The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing regarding the National Capital Commission's appeal of the City of Ottawa's Official Plan designation of Southern Corridor lands started today, Monday, October 3, 2005. My update focuses on Southern Corridor lands in River Ward.
At my request, City of Ottawa staff met with environmental planners and ornithologists to discuss what they could learn through additional fieldwork carried out in the Southern Corridor in River Ward. It was suggested that an additional field investigation of McCarthy Woods and adjacent lands could be used to create a more precise boundary for the Urban Natural Feature in and adjacent to McCarthy Woods. Staff informed me that fieldwork in May and June 2006 is required in order to capture the movements of raptors in the area, identified as a key indicator of the overall diversity of McCarthy Woods and the adjacent meadow. This is great news!
The configuration of the lands continues to be examined based on the findings of the Urban Natural Features Study (this report is available at www.ottawa.ca). The objective is to ensure that in reviewing the Southern Corridor lands in River Ward, we end up with the preservation of an equal, if not greater, area of land that is described in the Urban Natural Features Study. This continues to form a large part of the ongoing discussions between the City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission (NCC).
From a process perspective, staff recently met with the National Capital Commission to propose various approaches in dealing with the green spaces that were appealed in the Official Plan. With respect to the Southern Corridor lands in our Ward, the staff recommendation is to continue to review appropriate designations that achieve the objective noted earlier (i.e. the preservation of more green space). Both the City and the NCC are anxious to avoid a hearing on these matters and alternate ways of resolving the future use of these lands are open to the City, leading to the designation of more public open space than we currently have. You will recall that the current zoning in the Southern Corridor allows for a variety of development ranging from an industrial park to a federal correctional facility. As I have stated previously, I would like to see as much protected public open space as possible - i.e. an expansion of the protective area surrounding McCarthy Woods both east and west of the woods.
I continue to discuss this issue on an ongoing basis with City of Ottawa staff and officials from the National Capital Commission, including the Chair, Mr. Marcel Beaudry. I am optimistic that the National Capital Commission will continue to uphold their undertaking to me that they will not pursue an OMB hearing date while discussions about the Southern Corridor between the City of Ottawa and the NCC are underway. I will let you know ASAP if a hearing date is set.
I would like to sincerely thank you and members of the board of directors of the Hunt Club Community Organization (HCCO) for continuing to support my efforts to work with the NCC to solve this issue. I want to clearly reiterate that I favour finding a local solution to this local issue. I do not support allowing precious taxpayer dollars to pay for costly litigation. The OMB is an outside body who should not be determining the destiny of our treasured Southern Corridor.
This event, which took place on Monday, September 19, 2005 at Mooney's Bay Beach was a tremendous success. More than 500 families attended and over $2000.00 was raised for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. The contributions of food and refreshments by Outback Steakhouse, the participation of Football Canada and players from the Ottawa Renegades were both popular attractions. As well, the soccer shoot-out for the David Beckham Real Madrid soccer jerseys were also a big hit, as were the Ottawa Fire Services, Ottawa Paramedic Services and the Ottawa Police Service. A very popular addition was the Roger's Video Face Painting Tent, which was kept busy throughout the evening. A special thank you to all Parks and Recreation staff, our sponsor Siemens, the Ottawa Public Library and all the other volunteers who helped make this event a success.
On September 17, Mayor Bob Chiarelli and I had the pleasure of cutting a ribbon to celebrate the new play structure at Uplands Park. The work included replacement of the play structures, both school age and preschool, the swings and the pathways. Engineered wood fiber was used in place of sand to encourage access by children of all abilities. I strongly supported this project during the 2005 Budget deliberations last February and was pleased when City Council approved it. $48,000.00 was allocated to the Uplands Park redevelopment. \ I would like to acknowledge the community input that was provided to this project by Sarah McCormack and Celine Melanson and others.
At this time, I am pursuing the possibility of funding from the corporate community to have a gazebo-type sun shelter installed at Uplands Park. The City will provide matching funding. Community Safety and Speeding As you know, an ongoing problem with speeding throughout our local communities remains a priority for me. Requests are made to the Ottawa Police Service for ongoing enforcement on McCarthy, Plante, Cahill, Walkley, Riverside, Uplands, etc. The Airport Parkway has been added to the list. I am increasingly concerned about the excessive speeds, improper entering from the ramps, and aggressive driving occurring on a regular basis on both southbound and northbound lanes, in light of these concerns and the tragic accident that occurred a few months ago, I have asked for increased police enforcement on the Airport Parkway.
