Southminster church redevelopment approved

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

Council gave the green-light to the redevelopment of an Old Ottawa South church after the applicant, Windmill Development Group, revised its proposed development so that a six-storey condominium building to be built adjacent to the church, overlooking the Rideau Canal, would top out 0.1 metres below the parapet of the existing church.

The issue of height had stalled the application, which the planning committee considered last month. The National Capital Commission and Parks Canada were convinced the building would affect the visual setting of the canal, with the six-storey building previously envisioned to be slightly taller than the church.

Residents weren’t pleased with the height either. Nearly 400 people submitted comments on the application, with opponents decrying the proposed height of the new building, the density and the impact on the views around the canal.

Southminster United Church officials approached Windmill about a potential partnership as it faced a financial reality. They came up with a development scheme that would provide the church with critical revenue.

Andrew Brewin, chair of the church’s redevelopment committee, said the future of the church could hinge on the partnership with Windmill. The church needs money for its main building, which also acts as a community hub.

Planning department staff supported the revisions to the proposed development, but Capital Coun. David Chernushenko concluded he may face criticism from both sides over the outcome of the “imperfect” redevelopment.

Ottawa councillors' infrastructure rebellion seems doomed — but it's a noble failure

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David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Every year, Mayor Jim Watson dares city councillors to find a way to mess with his budget. This year, a record eight councillors are taking him up on it, proposing a small one-time infrastructure levy to fix crumbling roads and maybe replace a pipe or two.

Unless something truly extraordinary happens in Wednesday’s city council meeting, they will fail. Ten councillors are firmly against them, two are openly very skeptical, and 12 votes is the ballgame.

But that eight councillors signed up for a rebellion is something.

Council’s downtown lefties, whose idea of what the city government should do differs from the mayor’s, took a while but eventually realized they had that in common. Gloucester-Southgate’s Diane Deans has been at the pointy end of Watson’s barbs a lot and has had it. College’s Rick Chiarelli and Kanata North’s Marianne Wilkinson are suburban infrastructure fiends, so they’re in, too.

Other suburban and rural councillors have weighed their interest in infrastructure against their interest in keeping taxes down, plunked Watson’s disapproval on the scale as well, and made their decisions.

Ottawa has a long history of underspending on infrastructure. A year ago, the city bureaucracy told councillors we need to spend about $195 million a year just to maintain the roads and pipes and buildings and bridges we already have, but we actually spend about $125 million.

You can see it in the potholed roads, the cracked water mains, the concrete sidewalks patched and re-patched with asphalt (“Watson warts,” maybe?), the pools that close for annual scrubbing but then stay closed for months because the walls are full of mould. We do not spend enough on this stuff and the results are obvious. Watson acknowledged this in his budget speech and said there’d be more pothole-filling and sidewalk-fixing in 2018.

Proposed infrastructure levy on a bumpy road to the budget vote

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The infrastructure levy proposed by eight councillors ahead of Wednesday’s 2018 budget vote has turned up the volume on the grumbling over the mayor’s two per cent tax promise.

It’s safe to expect a pile-on by councillors who oppose adding another 0.5 per cent to the already-planned two per cent property tax increase. Many have been on social media and radio programs dumping on the infrastructure tax proposal, even accusing some of the backers of political grandstanding before the next municipal election in October 2018.

That’s what Coun. George Darouze wrote in a social media post on Monday, taking aim specifically at experienced councillors who have signed onto the infrastructure tax proposal.

“They should know better than to play such obvious political games,” Darouze wrote.

Other councillors have been even more cutting.

Coun. Jody Mitic wrote on Twitter that taxpayers in his ward won’t pay for “bully tactics.”

On 1310 News last Friday, Coun. Allan Hubley took aim squarely at Coun. Diane Deans in an interview about the proposed infrastructure tax, steering the conversation to a recent audit that revealed questionable subsidy distributions in the child care program and pointing out that Deans chairs the committee that oversees child care.

Deans fired back at Hubley on social media, dismissing him as one of “the mayor’s cronies.”

The councillors who back the infrastructure tax — David Chernushenko, Rick Chiarelli, Mathieu Fleury, Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney, Tobi Nussbaum, Marianne Wilkinson and Deans — say it would only cost urban landowners an extra $1 each month.

The extra $8 million raised could pay for repairs to roads, parks and buildings, they argue.

City councillors push for additional 0.5% tax hike to boost infrastructure spending

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Motion runs counter to Mayor Jim Watson’s pledge to cap increases to 2%

Ottawa Business Journal

Arguing the city urgently needs more cash to repair crumbling infrastructure such as roads and recreation facilities, eight Ottawa city councillors have banded together to push for a further 0.5 per cent hike in next year’s tax bill.

Councillors Jeff Leiper, Diane Deans, Marianne Wilkinson, Rick Chiarelli, Mathieu Fleury, Tobi Nussbaum, Catherine McKenney and David Chernushenko are backing the proposal. They say the one-time infrastructure levy translates to a $12 increase in the average taxpayer’s bill and is expected to raise about $8 million.

“We heard loud and clear throughout the budget process that residents want us to invest more in our infrastructure,” Ms. Deans said in a statement. She said the increase will cost taxpayers about a dollar a month, or “less than a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar.”