The City of Ottawa has released its 2015 Draft Operating and Capital Budget as well as the new infill housing rules, known as Infill 2. I invite you to provide feedback on both. I specifically want to draw your attention to the public meeting on Tuesday, February 10, that I will be hosting with councillors Catherine McKenney (Somerset) and Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi). Please read on for details.
Councillor for Capital Ward
Media have described the City of Ottawa's Draft Budget 2015, released last week, as "steady as she goes." That's a pretty good description. It differs little from the past four budgets: no major tax, rate or fee increases, and no significant service cuts.
Council's approval of a 2% cap on residential property tax increases means we can do little more than continue to provide existing services, complete existing projects or at least hold to existing priorities, with only a few modest exceptions.
For most citizens, this seems like a good thing. Council is keeping increases as close to the rate of inflation as possible, while dealing with such realities as annual wage increases and long-term collective agreements, provincially mandated health and safety standards, and a public expectation that the city will remain well managed.
With these targets, the City would have the funds necessary to:
New, one-time projects or programs can be funded from the "Strategic Initiatives" budget envelope. Most years, those initiatives are presented at budget time and heavily influenced by the Term of Council Strategic Priorities established by Council at the start of the term. In a year following an election, Council will not yet have established these priorities in time for the Draft Budget. That exercise will take place this spring, shortly after the budget is approved.
Council will determine at that time how best to spend the $32 million proposed in this draft budget for Strategic Initiatives. Naturally, I will look carefully at what is being proposed, and I will present a number of initiatives that I consider particularly important to the city as a whole or to the ward in particular.
After several days of making my way through the 500-page draft budget binder, I am able to highlight some specific items funded for 2015:
The budget includes many Works in Progress (WIPs) of great importance to Capital Ward and the city at large. I am glad to report that none of the significant transit improvements, road renewal, cycling and pedestrian links and safety initiatives has been demoted in this budget. 2015 will continue to see work advance on:
So, is "steady as she goes" good enough?
At budget time, my job is not just to fight for new initiatives and infrastructure. It is just as important to ensure that previous funding commitments are maintained, and to keep my eyes open for some that may no longer make sense or that could be delayed in favour of higher priorities.
If you provide me with input that is as specific as possible, I will be able to give it careful thought or add it to the broader debate. With that in mind, I welcome your feedback and comments on the following budget questions:
You can provide your feedback directly to me by email, mail or phone, or you may want to attend one of the budget consultations listed below.
Before Council considers final budget recommendations on Wednesday, March 11, there will be several opportunities for public consultation:
BUDGET SPEAK: Attend the special public meeting hosted by the councillors from Capital, Somerset and Kitchissippi wards:
PUBLIC MEETINGS: Attend one of the regional public consultations hosted by the City:
COMMITTEE MEETINGS: All Standing Committees of Council, along with the Transit Commission, Police Services Board, Library Board and Board of Public Health, will hold meetings to consider the 2015 draft budget for their respective areas and listen to public delegations on the budget. Please see ottawa.ca for a list of meetings and other details.
A proposed set of zoning changes to guide the scale of new low-rise housing development in the neighbourhoods inside the Greenbelt is now available for comment. Comments received before February 27 will be considered in the final recommendations by City staff to Planning Committee and City Council this spring.
In response to community concerns about intensive new development changing neighbourhoods, City Council approved an initial package of guidelines for low-rise residential development in the downtown wards in 2012. Known as Infill 1, this package included rules about front yards, location of main entrances, parking and driveways, and generally required that new houses fit the character of the neighbourhood.
Council then approved a second study, now known as Infill 2, that would look at all of the wards inside the Greenbelt and address issues, including the size of new houses, building heights and the requirements for setbacks and rear yards, while exploring opportunities for discreet intensification on larger residential lots. Again, the goal is to allow infill housing development, which is endorsed in the City’s Official Plan, while ensuring the protection of neighbourhood character.
Details of the extensive consultation process, frequently asked questions and the set of proposed zoning changes under Infill 2 are available for view at ottawa.ca/infill. The proposed zoning changes will be before Planning Committee and City Council in the spring.