On August 17,1 hosted the First Annual Centralla Community BBQ and Neighbourhood Watch Sign-Up for the Centralla neighbourhood. We had a great turnout for the BBQ on a beautiful sunny day and thirty-three families signed up to become Neighbourhood Watch members. The Centralla community joined the Twyford Neighbourhood Watch program. The Twyford Watch is very active in the neighbourhood and has been keeping a careful watch over Cahill Park. Congratulations to the new Watch members.
Anyone wishing to start or reactivate a Watch program in their neighbourhoods should contact Constable Claude Pepin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 236-1222, ext. 5842, or Constable Mark Cartwright at mark.Cartwright@ottawa.ca or by phone at 236-1222, ext. 3424.
As reported previously, Cahill Park was experiencing problems of drug use, alcohol, trespassing, vandalism and other nuisances. Despite Bylaw Services joining the ongoing Police enforcement to address trespassing issues, the problems continued. I solicited the assistance of City of Ottawa Corporate Security and in August, enhanced security was added to Cahill Park with the installation of new high-tech security equipment. This pilot program, uses the latest in integrated security technology to identify persons committing acts of vandalism, illegal drug and alcohol use and prohibited use of City property. Because of the evidence provided by the on-site camera, incidents are being dealt with in conjunction with the Ottawa Police Service. Since then, the number of troublesome incidents has dropped.
This crime prevention initiative enhances security and Police response to community problems as well as lessens maintenance and financial strain on City of Ottawa parks. We are grateful to March Networks, Storm Internet, Sunotech Canada and Pelco for partnering with the city on this initiative in respect of the equipment.
The MPAC property assessment notices were mailed on October 3 for the 2006 taxation year. The assessment values used are at January 1, 2005. The median value is $279,000. Property assessment does not generate additional dollars for the City. The City of Ottawa uses the assessment data to determine tax policy and calculate taxes. Questions, clarification and information is available from MPAC by calling 1-866-296-6722. Interested residents may attend a public meeting on property assessment that is taking place: What? Public Meeting on Property Assessment Issues When? Thursday, October 27, 2005 7:00 p.m. Where? Ron Kolbus-Lakeside Centre in Britannia Park Who? City of Ottawa, Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, Ministry of Finance. Why? To answer questions about the property assessment system and alternatives
On Monday, September 19, 2006, the City of Ottawa launched a 3-1-1 telephone system to provide residents with easier access to non-emergency municipal services. But the service will provide much more than just an easier number to remember and dial. The implementation of the 3-1-1 system will establish tools to provide enhanced levels of service to the citizens of Ottawa. Once the system has been fully implemented in 2006, all service requests will be tracked from call through to completion with an advanced identification system that will allow residents and staff to monitor progress at each stage. A "first response" initiative will provide the tools contact centre agents require to deliver answers to most inquiries without the need to transfer calls.
The 3-1-1 service is new in Canada but has been operating in the United States since 1997. Many Canadian cities have launched the 3-1-1 system including Calgary, Windsor and Gatineau. Ottawa's move to a central contact point in 2001 means that all systems are in place for the launch of 3-1-1. Since its inception the contact centre has handled over 4.5 million calls.
As part of its ongoing environmental and waste management initiatives, the City is continually on the lookout for emerging technologies and processes that are environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible. One such process is Plasma Waste Conversion that will help further reduce greenhouse gases and reduce landfill use, while generating energy for public consumption. Council gave the go ahead to the City Manager to proceed with an agreement with Fiasco Energy Group to construct a Plasma Waste Conversion evaluation plant at the Trail Waste Facility. The process takes solid waste as an input and produces three products; clean heat in the form of steam, a synthetic gas, and a reusable inert solid. The reusable solid can be used as a road or building materials, while both the steam and synthetic gases will be used to generate electricity for public consumption.
The 2004 City of Ottawa Annual Report, entitled Delivering a Better Ottawa, is the amalgamated City's first complete Annual Report and includes details on City activities as well as audited financial statements and other financial information and schedules. City services and activities are shown and linked directly to the seven principles of Ottawa 20/20 to demonstrate progress made in delivering on citizen priorities.
This report responds to a key recommendation of the City's It's About Accountability report to produce a professional and complete annual report documenting the City's activity over the preceding year. This enables the municipal government to take a leadership role in financial reporting to members of Council and the residents of Ottawa, through improved transparency. The Annual Report is available on the City's Web site at ottawa.ca. It is also available for viewing in CD and printed formats at local libraries and Client Service Centres. Multiple formats will be made available on request.
