It's an odd coincidence that as the federal government is pushing through its changes to environmental regulation for big projects, such as oil pipelines, an Ottawa neighbourhood has spent the past few days wondering whether the federal government would step in to municipal affairs to protect a bird's nest.
Ottawa's council has decided that a stand of trees must come down to make room for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park. A contractor began cutting there last week without notifying residents about the timing — an unfortunate error that hasn't done much to make disgruntled residents feel better about the development.
Then, an enforcement operations manager with Environment Canada sent an email to a resident last week, saying "work (tree cutting) cannot continue along Holmwood Avenue (Sylvia Holden Park) because we now have documented evidence that Migratory Birds are nesting in this area."
On Monday, Director General Sheldon Jordan clarified the department's position, saying the cutting could go ahead, but that "should there be nests in the area, the work would need to be carried out in a manner that does not lead to their disturbance or destruction."
So the cutting did resume on Monday, after the contractor's biologist and an expert from Environment Canada had a look at the site.
Of course contractors have to follow the rules about notification. And of course they have to follow federal regulations about avoiding the destruction of migratory bird habitat.
But at bottom, this is about a neighbourhood where some residents have not made peace with the plan for Lansdowne Park.
The city's statement on Monday made the point that the Lansdowne project "will create 18.5 acres of park and will include 880 trees, nearly four times the trees and three times the green space than what currently exists today."
So long as the bad feeling festers in the Glebe over this development, though, some residents are going to have trouble seeing that big picture.
The challenge for the city, now that the project is underway, is to make sure it doesn't create any new, unnecessary sources of friction. It's especially vital that the city keep communicating clearly with residents. It doesn't help when federal departments give those residents misleading information.
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