Keeping developer influence out of Ottawa City Hall

Shawn Menard
Councillor, Capital Ward

Phone: 613-580-2487

Why is it that the answer to so many of our problems – be it housing unaffordability, food deserts or economic decline – consistently seems to involve giving developers more land and more flexibility when it comes to the municipal rules we set?

Apparently, we can now add Indigenous reconciliation to this list of problems for which more developer influence is the solution. The trouble is this supposed panacea does not work. Nevertheless, city hall continues with this prescription, undeterred by its proven inefficacy.

This commitment to the trickle-down benefits of increasing developer influence was on full display at the February 10 city council meeting. It saw approval for adding 1281 hectares of new parcels of land into Ottawa’s expanding urban boundary; 445 hectares of that would go directly against staff recommendations and council’s own scoring criteria on an unsuitable plot of land (Tewin lands).

It was presented in a motion backed by the mayor as an act of reconciliation because the Algonquins of Ontario, in partnership with the Taggart development corporation, purchased the Tewin lands in the western part of Carlsbad Springs, outside of Ottawa development boundaries.

As was communicated by Algonquin-Anishinaabe elders, chiefs and Verna Polson, grand chief of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, this was not viewed in any way as reconciliation – they called it a wreckonciliation. The last-minute dealings did not allow for any consultation, and no delegations were heard at committee on the change. It did not follow the city’s own reconciliation action plan and would set the relationship back by decades.

Taggart has entrenched relationships with the mayor and many councillors. Executives of Taggart and family members donated so much money to candidates during the 2018 municipal election – more than $70,000 – that Taggart was identified as the number one developer-connected election donor, according to Development.Money, an online resource based in Ottawa.

According to city lobbyist records, councillors were also lobbied heavily by Taggart back in November 2020 to include this land in anticipation of future urban sprawl.

This sounds all too familiar.

We have seen sound planning done in our city and in Capital Ward – think of zoning rules and approved plans for respectful intensification – only to see those plans scrapped when a developer comes to planning committee with a new proposal that is more profitable.

Glebe Height and Character Study

The good news is that we have undertaken a thorough and thoughtful process to develop a reasonable plan for the height and character of future developments along Bank, Chamberlain and Isabella in the Glebe.

It was a difficult task, as there are conflicting needs and viewpoints. We want a plan that will allow for more density and more people living in our community while respecting residents. For example, we don’t want a canyon, walled by highrises that block the sun on a traditional mainstreet.

And we want the new plan to have teeth.

This process is almost done, and we are grateful to the Glebe Community Association and partners who have made big contributions. Yes, there is compromise, but it should be a plan that the neighbourhood can find acceptable.

But before the plan is finalized and passed by city council, some developers are asking for much more. The plan is set to go to planning committee in late spring, and it will be important to defend it.

Whether it is the urban boundary, the Official Plan or neighbourhood zoning, developers continue to have too much influence on City Hall, and we must continue to fight for the city we want. In the next edition of the Glebe Report, I will go through some information about the new Draft Official Plan. It will be important the city takes the time to get that right.

Shawn Menard is city councillor for Capital Ward. He can be reached directly at Shawn.Menard@ottawa.ca.

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