The City of Ottawa’s Planning Department has issued a 6-page document on the Johnwoods road closure, including an apology for poor communication with residents on the issue.
Councillor Shad Qadri shared the document as part of his weekly newsletter, two days after a raucous and well-attended public meeting where residents took Qadri and planners to task for not being adequately consulted on the plan.
“It was not clearly recognized that there would be such opposition to the closure from the existing residents. This was an error for which the planning department apologizes,” the unsigned document states.
“Staff continue to advise that the closure of Johnwoods will provide a positive benefit to the existing and future communities through reducing cut-through traffic and restoring a local road network, and through provision of additional community open space and improvement of a poorly used corridor. However, staff also accept responsibility for the lack of communication on the process, and failure to discuss the forthcoming plans for Johnwoods with residents until such a late date.”
In the same newsletter, Qadri said that he’s meeting Monday with senior City staff and Planning Committee Chair Jan Harder to discuss the item.
“At the public meeting I committed that I would look into taking the necessary steps to have the conversion reviewed which could involve bringing a motion to Planning Committee to have the plan of subdivision amended. At the meeting I did state that the success of such a strategy is unlikely given the approval and appeal process,” he wrote.
“As your representative I am making this a priority and can assure you that as discussions continue I will provide updates through my e-column and will also be mailing further information to residents in the immediate area. I can appreciate that some residents felt they were not informed throughout this process and I will be taking the steps to address this and also ensure that more information is shared with residents,” wrote Qadri.
(Qadri’s ability to communicate with residents during the original approval process back in 2013 was limited. He had to declare a conflict of interest because he owns property on Joseph Circle, which is adjacent to the development land that Mattamy owns at 33 Johnwoods.)
A key point of contention at Wednesday’s meeting was that many residents had no idea the plan to close Johnwoods was final. Since the meeting, StittsvilleCentral.ca has heard from several residents who shared emails they received from the planning department over the last few years that left them with the impression the closure was only a consideration, not a final decision.
For example, here’s part of an email that one resident received from planner Kathy Rygus in November, 2014: “No decision regarding this proposal has been made yet, and the meeting may not take place for several months, because the concept is at a very early stage of consideration.”
(I’ve attended at least a couple community meetings – including one on February – where Councillor Qadri has mentioned the plan, and it’s always been positioned as an “option” or “consideration”.)
Here’s how planning staff explain the chronology of what happened:
Between Draft Approval in November 2013 and Registration of the subdivision agreement in February 2015, the City still retained an opportunity to entirely reconsider the closure if major concerns were identified through the circulation.
Following draft approval, the intent was to have Mattamy go through a concept design with community input on the future look, function and timing of the repurposed roadway conversion.
As no appeals or comments had been received on the draft approval of the subdivision at large and impacts were considered minor in nature and primarily on future residents, and similar closures have been welcomed in other neighbourhoods, the planning department moved forward on registration and did not prioritize the circling back with the existing community to provide an advisory meeting between draft approval and registration, as had been suggested to the community and the Councillor.
After the subdivision was registered in February 2015, staff recognized that there remained a need to circle back with the community on what the look, function and timing would be of the multi-use pathway corridor going forward into implementation.
Here’s the full document from the planning department titled “Johnwoods Street Closure – Summary Response”, along with the powerpoint presentation from city planners at the May 4 meeting.
You can send comments about the Johnwoods closure to Kathy Rygus at the City’s planning department via Kathy.Rygus@ottawa.ca.