Community Newspaper Columns

Three years serving you: Wins, losses and ties

December 2013

After three years as councillor for Capital Ward, what have I/we got to show for it? Let’s take stock of big issues facing the ward and Old Ottawa South, with an eye not just to where we’ve been, but to where we’re going next. We’ll call it wins, losses and ties.

WINS

Residential infill study – Phase One: Council approved new guidelines and bylaws to define and enforce residential intensification design that respects neighbourhood character. This first phase addressed “visible from the road” issues like location of parking, permitted projections, front yards and grade.

Complete Street policy and a Main Street for all: In a first test of Ottawa’s policy to promote “complete” streets — ones that cater equally to all kinds of users — Council voted 18-6 to transform Main Street. The redesign will subtract one motor vehicle lane, add a “cycle track” and wider sidewalks, and create a streetscape suitable for vibrant retail and spaces where you might actually want to linger.

Light Rail movement, at last: After years of false starts, Council approved a design for the first section of light rail and construction has begun. In a bold move recognizing public transit as the key to a more mobile and livable city, Council recently also approved a “Stage 2” proposal to extend LRT further and faster than originally planned.

Cycling and safety improvements: We’ve made steady progress to build more cycling infrastructure, educate all road users and promote a culture that supports cycling and walking as healthy, clean and cost-effective modes of travel. There’s always room for improvement, but the future does looks bike-friendlier.

AVTC demoted: On the books for more than a decade, the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor has been dropped from the Transportation Master Plan for the next 15 years, because it offers poor value for money and isn’t needed anytime soon.

LOSSES

Home conversions: A flurry of residential conversion projects in Capital Ward grabbed our attention as developers exploited legal but controversial opportunities to turn single-family homes into multi-unit apartments. Concerned citizens made their views clear, and Council voted to freeze conversions until new rules are developed. But we’re stuck with projects already in the works.

Old Ottawa South BIA: An initiative in 2012 to create a Business Improvement Area (BIA) for Old Ottawa South failed following a last-minute campaign to persuade previously supportive business and property owners to change their minds. It’s too bad, because I often field questions and concerns from local businesses and citizens that might more easily be dealt with and/or funded by a BIA (e.g. graffiti removal, derelict buildings, parking rules, beautification projects). We may try again in a few years.

Emerald Ash Borer: The devastation in Heron Park and Alta Vista is far worse than even the hardest hit streets in Old Ottawa South and the Glebe, but we’re all suffering from this fast-moving infestation. Inoculating all ash trees was impossible, so the City opted to remove affected trees, treat some healthy ones, and replant quickly and extensively with a mix of other species. Ultimately, treatments have failed to slow this invasive insect, and the recent introduction of wasps to prey on the EAB comes too late for Capital Ward. Some treatment will continue, but large-scale replanting is the only way forward.

Lansdowne redevelopment: The many campaigns to fight — or at least significantly change — the controversial Lansdowne Park redevelopment proposal ended with Council votes of 22-2 and 21-3, and the failure of various legal challenges. Some are excited about new sports and shopping opportunities, condos and townhouses, but most Capital Ward residents remain disappointed by the process, the results and the minimal say they had in guiding how and for whom Lansdowne would be redeveloped.

TIES (or too early to tell)

Future conversions: After much consultation and public input, City planning staff are preparing a report (ETA March 2014) that I expect will make it once again possible to convert residential homes, but under much clearer and more limited conditions.

Residential infill study – Phase Two: A staff report on Phase Two recommendations, possibly incorporating the conversion study, is also expected in March. I have worked hard to ensure the City imposes greater controls on the height and mass of infill buildings, and better protection for the tree canopy, public spaces and streetscapes.

Lansdowne Park traffic/parking: I have spent 18 months chairing the Lansdowne Transportation Advisory Committee (LTAC), a group of community representatives working with City staff, OC Transpo, the NCC and consultants to develop a monitoring plan for traffic and parking problems once Lansdowne Park reopens. Constructive and cordial as the relationship was, most community LTAC members were ultimately disappointed by an end result that leaned towards monitoring potential problems and away from tangible steps they felt necessary to reduce traffic congestion, parking problems and the overall impacts of Lansdowne on its neighbours. This process is not over, and more proposals could yet be moved from the “to monitor” and into the “act now” category. There’s another busy year ahead as we brace for the new Lansdowne Park.

Canal footbridge: Construction of a footbridge over the Canal, connecting Fifth and Clegg Aves., has gone from idea to detailed design to inclusion in the new Transportation Master Plan. But construction remains far away — 2020 at best. I will be working hard to advance this date.

Graffiti: Eliminating paint/marker vandalism is harder than you’d think. This issue might seem minor, but it matters, especially when property owners are stuck paying to remove graffiti. If you know someone who is defacing property and imposing millions of dollars in costs on the community, please step up and (in confidence) let the police or City Bylaw know.

Councillor David Chernushenko