If we had waited they still will have come to build

A few years ago the City of Ottawa embarked on the Mid-Centretown Design Plan which morphed into the Centretown Design Plan (CDP).  The CDP is now going to the Planning Committee for approval this fall, perhaps as early as September.  The City has been working with the Centretown community, the Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA), individual residents and the developers to create what they hope will be a strong guiding document for the future planning of Centretown.  The CCCA itself has been working on the CDP for over two and half years.

There was a period of time when the City of Ottawa waived development fees in hopes that it would draw developers’ downtown, and did it ever!  There was a flurry of applications to the City before the window closed on the waiver of development fees.  Since August 1st 2011 the City has reinstated Development fees for approved site plans, the good news is that the City’s new fee structure has not dampened the developers’ interest in putting up new buildings in Centretown.

However during the months leading up to the reinstatement of development fees the City was working in two parallel worlds, one where there were outdated Planning Act Zoning by-laws and another where they were dreaming of the best way to design a downtown community. But while there were two Cities of Ottawa, the developers only concerned themselves with what they could do in the old world of planning.  Community groups were hard at work trying to surf through the hundreds of pages of the proposed CDP and then the DRAFT CDP ensuring the document would be fair for everyone – developers AND residents.

Looking back, the City was trying to have it both ways, talking up the CDP, perhaps hoping developers would embrace it and design to the future (but not enforceable) guidelines.  Recent Planning Committee decisions refer to the CDP, however the decision to grant an application was based on guidelines the City was trying to replace.

Now, back to the opening paragraph where I mention the work towards a CDP is now close to 30 months.  I know the City wants to get it right; they want to make sure they have the ‘perfect’ planning document for Centretown, but 30 months?  So I have a thought, how long do you think it would have taken IF the City froze all applications for Centretown UNTIL it had a Centretown Design Plan approved and in place following August 1 2011?  Not 30 months that is for sure.  In fact I am pretty sure that we would have been long down the Centretown Design Plan road and probably avoided a few costly appeals to the OMB.

While this idea is too late for Centretown, there will be other Design Plans for the Planning Committee to consider in Ottawa that would benefit from a delay in applications if only to speed up the Design Plan process and have the right plan in place sooner rather than later.

Disclaimer: The CCCA has filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board over the City of Ottawa’s approval of an application by Claridge for 96 Nepean.  I am Co-Chair of the CCCA Planning Development Review Committee and Chair the working Committee for our OMB Appeal.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. Please follow me and send your thoughts on this and other postings.

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