glebe Community Association Environment and Planning Committee member, board member of Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability (CAFES) and member of the People’s Official Plan.