The City of Ottawa will have a 15-member planning advisory committee, significantly expanding the membership from a previous proposal that overwhelmingly favoured city hall’s inner circle.
Politicians will be joined by development experts and regular citizens on the new committee, which is being forced by the province under amendments to the Planning Act.
One noteworthy change from the city’s original proposal: the mayor won’t have a seat at the advisory committee table.
The November 2016 proposal to council had the advisory committee made up of the mayor, chair of the planning committee, chair of the agriculture and rural affairs committee, the general manager of the planning department and two council-appointed citizens “with appropriate planning experience.” Under the proposal, the advisory committee would have met once annually to review the planning work plan and other times when politicians wanted some planning feedback.
The membership was clearly tilted in city hall’s favour, only giving a small voice to regular residents. On top of that, no one from the development industry was being invited to be part of the advisory committee.
Council shelved the proposal that month, and again last March, to allow more time to determine who should be on the advisory committee. Council gave itself until the end of December 2017 to finalize the membership.
This month, council rubber-stamped the terms of reference for the refreshed structure of the advisory committee, more than doubling the size of the group from the first proposal.
Six residents, representing different types of communities, will be members of the advisory committee: two residents from the rural area, two from inside the greenbelt and two from the suburbs. The terms of reference say nothing about what kind of planning experience residents need to have.
One member will be nominated by the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of Ottawa.
There will be one member from each from the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association and Building Owners and Managers Association.
Professional groups will be represented, too. There will be an architect, landscape architect and planner on the advisory committee.
Of course, politicians will have seats at the table. The chairs of the planning committee, agriculture and rural affairs committee and built-heritage subcommittee will be members.
The mayor won’t be on the advisory committee, but the mayor or the mayor’s representative will join the other three council members on the selection committee for the public members.
Under the city’s terms, the advisory committee must meet twice annually: once to review the planning department’s work plan and another time to review the progress and address any other business.
The city expects the first meeting to happen between April and June after council recruits and appoints the members.
Sheila Perry, president of the Federation of Citizens’ Associations of Ottawa, said the membership makeup of the advisory committee is better than the first proposal in 2016.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Perry said Thursday, but she’s concerned about the advisory committee only meeting twice a year, considering the complexity of municipal planning issues.
“The massiveness of that can be overwhelming,” Perry said.