Ontario Municipal Board important for democracy, says Jim Watson

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Mayor Jim Watson says the Ontario Municipal Board is needed for democracy after six councillors send a letter to the province suggesting its powers be limited.

By Emma Jackson, Metro

Like it or not, Ottawa needs the Ontario Municipal Board, Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday.

"In a democratic society, you need some mechanism to appeal a decision, and if it's not the OMB, it's the court system, which is significantly more expensive," Watson said after council. "Are there ways to improve it? Certainly. But not throwing it out, because you need to have some mechanism for people to appeal a bad decision by city council."

Watson's comments follow a letter sent by six Ottawa city councillors to the province suggesting the unelected municipal appeals body, if not outright abolished, should be limited to judicial review when dealing with the planning decisions of major cities.

Councillors Riley Brockington, Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney, Mathieu Fleury, Tobi Nussbaum and David Chernushenko sent the letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs last week as part of the province's ongoing review of the board, which can overturn council decisions, including parts of the Official Plan.

The councillors argued that large municipalities like Ottawa spend millions each year on transportation and land-use planning and employ experts in those fields, but the threat of an OMB appeal can undermine how vigorously staff pursue the city's goals.

"Even where a municipality may wish to deny a zoning application, the uncertainly and cost associated with appeals may lead decision-makers down the path of least resistance," the letter said.

Leiper said they all recognize the need for oversight, but the OMB may not be the answer anymore.

The councillors also argued the status quo "freezes out community participation," and suggested that, if the OMB does remain, the province should help residents participate more fully in the hearings.

It can cost community associations $40,000 or more to hire legal and planning help, and the councillors suggested the province consider financial support for groups tackling issues of public interest.

Holiday Shopping in the Glebe upheld

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The Ontario Municipal Board has rejected an application from the Ottawa and District Labour Council to reverse city council's decision to grant a tourism designation to businesses in the Glebe and Lansdowne Park.

The designation allows businesses to open on statutory holidays.

The Labour Council had argued the area wasn't a tourist destination.

But Andrew Peck, with the Glebe Business Improvement Area, says that position was rejected by the board.

"We demonstrated that our area is not only currently a destination for tourism, but we are also perfectly positioned to contribute to the ongoing maintenance and development of the tourism industry in Ottawa," he said.

Peck noted that, with the ruling coming into effect immediately, retail outlets in the Glebe and Lansdowne will be able to open this Thanksgiving Monday.

Two councillors who opposed the move say they're disappointed with the Board's decision.

Riley Brockington maintained that, outside of the tourist downtown, one area should not be favoured over another -- it should be all businesses or none.

Rick Chiarelli called it the 'slippery slope,' saying council will have difficulty saying No to other areas of the city.

Cruising the Canal

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The Queen Elizabeth Dr is Canada's largest fully-electric, solar-powered tour boat (photo: Parks Canada).

On a misty September day, 80 Capital Ward residents participated in a cruise along the Rideau Canal on Ottawa’s first solar-powered electric boat. They heard from guest speakers on a variety of topics related to energy efficiency, renewable energy production in the city, electric vehicles and the progress of Ottawa’s Energy Evolution — a renewable energy transition plan.

While my staff captured video footage and interviews, we've had to delay posting this material due to technical problems. We will post it as soon as possible.

– David Chernushenko


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BUDGETSPEAK 2016 Thumbnail

You are invited to BudgetSpeak, a consultation focused on moving resident-identified priorities forward, co-hosted by Councillors Chernushenko, Fleury, Leiper, McKenney and Nussbaum.

In preparation for both the 2015 and 2016 City of Ottawa Budgets, Councillors representing several urban wards (Wards 12, 13, 14, 15 & 17) co-hosted a series of consultations with residents to get a better sense of their priorities — and the funding options — for the municipal budget. The hundreds of residents who participated in these sessions consistently ranked transit affordability, provision of social services and safe mobility for all modes of travel as their top priorities.

With these priorities identified, this year's consultation will focus on the "how" instead of the "what". It will consist of short plenary presentations on all three issues, roundtable discussions and advice from residents to their councillors on what specific initiatives could usefully be considered for inclusion in their 2017 municipal budget deliberations at committee and council.

Please register via this link.