Tag Archives: Centretown

Somerset Ward 2014, my vote goes to…

Ottawa Election 2014Since the end of the provincial election I have been asked to consider the possibility of submitting my name to run in Somerset for the fall Municipal Election. Like others that ran and did not win – and are Progressive Conservatives, there has been a call to arms to have us run for Ottawa City Council. In Ottawa, only one unsuccessful provincial candidate has decided to run, that being Alex Cullen in his old Bay Ward. Others I have spoken to have many reasons for not running. The two main reasons I hear are 1. “Two elections in one year? My boss would…me” and 2. “I am focused on finding a new Leader of the Ontario PC Party that will bring the change needed in Ontario for a better future for the province. As I stated in a previous post, I am committed to the Ontario PC Party, helping to select a Leader that can be elected as Premier in 2018.  Also, I have a third observation – there are currently 9 very good candidates and before September 12th there may well be a tenth, some have been canvassing for many months, many of the candidates I do not disagree with some of their positions.

As I consider who my vote goes to, I am looking for the candidate that will bring needed support to businesses in Somerset Ward.  For far too many years Somerset has not had a business friendly Councillor, this has to change. To keep the ward a vibrant and lively place to live work and shop, local small businesses must have a friend in the Council Chambers.

I find that though it is a mixed field of candidates in the ward, all are talking Transit, Sustainability, Transportation, Eco-district and keeping the community vibrant as the right development continues come into the area. So for me there was no way to find a difference among them using those campaign promises and platforms.  I needed more.

I asked one candidate about taxes, their response was they did not have a position on the tax rate. I have also spoken to others who say that at least 4 candidates will be exactly the same as we have now – and I agree.  Somerset needs change, not just changing the name of the councilor.  A change in how the Councillor works for ALL of Somerset Ward constituents is needed.

I am looking for a fresh approach to working with the community, a new approach to supporting business and calm sensible approach to development in Centretown and Somerset Ward.

On October 27th, my vote in Somerset Ward is going to Thomas McVeigh.

I have worked with Thom in the Centretown Citizens Community Association on the Board and on the CCCA Planning Committee. As a member of the Wellington West BIA Thom is managing a business in that community and he has worked on several community boards in Ontario and BC. Thom has demonstrated to me a calm and sensible way of doing business. He has demonstrated an excellent knowledge of the issues in Somerset Ward and Ottawa as a whole. He has a very good grasp of how to work with others and how to sensibly – without dreaming too large – accomplish goals. Working alongside Thom in the CCCA we have the same thoughts on smart and sensible development in the ward. We should not be afraid of developers, but it doesn’t mean we give away anything either. When I talk to Thom I hear and feel that he talks from his heart, he cares about our community and wants so much to make it better and brighter.

As a Red Tory, I support Thom in his drive to help the vulnerable, to ensure all are looked after BUT he sees, as I do, a real need for fiscal responsibility in Ottawa at the Council Chambers. I am going to vote for Thom, I see Thom as being the choice that can carry on some of Diane Holmes’ community and social work. With Thom I see that he brings to businesses a friend and a voice for the concerns of shops, restaurants and other businesses on Elgin, Bank, Sparks, Somerset, Preston and every other street in Somerset Ward at City Council.

I encourage those that supported me in June and feel as I do about doing all we can do help others and at the same time making sure we watch how are dollars are raised and spent, to support and vote for Thomas McVeigh on October 27th, he will be a fantastic Councillor for all residents, businesses and services that call Somerset Ward home.

October 27th, VOTE for Thomas McVeigh in Somerset. Please take the time to visit his website www.thomasmcveigh.com to learn more about Thom, his family and his ideas. 

Thom McVeigh

I invite you to share your ideas by commenting to this post or any post on my blog. You can also email me directly at robdekkeroc@gmail.com.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.

A Tale of Two Consultations

The City of Ottawa has embarked on two different paths for consulting with the public for the future of Ottawa.

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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.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97 and at www.robertdekker.ca.  Please follow me and send me your thoughts on this and other posts to rob@robertdekker.ca.

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.

Developer wants; Community wishes; and Political Will


 

Within one week there were two meetings about the future of future development in Ottawa and Centretown.  A “Tall Buildings Summit” was organized by Ottawa DNA (Twitter: @OttawaDNA web:  www.ottawadna.ca) This meeting had developer input with Neil Mahotra of Claridge Homes and Alex Munter presenting a ‘healthy’ city point of view.  It was an interesting meeting and when talking about Tall buildings the popular view was that they have to be done right in order to have the positive effect they are meant to have.

On Wednesday night (May 30 2012) the community lent its collective ear and listened when the Centretown Citizens Community Association (CCCA) hosted a public meeting on the Centretown Community Design Plan (CDP).

There was a distinct interest in the topic as over 150 people attended the meeting at the McNabb Community Centre; a few were turned away as the room had reached its capacity.

The meeting, organized by members of the CCCA Planning Development Review committee brought in CDP consultants George Dark and Eric Turcotte, Graeme Hussey of the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, Nancy Oakley from Heritage Ottawa, Brian Bourns and the CCCA’s Judy Forrest to speak about the CDP and their perspectives on the plan.  Some City staff was in attendance as was Somerset Ward Councillor Diane Holmes.  Of the 150 about one-third had been involved in previous CDP meetings, clearly this meeting was of interest to many following the advertising done by the CCCA but also by a CDP issue of the “Centretown Buzz:” at the beginning of May. The articles are found at http://www.centretownbuzz.com/.

Brian Bourns started the evening with a historical viewpoint and the original Centretown Plan from the 1970’s.  This was followed by a detailed presentation from George Dark.  Judy Forrest presented the CCCA’s three main concerns (after stating what was supported in the CDP):

  1. Drastic change in height of buildings
  2. Heavy emphasis on mixed use buildings with 50% mixed use too high
  3. Secondary Main Streets

Two presentations from Graeme Hussey and Nancy Oakley were followed by a very respectful question and answer for the panellists.

A few developers were spotted in the audience; they did not speak or ask any questions.

What really impressed me the most was the way the questions were asked and the comments that were made leading to the questions.  There was an understanding of the CDP by the community members.  The questions ranged from Greenspace to Green  Roofs, the OMB and current buildings that are either under construction or at planning committee.

I got the impression that like the OttawaDNA meeting, the residents were not against tall buildings and development the residents just want it to be done right.  Examples of the Tribeca building bordered by Lisgar/Metcalfe and Nepean and the proposed 68 Cooper Street were held up as buildings  that have negative effects.  Regarding the Tribeca building there are infrastructural issues (and being investigated) being faced by surrounding existing structures. AS proposed 18 story building at 68 Cooper plans have no set back or green space and in drawings provided by the builder show a neighbouring buildings’ green space as its own. Little or no visitor parking planned for 68 Cooper will have effects through the neighbouring streets.

Clearly there is concern from the community that developers will not abide by the CDP.  The crowd challenged the political will of City Council to abide by the CDP and listen to the concerns of the residents whether the Councillor represents voters outside the downtown and urban centres.

The CDP is planned to go to the Planning Committee in the fall followed by a full vote at City Council.  Comments are being accepted by the City through the summer

There are few links to read more about the CDP:

http://midcentretown.wordpress.com/

http://www.ottawa.ca/en/city_hall/planningprojectsreports/public_consult/mid_centretown_cdp/index.html

Via Twitter you can read about the two meetings by searching the #Ottdna and #CCCAcdp hashtags for the twitter conversations that took place those evenings.

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.