City implements initiatives promised at spring Planning Summit

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City of Ottawa

Mayor Jim Watson and Planning Committee Chair, Councillor Peter Hume, outlined today the successful implementation of several initiatives flowing from this year's Planning Summit last April – the Guaranteed Application Timelines Initiative, the Zoning Consistency Team, and the Better Neighbourhoods Program.

"Engaging and working with residents, community leaders, businesses and developers is an important part of building Ottawa as a vibrant, liveable and economically-thriving city," said Mayor Jim Watson. "As I stated in my budget speech last year and at the Planning Summit, these efforts to connect with the public must be matched by effective planning processes and a renewed service culture internally at the City. Today, we are highlighting steps that have been taken to make these improvements."

In this light, the City's new Guaranteed Application Timelines Initiative (GATI) is an effective way to better ensure applications are processed within Council-approved timelines – if the application is not processed on time, the next similar application is free. GATI applies to five applications, including part lot and demolition control, and standard plan of condominium.

In addition to GATI, the Zoning Consistency Team has been created to undertake targeted and quick zoning reviews of individual properties or a group of properties in close proximity upon written a request from the Ward Councillor. In these cases, the team will ensure the zoning is appropriate in the context of the Official Plan and planning policies and recommend zoning changes to Council if required. While the Official Plan is reviewed every five years, some neighbourhoods transition quickly, and this team will help to provide ongoing certainty in planning decisions.

"We are making these changes within the Planning and Growth Management Department to improve planning processes," noted Councillor Hume, Planning Committee Chair. "At the same time, the City is also increasing its efforts to support residents and businesses who wish to undertake small projects to benefit their neighbourhoods."

One of these public-facing initiatives is the Better Neighbourhoods Program administered by the Neighbourhood Connection Office (NCO) that helps get residents involved in identifying neighbourhood priorities and improvement opportunities, as well as supporting residents with neighbourhood-driven projects – such as revitalizing a park or reclaiming roadway for the benefit of pedestrians and cyclists.

The Better Neighbourhoods Program is accepting applications on until November 27. Three to four neighbourhoods will be selected for 2013 to work with City staff to identify, prioritize and implement small-scale projects. The City will finance up to a maximum of $30,000 for a project.

On a larger scale, the City has incorporated the feedback from discussions at the Planning Summit into the priority areas of focus for the Official Plan (OP), Transportation Master Plan (TMP), and Infrastructure Master Plan (IMP) reviews. Preliminary recommended policy changes related to high-rise buildings, employment lands, urban design, transit-oriented development will be released in January 2013.