Council has approved a 4-year investment plan for local museums to improve museum exhibits publications, visitor services, facilities, research and programming. Council also endorsed development of the Heritage Gateway, initially as a website, which would coordinate, link and promote the Greater Ottawa Story on behalf of all Ottawa area museums. Council's decision supports the following local museums: Billings Estate, Cumberland Heritage Village, Pinhey's Point Historic Site, Bytown, Diefenbunker, Goulbourn, Nepean, Osgoode Township, Watson's Mill; Museoparc Vanier Museopark and the Ottawa Workers' Heritage Centre.
Council approved the harmonization of six Taxi Licensing By-laws into one set of regulations that will go into effect on January 1, 2006. The new by-law improvements include: increased accessible service, provisions for increased passenger and driver safety and a more efficient service by allowing taxis to pick-up and drop-off passengers anywhere in the City.
The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) has been inundated with books donated to the OPL's Kids to Kids book drive. The donated books will be distributed to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The children of Berrigan Elementary School donated 1,000 books this morning to the drive and brought the total number of books collected so far to an astounding 16,000!
Following the close of the campaign, the books will be sorted into appropriate categories of book type and age group. The books will then be re-packaged for shipment to the southern United States. Jane Venus, manager of children and youth services of the OPL is working with the Louisiana and Texas Library Associations to determine a final destination for the donated books. The Kids to Kids initiative ends Friday, October 7. Schools wanting to get involved are reminded to contact their local branch and make arrangements to add their contribution to the drive. Individual children can bring their donations to any OPL branch or the bookmobile, and at the same time renew or sign up for a library card to be part of the Every Kid a Card campaign.
Below is the text of Mayor Chiarelli's letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty concerning property assessment/taxes, the City of Ottawa Act and Bilateral Ottawa-Provincial Funding Issues.
"Dear Premier McGuinty,
This letter is to address several issues of importance to the residents of the City of Ottawa. We understand the context within which you must make difficult choices - your priorities are health care, education, the environment, economic development and reducing the provincial deficit, and we applaud your efforts in this regard. It is within this context that we are concerned with your publicly stated positions late last week on the issues of provincial assessment/property tax laws and amendments to the City of Ottawa Act. Neither of these issues, if they were to be implemented as we hoped, would cost the provincial treasury any resources and would put no financial pressures on the province itself, but would respect the City of Ottawa as a mature, responsible government.
Provincial Assessment / Property Tax Laws
We appreciate your frankness and clarity on this issue - that there are challenges in the system, but you "didn't run on that." The property owners of Ottawa - residential, commercial, industrial and multi-residential - all believe the present system is drastically broken - that even in a situation where there is a 0% tax increase, huge shifts in taxation can occur leaving winners and losers in a game of property tax roulette. This year, Ottawa sees a 30% increase in multi-residential assessment. This is a system so confusing in its complexity that many commercial and real estate lawyers have trouble figuring it out and the public is totally frustrated. There is now a clear understanding by Ottawa residents that the confusing set of complex rules which cause wild shifts in their property taxes are clearly a provincial responsibility, and also that any changes would be revenue neutral both to the province and to the city. It is within this context that I continue to urge your government to make the investment in policy alternatives that would deal with this historic "challenge," which many would characterize as a "mess", sooner rather than later.
City of Ottawa Act
We appreciate your often-repeated position that municipalities must be treated with respect as another order of government. This has been admirably demonstrated by your commitment to new revenue sharing such as gas tax rebates and by partnering with the federal government in strategic infrastructure funding.
Soon after you announced a process to create a new City of Toronto Act, under the auspices of your office and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, detailed discussion and negotiations took place over many months to create a new City of Ottawa Act concurrent with the Toronto initiative. Indeed, a working group was established which included the Ottawa City Manager and frequently included the Deputy Minister at M.M.A.H. At the initiation of this process, Minister John Gerretsen confirmed his office would consider granting Ottawa "greater autonomy, greater permissive powers ..."
Quite recently we were advised that your government would be proceeding with a significant City of Toronto bill, but not a significant City of Ottawa bill. There was clearly pressure building from other larger Ontario cities that they would want similar powers to any new powers given to Ottawa, and that the Municipal Act would be amended to deal with new generic powers for cities in Ontario other than Toronto; Toronto would be the only city to receive "special" legislation. We were left with the impression that many proposed changes to the Municipal Act would be similar to those that were being negotiated with the City of Ottawa.
I ask you to ensure that the process for the Municipal Act changes move forward within the same timetable as the City of Toronto Act, to enable Ontario cities to have the benefit of these in finalizing their 2006 budgets.
Bilateral Ottawa - Province Funding Issues
You are no doubt aware we have also been negotiating with several of your ministries to correct inequities in program and other funding between the Province and the City of Ottawa. Some of these issues are nearing resolution and I would ask for your continuing interest in seeing these matters dealt with in a timely manner and thank you for your cooperation to date.
City of Ottawa"