Villagers living in the middle of what is to become Ottawa’s next suburb remain confused as to why their area was linked to urban development, and cannot see how thousands of new homes can be built on the land around them.
City staff have now identified the area that will form the suburb to be called Tewin, after meeting monthly with Algonquins in Ontario — a treaty negotiating body that includes Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation — and their partner Taggart Investments.
The map and the new city boundary will be included in the new official plan, which must be approved by the city council at the end of October.
After a crucial council vote last winter, city staff were told to choose the land for Tewin that measures about 445 acres from a large area at the rural southeast end.
Politicians decided to allocate Algonquins in Ontario about a third of the total 1,281-acre urban expansion so it could embark on a vision for a sustainable community, but Quebec-based Algonquin executives argued that this decision could not be defined as reconciliation, as politicians had thought. City staff also scored the area poorly.
The area, which stretches between Leitrim and Thunder roads and hugs Anderson Road, proved to be the most suitable, according to the city’s long-term planning director Don Herweyer.
He told CBC News that the area has the fewest environmental constraints, it sits near Highway 417 and can be serviced.
Piperville Road crosses the center of Tewin’s proposed area as a belt, and those living along the highway speak of little more than the plan for up to 45,000 new residents around them.
Monica and John Brewer were shocked by the “naughty” and “sudden” decision to choose their area because they have to travel far for groceries, live in the middle of natural wetlands and on land that changes, and recently got their first bus route.
Monica’s family has lived in the area since the 1970s and built homes there, and she says the Leda clay downstairs is causing problems. Neighbors have spent tens of thousands repairing foundations.
There are ongoing costs that are not covered. … We know that these things are promised and then they will not be delivered.– Monica Brewer, farmer
“I want some pretty smart engineers to tell me and convince me … [how] a five-story walk-up condominium [is] do not want to switch? added John, referring to denser buildings required in a more sustainable new society.
Their neighbors, Kelly and Shannon McInnis, live in a newer home that had 2.4-foot-thick pieces of Styrofoam installed along the foundation so the home would not move.
Investigations are coming
Algonquins in Ontario has said a team of experienced engineers confirms the area can be developed despite concerns raised at last winter’s council meeting, including questions about soil conditions and the risk of earthquakes.
Finding answers to such big questions requires more than the seven months since meeting in February, Herweyer says, but staff have come up with a long to-do list of detailed studies that the council can adopt that Tewin landowners would pay for.
The cost of taking infrastructure this far is another major concern.
Officials from the Ontario Department of Local Government and Housing have said Tewin appeared very far from light rail stations and recommended the city that urban expansion follow provincial planning policies that require infrastructure to be cost-effective.
City staff have now drawn up an agreement to be signed with Tewin landowners to ensure “Tewin pays for Tewin”, and new homes can cover costs through an additional development fee.
CBC News calculated that the town has actually mapped about 800 acres to Tewin, but Herweyer said it includes areas that cannot be developed and that only the 445 acres approved by the council will eventually be built. The exact boundaries of Tewin also still need to be “refined,” even after the official plan is approved, Herweyer said.
He also noted that the city council will have four or five more “touch points” before the land is developed.
“This is to lay down the baseline and principles of Tewin,” Herweyer said.
Doubt about future costs
Some residents of Piperville Road say they are frustrated that neither the city nor their councilor, Catherine Kitts, has informed or heard them about the grand plans for their area.
Kitts, who voted for Tewin, said feedback from residents has been mixed, but she was attracted to the idea of building a transit-oriented, 15-minute community without any of the problems of previous suburban design.
“We need to make sure the evidence is in the pudding, and ask these difficult questions,” said Kitts, who wants staff to reassure councilors that Tewin is viable and taxpayers will be protected.
Some of her constituents do not believe the city will be isolated from financial risk.
“We are 60 years old. We are not children. We know these things are promised and then they will not be delivered,” Monica Brewer said.
“It’s like when I get the phone call saying I’m won a cruise. I do not believe it,” Kelly McInnis said.
McInnis called last winter’s city council meeting in Tewin a “political tribune” in which politicians deviated from the agreed process of choosing city boundary packages. He felt they should have listened to their own staff, which gave the Tewin countries a poor score.
“I have faith that the provincial government, which needs the green light, may want to see the forest for the trees,” he said.