Contributors: Chelsea Bland, Kai Ip Wong, Monica Wu
1. City to Host First Ever Water Roundtable
February 18th marked the first Environment Committee meeting of 2014, with water as the major agenda item of the day. Councillor Maria McRae surprised those in attendance by announcing that a Water Conservation Roundtable would be held on June 10th, 2014.
The objective of this roundtable is to invite council members, as well as interested residents or community groups, to provide the city with feedback, input, and advice on how to improve water quality and protection. The comments from this event would then ideally contribute to the development of the Stormwater Master Plan, Source Water Master Plan and the Water Environment Strategy.
If you believe that you have valuable contributions to make at the roundtable, or know someone else who might, please speak to your councillors about how you can be included on the list of potential speakers.
2. Building Better Suburbs? Driveway Expansion Motion Passes 14-7
In a 14-7 split vote, City Council passed a motion on February 26 to amend zoning bylaw 2008-250, which would effectively allow for households outside of the Greenbelt to expand their driveways up to 1.8 m of their yard.
These recommendations were put forth by city planners in response to complaints by suburban residents about inadequate parking space. With over 60% of suburban households outside the greenbelt owning 2 or more cars, there has been increasing pressure on councillors to address this issue. Leading the push for wider driveways was Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder, who made it abundantly clear that she would not be taking no for an answer: “I want to tell those of you around table who don’t represent suburbia – we don’t have access to same opportunities that you do […] This is about allowing people to enjoy their properties to the best they can.”
However, the amendment was not passed without considerable deliberation – several councillors voiced their concerns about stormwater management, on-street parking and snow removal issues stemming from these changes. The issue of stormwater runoff is especially problematic in areas such as Kanata South, which has experienced excessive flooding in the past. This prompted Councillor Hubley to put forth an amendment at an earlier Planning Committee meeting to prevent curb cuts, claiming that City Council has already “spent too much money remodeling our curbs for stormwater funneling”.
Councillor Chernuchenko, who voted in favour of the motion, commended staff for “find[ing] an uneasy compromise”, but added that “we cannot be in a position as a city to keep accommodating on the site–the loss of greenspace, loss of permeability of rainwater, loss of snow storage etc. and on-street parking–when peoples’ needs for additional vehicles continue to grow. There has to be a better way than loading sites with additional vehicles. And I think this isn’t an inside the Greenbelt or outside Greenbelt issue, it’s something we’re facing in all our neighbourhoods.”
Changes made to zoning bylaw 2008-250 will be included in the Building Better and Smarter Suburbs report, which is to be released at the end of July.
YEAS (14): Councillors M. Taylor, S. Blais, R. Chiarelli, P. Hume, S. Qadri, D. Deans, E. El-Chantiry, B. Monette, D. Chernushenko, J. Harder, M. McRae, K. Hobbs, A. Hubley and M. Wilkinson.
NAYS (7): Councillors D. Holmes, S. Moffatt, T. Tierney, R. Bloess, M. Fleury, P. Clark and K. Egli.
3. More Pedestrians, Please
On March 5th the Transportation Committee received the Pedestrian Crossing report, which was produced as a response to a motion put forth to staff to review the feasibility of reintroducing the Pedestrian Crossover (PXO) device. The report found that PXO’s could be reintroduced in Ottawa as they are an accepted traffic control device in Ontario. Councillor Fleury voiced his concerns regarding the timeline of when the pedestrian crossings would be implemented.
When a corridor has low pedestrian traffic, crossings may not be ‘warranted’, and Councillor Fleury wanted to clarify that it can be used as a strategic measure to boost the amount of pedestrians and cyclists in the area.
From a request by the Glebe Community Association speaking to the “Lansdowne Transportation Monitoring Program” report, a motion was put forth and passed that reduces the speed on Bank Street between Riverdale Avenue and Chamberlain Street to 40km/h. With Lansdowne opening this summer and traffic expected to drastically increase in the area, this measure will enhance the safety and hopefully encourage more walking, as well as cycling, in the area.
4. OC Transpo 2013 Customer Survey Shows “High Satisfaction Rates”
On March 19, the Transit Commission received a report from transit services on the results of the 2013 Customer Survey for OC Transpo. The results of the survey showed the highest satisfaction rates in OC Transpo since 2008., and while the Commission was glad to see the increase in customer ratings, it was not received without a few concerns.
Councillor Wilkinson noted that the city presentation of the survey results were not made public, and would have liked to have the public be able to speak to the results of the survey. Despite her concerns, the survey results have still not been made public.
In addition, Councillor Egli expressed doubts about the customer ratings for convenience and reliability of transit services. He noted that while they have seen progress, the numbers are still relatively low. Whether the ratings should be considered as “low” was a debated issue between Councillor Egili and City staff, with Councillor Egli’s concerns stemming from his belief that convenience and reliability should be the spine of any good transit system.
5. Water Environment Strategy (WES) to be Released in Two Parts
Following its initial presentation at the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee (ESAC) on March 6th, the Water Environment Strategy (WES) has been fast-tracked through its approval process over the last month. At the Environment Committee meeting on March 24, a presentation was given by Dixon Weir, General Manager of the Environmental Services Department, announcing that the WES will now be released in two phases:
- “Phase 1” will be dedicated to the foundations of developing a WES by identifying the different agencies that contribute to watershed management, what it is that they already do, and how to work with them collaboratively in the future. The first phase will also be an opportunity for the City to identify existing watershed issues, resources, and different initiatives to tackle the issues that the City’s water is facing (The official reports can be found here).
- “Phase Two” will be the proposal and implementation of an actual document called the “Water Environment Strategy”, and the proposed timeline for that suggests the beginning of 2015.
Notably, the proposal was brought forth to City Council on March 26th–just two days after the approval of the WES at the Environment Committee–where the Rules of Procedure were suspended due to the “urgency of the item” and “the timeline set out by the Environment Committee”. The item was passed without any further discussion.