Council Watch January Report

This article is part of the Council Watch series, a volunteer-driven program designed to inform Ottawa residents of environmentally significant decisions at City Hall. Council Watch consists in a systematic and strategic attendance of city council and committee meetings. Our goal is to keep you informed and, together, to hold municipal representatives accountable. The views expressed below belong to the author and are not necessarily those of Ecology Ottawa.

In January several substantial motions were heard in City Hall. These motions addressed the development of dwelling units, transportation, the lack of parking lots in densely populated areas, and the environment.  As City Hall makes important decisions on these issues, I must ask myself whether the infrastructure of Ottawa will be more or less sustainable as new residential buildings are developed, and whether the city’s boundary expansion will influence the way we all commute from point A to point B.

Some of the motions approved by the January Planning Committee were related to the building of new dwelling units. Most of these are far away from business centers and there is a threat that these developments contribute to urban sprawl. Urban sprawl is correlated with increased Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) through transportation, and therefore further sprawl will increase climate-related problems such as air pollution and stormwater runoffs.

“Issues experienced with the LRT may gradually cause a lack of trust in public transportation as a reliable method of transit…”

Moreover, areas within Sandy Hill and south Barrhaven areas are slated for the future development of residential buildings, meaning that people will need to commute to the business centers and will further contribute to GHG emissions. For example, in January 4836 Bank Street was approved for  rezoning and the construction of a hotel. These kinds of decisions by the Committee make me wonder whether the city can simultaneously promote sustainability and GHG emissions reduction when more and more projects are being approved that do not seem, at first, to promote the kinds of communities that promote healthy, thoughtful, and just intensification.

The LRT was also a topic of conversation this past month. Integrating the LRT into the city’s transit infrastructure is an excellent way to combat GHG emissions and reduce commute time, although the lack of reliability of the transit system undermines this effort. Issues experienced with the LRT may gradually cause a lack of trust in public transportation as a reliable method of transit, which will in turn decrease public transportation use. Hence, the public may increasingly rely on private vehicles, which will make it more difficult to meet the City’s the goal of 80% GHG reduction by 2050.

Lastly, the Committee addressed the concern surrounding the limited amount of parking lots across Ottawa, and especially in densely populated areas. If, as suggested above, Ottawans increasingly rely on private transport due to urban sprawl and unreliable public transit, the lack of parking issue will only intensify. In the meantime, the question remains unanswered: How exactly is the City addressing urban sprawl, which it supposedly understands as an important part of its overall strategy to reduce GHG emissions? Council Watch will continue to monitor City Hall for upcoming motions regarding these issues. Stay tuned.

Written by: Margaryta Martiniuk

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