Ottawa's New Official Plan Approved by City Council

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

CBC NEWS, by Kate Porter

City council has given the green light to Ottawa's new Official Plan, the ambitious document that will guide development in the nation's capital for the next quarter-century.

The vote was 21-2 in favour of the overall plan Wednesday with Coun. Jeff Leiper and Coun. Rick Chiarelli providing the only votes against.

The map that showed where Ottawa would expand its urban boundary, including the area where the Algonquins of Ontario and developer Taggart plan to build a new suburb called Tewin, was voted on separately. It too was approved, in a 15-to-8 vote.

Coun. Riley Brockington had failed earlier in the council meeting to convince his colleagues to remove that rural area from future development. He was concerned taxpayers might end up on the hook for future infrastructure costs and said its distance from existing areas made for poor urban planning, given Ottawa has declared a climate emergency.

On Wednesday, though, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson stated council strongly supported the Official Plan.

"I believe we've come up with a plan that will serve us very well for a generation or two," he said. "This was an important day in the city's history. We approved the Official Plan that is our guiding, principal book."

Public feedback

Watson praised the thousands of people who gave unprecedented feedback to the city over the past few years.

Those many community groups — who have dedicated long hours to understanding what the Official Plan will mean for the future of their neighbourhoods — collectively said this week the blueprint didn't meet their expectations and the city wasn't living up to its own ambition.

"You always have push and pull ... but the reality is that we're a growing city," said Watson, and he thanked staff for bringing together "disparate views."  

The city-building document was written from scratch for the first time since amalgamation two decades ago, and it aims to aggressively build up existing areas, especially those closer to downtown. The calculation is that housing a growing population through intensification will lead to less expansion at the city's edges.

Its overarching goal is to make Ottawa the most livable mid-sized city in North America, creating neighbourhoods where residents are a 15-minute walk from groceries, schools and transit.

Critics, however, have expressed concerns the plan's lack of precise language could open the door to rapid intensification of neighbourhoods and a loss of urban tree cover.

Big zoning bylaw comes next

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who represents a part of Ottawa that has faced some of the greatest intensification, said he voted against the Official Plan because he is "cynical" it will help achieve a livable city.

Leiper expects some areas to take on a disproportionate share of intensification for developers to continue to "push the envelope," and doubts the city will pay for recreation facilities and parks.

Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower, who co-chairs the planning committee, said the city will have to find new ways to fund infrastructure and amenities as it takes its next steps to implement the official plan, as well as address those neighbourhood-level concerns.

The Official Plan now goes to the provincial municipal affairs minister for final approval.

Planning committee on Thursday will discuss a $7-million budget for staff to take on a comprehensive new zoning bylaw over the next three years in order to implement the new Official Plan.