The City of Ottawa has embarked on two different paths for consulting with the public for the future of Ottawa.
The first path has been in the works for the past four years as the City has embarked on a new CDP for Centretown. The Centretown Citizen’s Community Association, Heritage Ottawa and the CCOC have been on this since day one. On the other side of the coin has been the developers who also have a vested interest in what the future of Centretown will look like and what can indeed be built and where it can be built. Now this is a very strange coin as it has three sides – the 3rd side is the City, what is it they want to see happen in the downtown core?
The Planning Committee will be tabling the Final Draft of the Centretown Community Design Plan on March 26th. Earlier in February the City revealed what is to be the CDP that will define Centretown to the CCCA, the CCOC, developers and other interested parties. What happened at the ‘reveal’ was very interesting. It was clear from this meeting that the three sides of this discussion would not be able to agree on what the final outcome would look like. In fact I can say that the only agreement in the room was that the City got what it wanted leaving everyone else to throw up their arms and say “what the heck did we just spend the last four years working on?” The comments I made on behalf of the CCCA are found here as posted on the Centretown news website, http://www.centretownnews.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3694&Itemid=94. Whether this outcome is the initiative needed for the community and developers to work together to change the CDP is yet to be seen – but they start with one common reaction of disbelief and dumfoundedness.
The second path is for Liveable Ottawa, planning the entire city well into the next 20 years. On first glance this consultation seems to be achieving what it wants. Thousands of online surveys have been completed and over 200 people participated in a consultative process ranging on a wide scope of topics. The public consultation was very well organized and it kept to the timetable that was promised – a very good start to this process.
I have had my concerns about the representation of urban Ottawa on the Community Panel for a Liveable Ottawa, and it seems that others in the core have as well. About half of the attendees represented the urban centres of the city; they came to have their ‘urban’ concerns heard. Rural and suburban residents split the other half taking part. In this process what surprised me is that urbanites are not that different in what they want to see Ottawa become. And I think the rural residents felt comforted by comments from urbanites who feel that rural Ottawa has a character of its own that should be protected.
What happens to either consultation is yet to be seen. The Centretown CDP will be hard fought for by the community and developers against a city plan that did not take into consideration any suggestions from either side. The whole city will have to wait until the city releases the preliminary report based on comments and surveys submitted for what a Liveable Ottawa cold look like. From my observations, it does not look like the City will be able to ignore or sidestep what the citizens of this City are saying.