Ottawa City Hall Preview: LRT, Truck Tunnel, Budget and More on Fall Agenda
The Olympics are over, the back-to-school sales have begun, and city councillors are dusting off their desks after a sleepy summer at Ottawa City Hall.
Postmedia’s Matthew Pearson scopes out what’s on the agenda.
Finance and economic development committee, chaired by Mayor Jim Watson
The budget is arguably the most important item city council will deal with this fall because it will set the tone for 2017. It won’t be tabled until November, but work is already underway.
“We’re in very good shape to meet our tax target of two per cent while maintaining front line services,” Watson said.
The finance committee will also get an update on the city’s economy from the economic development department.
The unemployment rate in July improved slightly from a year earlier, but Watson says he’s “still concerned about the fragility of the economy and what that means for jobs and job creation, and what we have to continue to do to create the environment that people want to continue to invest in our city.”
To that end, the new Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards will welcome its first tenants by the end of the year, he said.
Several more Ottawa 2017 announcements will come this fall, completing the full calendar of events organized by the city to mark Canada’s 150th birthday next year.
Watson is also focused on securing federal funding for the second phase of light-rail transit.
The government this week announced $45 million for pre-engineering studies, but Watson said he hopes a complete funding agreement representing one-third of the cost of the $3-billion project will be announced by the end of 2016.
Transit commission, chaired by Stephen Blais
Commissioners will hear more about OC Transpo’s plan to incorporate the Confederation LRT line into the city’s transit operations, including details about when the public might start to see some of the changes roll out.
The closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera policy for buses, trains and transit stations will be up for discussion and voting, likely in October.
“This is the total review and updating of the policy, which is good timing because we’re building the Confederation line,” Blais said.
Negotiations with Metrolinx will also continue as the city tries to hammer out a new Presto contract, which expires in October.
Transportation committee, chaired by Keith Egli
The juiciest item on the committee’s plate is the discussion of a possible $2-billion truck tunnel connecting Highway 417 with the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.
A staff report with recommendations is to be released 10 days in advance of the Sept. 7 meeting, instead of the usual seven days, to give the public time to digest.
If the committee and, ultimately, council approves the report, the next step would be to ask the federal and provincial governments to each chip in one-third to cover the cost of the environmental assessment, estimated at roughly $7 million.
The committee will also discuss a new rapid transit corridor along Baseline Road, get an update on the cycling and pedestrian plan, look at functional designs for road reconstructions of Elgin and Bank streets, and proceed with the early stages of an environmental assessment for light rail to Kanata.
“It’s something people have been wanting to happen for some time,” Egli said.
Community and protective services committee, chaired by Diane Deans
Approving a new bylaw to ban the use of herbal water pipes, such as hookah pipes, in the same places where tobacco is outlawed was the committee’s first order of business when it met Thursday.
The full ban goes into effect April 3, 2017.
The community and protective services committee may try to revisit a decision made by Ottawa police earlier this year to download late-night noise complaints to the bylaw department. The committee will also receive the paramedic service review, which is key because a report last year signalled an issue with response times. The city hired 12 new FTEs and added two quick-response vehicles to the fleet.
“I’m not expecting the trend to have changed,” said Deans, adding she hopes the review comes prior to the budget in case it demonstrates a clear need for more paramedics.
The committee will also learn how the community and social services department plans to spend $15 million in federal funds over two years for social housing.
Planning committee, chaired by Jan Harder
Councillors will vote on several development applications that highlight the city’s push for intensification, particularly near transit stations.
- Trinity’s proposal for 900 Albert St., which would see three 55-storey mixed-use towers above a multi-storey retail podium steps away from Bayview station
- Colonnade BridgePort’s plan for a 22-storey mixed-use building at 1960 Scott St., where the iconic Trailhead Paddleshack currently stands (across from Westboro station)
- Kristy’s Restaurant owner Walter Boyce’s proposal for 809 Richmond Rd., which would see the restaurant building replaced by two towers near the future Cleary station
The committee will also complete a review of the city’s vacant industrial land supply and introduce a zoning bylaw to allow secondary dwellings or coach houses.
Environment committee, chaired by David Chernushenko
The committee has a hot potato on its hands with the introduction of a new water and sewer rate structure, which has some rural residents peeved about potentially paying a stormwater fee for services largely based in the urban area.
Chernushenko expects to deal with this at the committee’s October meeting, after the public have had “plenty of time” to read and comment on the city’s draft plan.
“It’s crucial that it be dealt with and we’re looking at how best to do that,” he said.
The committee will also receive results of a city-wide audit on how well residents are doing with blue, black and green bins.
“I expect it’s going to be showing us we’ve kind of plateaued,” Chernushenko said, adding that may spur discussion about how to get more apartment buildings to use green bins.
Built-heritage subcommittee, chaired by Tobi Nussbaum
The committee will hear more about ongoing work to update the city’s heritage register, which could pave the way for future heritage designations.
It will also consider several studies looking at whether to create new heritage conservation districts in the Glebe (one for Clemow Avenue east and one for Clemow Avenue west) and four small areas in Sandy Hill.
Committee members will also be watching with interest the National Capital Commission’s plans for 100 Wellington St., the former U.S Embassy, Nussbaum said.
Police services board, chaired by Eli El-Chantiry
The police services board is keeping an eye on the provincial government’s review of the Police Services Act and will be paying particular attention to who will be on the hook for any additional costs for de-escalation training, dealing with people experiencing a mental health crisis and new technology, said El-Chantiry.
He’s also expecting an update on the gang exit strategy, a $400,000-per-year initiative for people who want to cut their ties to a gang (this could also come up at a Crime Prevention Ottawa meeting).
Board of health, chaired by Shad Qadri
The results of a survey about expanding harm reduction services in Ottawa, including the introduction of supervised injection services, are due in the fall.
Ottawa Public Library board, chaired by Tim Tierney
All eyes will be on the board in December, when a report recommending a site for a new central library is expected.