(ABOVE: Boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake, was suggested as a new name by a Goulbourn Street resident.)
UPDATE, JUNE 28: City extends street naming process to August 12
The City of Ottawa received 236 suggestions for six streets in Stittsville requiring a name change, but only 26 met the criteria for acceptable street names.
“I didn’t know this either before I was in the street name business. Because we have so many streets out there, it’s hard to find a new name. It’s hard to find words that are clear and sound distinct. This is all about emergency responders,” says Françoise Lecrouart, a manager with the City of Ottawa’s building code services department.
There are about 7,000 streets in Ottawa, and another 2,000 names reserved for use in future subdivisions.
“We’ve worked with emergency services. These are best practices that are well known, like no similar sounding names, or over-used words. We have criteria [that are used] to vet suggestions,” she says.
- About a fifth of the suggestions were duplicates of existing street names.
- Another a fifth of the suggestions contained over-used words, like “red”, “elm” or “deer”
- There were around 30 suggestions to honour individuals – historic or living – that were submitted without an accompanying commemorative naming application, so they were rejected. (A suggestion for Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the Canadian soldier shot in 2014 while on duty at the War Memorial, fell into this category.)
- Other reasons for rejection include a name with a number in it (“Five Cross”); names that included “Way” or “Trail”; names that sounded like abbreviations (“Bee Griffiths”); names that contained an abbreviation (“William J. Bell”).
- Some names were rejected outright as “not meeting council policy” including “Stittsvegas”, “Qadri”, “Swampland”, and “Ding Dong”.
The City asked residents to suggest new names earlier this year, and Lecrouart says the number of suggestions received for Stittsville was quite high compared to other parts of the City. Usually, staff makes a decision based on the first round of suggestions but in Stittsville they’ve asked residents to vote on a favourite because of the large number of names put forward.
“In the case of Stittsville, we went through the second round letter,” says Lecouart. “In all the other wards, a decision was made in consultation with the councillor and people were just told this is the name you’re getting.”
“We’re getting a lot of feedback. They don’t like the names or they don’t like what was picked,” she says.
NAME COMMEMORATIONS RESERVED FOR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
Only one of the six street names will be named after an individual. Walker Road will become “Henry Walker Grove”. (According to the City: “Henry Walker was the youngest son of Isaac Walker and Mary Mulligan who both emigrated to Canada in 1819. Henry married Eliza Jane Stitt and they settled on his mother Mary’s family homestead in Goulbourn Township. Through the years the Walker family was active in their church and the Orange Lodge and they were important residents in the history of Stittsville.”)
Lecrouart says although they did receive nine qualifying recommendations to commemorate individuals, staff didn’t want to create an awkward situation by asking residents to vote for one person over another. Those names will be kept for use in future Stittsville neighbourhoods.
“It was an exercise to get these suggestions but it is going to be useful in that we’ll have the names of these individuals that will be commemorated in new subdivisions,” she says.
Why not use them for these streets? “It can be embarrassing for the individual if your name’s out there and nobody wants it. We worked with the councillor, and for those commemorations we will keep them on reserve for new subdivisions in Stittsville,” says Lecrouart. “I think the councillor is quite committed to making the commemorations in new subdivisions.”
As for the final choices for the other five streets, Lecouart says they all came from resident suggestions or from the city’s bank of pre-approved names.
Council’s policy on street names is to reflect Canadian history, flora and fauna. Where there were multiple qualifying Canadiana names for one street, they spread them around to other streets.
“We are trying to promote the Algonquin language, we’re working with the Algonquin, those words are pre-vetted and we put those in as options,” she says.
(And yes, Sugar Shack and Boxty came from someone on Elm and Goulbourn, respectively.)
Once they’ve tallied up the votes, staff will meet with Councillor Shad Qadri to present the feedback and recommendations. Lecouart says they’ll probably pick the name with the most positive feedback.
What if there’s no clear winner, or overwhelmingly negative feedback to all the names? Lecouart said the City would be reluctant to start the process over.
“We’d like to get this finished off, we’d like to get a decision made. That’s something that we’d have to discuss with the councillor,” she says. “How much of a process do you have to go through to get a name that everybody’s happy with? In other wards the decision’s been made, and over time people do accept and move on.”
(We asked Councillor Qadri for comments on the proposed names, but did not receive a response before our deadline. In his email newsletter on Friday he wrote “I have heard from residents who are not pleased with the proposed names and I will continue to work with staff on this matter further.”
Earlier in 2016, Qadri wrote: “I am particularly interested in ones [street names] that represent the history of the area and/or the suggestions which would be a commemorative naming of an individual.”)
STREET NAMES CHALLENGE DEVELOPERS TOO
Lecouart says that developers have software they use to combine words together to create new words that meet city criteria, but don’t actually mean anything.
“Developers have the same problem… they send us names and we send it back to them saying there’s 25% acceptable and the rest don’t make it,” she says.
City staff keep a bank of names that developers can pick from, including Algonquin names, Canadian plants and animals, and local individuals that have been approved for commemoration.
Here’s a document evaluating all 236 names received from residents: