Wed. May 18th, 2022

“We seem to have been held hostage to a set of rules that do not serve us, but destroy the foundation of plans, even ideas that generations trusted.”

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Just this week, Ottawa council members approved a zoning permit that allows a warehouse and truck depot in the southern European business park.

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Our elected representatives were aware of a petition against the plan, which was signed by almost 4,000 people who were dissatisfied with the prospect of 400 trucks grinding around near their homes every day. The ward councilor was also strongly opposed to it.

So, of course, it was approved.

Would it have mattered if the petition had 30,000 names or 300,000 names? Probably not.

You know who no longer gets what they want at City Hall, maybe never did? Ordinary people.

Some people in the countryside around North Gower may get a Starship Enterprise-sized warehouse right outside the door, in a cornfield, close to horse farms. Do they want it? No. Did they object? Yes. Do they get it anyway? Probably.

The Vanians by and large do not want the Salvation Army’s planned shelter and service center on Montreal Road. Did they object? High. Do they get it anyway? Looks like it.

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We all pretty much hated the planned addition to Château Laurier. Did we object? Som gal. Have we stopped it? No, but we managed some “improvements”. Or not.

Did people want to give a Porsche dealer a $ 2.9 million tax deduction? Consensus seems to be No. Have people objected? Yes. Does the company get the tax relief? Yes.

Did the neighbors want a 45-story building in Carling and Preston with a new hospital across the street, complete with 3,400 parking spaces in the now green area? Not the ones I’ve talked to. Do they both get it? Of course.

Do we want a number of new embassies off Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway? Not really. Do we get them? Probably.

I suppose the experts call that the “democratic deficit”. Maybe it was ever like that. People resist change, especially of the unknown variety. Maybe there was a sit-in when Colonel City started digging the Rideau Canal, and the progress forever was a smooth kind.

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But here is a consequence that is not much talked about: a loss of faith, a flourishing of cynicism and, more importantly, a gradual disconnection in the urban development process. I mean, how many times can you fight the good fight, keep losing, and still get up for another day?

It’s easy to blame “Watson Club” – every day is different at City Hall, but the scoreboard always sounds 15 to 9 – but the problem is deeper. We seem to have been held hostage to a set of rules that do not serve us, but destroy the foundation of plans, ideas even that generations trusted.

Our Jon Willing on Friday had an insightful piece about society that responded to the new official plan. First and foremost, handing over a complex planning document to volunteer laymen – oh let’s count the binders – is like handing over the space shuttle manual to a G1 driver. An ordinary soul needs to understand how all these moving pieces work?

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So we digest it in slices, starting with the things that literally hit home.

If you paid a premium to live in a single-family home in an established neighborhood with parks and schools and what not, you probably would not want the bungalow next door being torn down into a triplex. It is called changing the rules, and someone has better a better reason than “intensification,” which is an altar, a restriction that we ourselves choose.

If you worked on a community design plan that required a 12-story boundary on your main street, you would not be happy with 25 or 40 instead. But that’s what we get.

If you thought your business park would be a series of low-end high-tech campuses, you would not be content with a truck-type depot or 24-hour Amazon-type warehouse with dozens of trailer booths. But that’s what you get.

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(And while I’re whistling crazy, do we really expect us in Canada, which’s 90 percent empty, to run out of land to put people down?)

But mostly I think there is a real danger in constantly working against the will of the public and then saddle the nearest neighbors with the consequences of changed “plans” they never bought into. That’s how bitterness is sown.

In other words, it’s not the truck, stupid. It’s the lunatics driving the bus, deaf to “ding-ding”, calling for our stop.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email kegan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/kellyegancolumn

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