The City of Ottawa is adjusting some of the details and languages used in its upcoming official plan as staff fine-tunes how major urban development initiatives are communicated and implemented over the next 25 years.
The city released its “As We Heard It” report Thursday afternoon, which summarized the feedback staff to date had received from residents about the new comprehensive plan that will dictate how Ottawa grows over the next 25 years.
The official plan provides the overall vision to guide the city to 2046, after which experts expect Ottawa’s population to grow by an additional 400,000 inhabitants. The city council decided last year that 60 percent of that growth should be achieved through intensification.
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Stephen Willis, Ottawa’s general manager of planning, said that while the city experienced a lot of buy-in to the plan in the feedback from residents, the prospect of intensification also provoked “anxiety” in many respondents.
Instead of dictating exact density requirements on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, the city is softening its pace in response to concerns.
Intensification “requirements” have been replaced by “targets” with a number of units per. Hectares, giving more “flexibility” to the planning process, according to the report.
The draft plan has also been updated to allow single-family homes to be rebuilt, and vague terms such as “regeneration” and “consistency” have been removed in favor of a more universal language.
The maximum height of high-rise buildings allowed along main streets will meanwhile rise to 40 storeys from the current 30.
Although 60 percent growth through intensification over the next quarter century is a more ambitious goal than Ottawa has previously hit, Willis said it will not turn the burgeoning metropolis into a cluster of skyscrapers across the city.
“Most people thought of intensification only as tall buildings,” he said.
Willis puts another spin on the question: intensification doesn’t look like high-rise buildings on every corner, it’s about having multiple housing choices in each neighborhood, he says. Rapid price acceleration throughout Ottawa has kept some areas of the city out of reach for first-time buyers, but the new official plan could open pockets at affordable prices.
“Parents know their children can’t buy houses in their own neighborhoods right now,” Willis said.
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Lots of townhouses, occasionally sized apartments and other residential areas in different neighborhoods could provide opportunities for the community’s new and existing residents. While a two-bed apartment may be the right one for a young family moving into a neighborhood, it may also suit the needs of a long-term resident who is aging out of their home but does not want to move far from their roots.
City planner Alain Miguelez, who oversees the official plan and other policy areas for neighborhood development in Ottawa, says the end result will not change existing communities in the way some residents might expect.
“Are you coming back to Ottawa in 25 years? You will recognize it. You want to recognize the neighborhoods, ”he says.
Miguelez says planners have tried to integrate the “themes” that emerged in consultation with the official plan into the final document, but specific issues are not always tenable.
Some instructions from residents, e.g. A call to ensure that the infrastructure around future development sites is in place before shovels hit dirt is not always possible under Ontario’s planning law.
Development fees arising from building permits are necessary to fund the cost of infrastructure such as roads that end up putting carts ahead of horses from time to time.
“There is sometimes a catch-up game,” says Willis, noting that decisions such as Where new schools are added is also in the hands of the province.
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The official plan is bound by decisions made by the city council at one end and by provincial legislation and schedules at the other, leaving planners in the middle hoping to create a coherent document for final approval in the fall.
“It’s really hard to build consensus on a planning document,” Willis says.
The official plan and subsequent secondary plans and new regulatory provisions that will come out of it are documents that guide the city’s ‘how’, not ‘what’, Miguelez says.
It is also a “living, breathing document,” says Willis, who lends himself to change if an initial political direction does not end up working for a particular neighborhood context.
“When we learn things, we adapt,” he says.
The city will host a series of follow-up consultations on the report, which residents can participate in based on which part of the city they live in:
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