CAFES has been contributing to the new Official Plan process as a part of the People’s Official Plan (POP), an alliance of well-established civil society organizations in Ottawa. We made major technical contributions to the consultation input in March, 2021. While we support the vision for a livable, healthy, resilient city of 15-minute neighbourhoods and the high-level policy directions that guided the work on the draft new Official Plan, we felt that the draft still failed to get us to where we need to go. Our concern was that while the vision is good, it may still be mirage, and large parts of the draft Official Plan supported business-as-usual practice: spot rezoning fights in the inner-urban areas and sprawling tract housing in the outer-urban reaches. For more information, check out POP’s April, 2021 Key Issues document. POP members attended and made delegations at countless City committee meetings, such as the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management. In August, 2021, POP issued a Press Release titled “People’s Official Plan coalition responds to the revised Official Plan: a ‘City of Canyons and Towers’ or a ‘City of Neighbourhoods’”, stating that the latest draft reinforces the City’s emphasis on a so-called ‘hubs and corridors’ approach, with a policy direction to enhance density along transportation corridors and transit hubs. It emphasizes that the City’s Official Plan continues to ignore opportunities to enhance neighbourhood-level ‘gentle density’, which could enhance walkability, accelerate progress on climate change, and address social challenges such as affordability and access to local food. In September, 2021, POP released eight one-page responses to the final draft Official Plan under the following themes: 1) Walkable city, 2) Housing equity, 3) Greenspace, 4) Inclusivity, 5) Finance, 6) Accountability, 7) Climate, and 8) Food security. On October 5th, 2021, POP released a Press Release titled “Will this Official Plan Do the Job?” with accompanying draft motions. On October 25th, 2021, POP issued a Press Release titled “Will the New Official Plan Do the Job?”, stating that the current plan falls short of meeting its own ambition and is an inconsistent policy document. It proposes solutions to these concerns.
On October 27th, 2021, Ottawa City Council approved a new Official Plan. It now comes to the Ministry for review and final approval. POP seeks to summarize some of the concerns regarding this Official Plan raised city-wide by resident associations and community-based groups in a letter to the Ministry. POP wants to ensure that the Minister’s office hears these perspectives and solutions, and not only views the City and some segments of the development industry. The strategic directions described in the Council-approved Official Plan have our strong support. They focus on intensification, sustainable transportation, 15-minute neighbourhoods, climate and health resiliency, and economic sustainability, and do an admirable job of defining the desired destination. There remains, however, a fundamental disconnect between the policy ends and the policy means included in the Official Plan.
CAFES, along with POP, will continue to actively participate in the consultation processes for the Infrastructure Master Plan, Urban Forest and Greenspace Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan, and the new Zoning Bylaw. The key question of whether we are building a healthy and livable city will be answered by the approved new Official Plan and following Master Plans.
The CAFES point person for sustainable and urban development is Joan Freeman. You can reach her at email@example.com.