Tag Archives: leiper

NOTEBOOK: Councillor pushes for construction industry watchdog

Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper wants to establish a watchdog to rein in what he calls “needlessly thoughtless and disrespectful behaviour” on the part of the construction industry, particularly on problematic infill developments.

He wants the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) to fund an ombudsperson to field complaints and resolve disputes. Here’s part of what he wrote on his web site on the weekend:

One of the greatest frustrations I have as the one looked to most often to sort out disagreements between builders and neighbours is how few tools Councillors and even the City have to deal with the litany of complaints that we hear. Parking, noise, and property standards by-laws can be enforced by the City, but the process is slow, there’s too few resources on the ground, and enforcement is ultimately up to the courts which means the City takes a graduated enforcement approach.

The courts are also the only recourse for neighbours whose property has been damaged by builders. This is an immense frustration. Telling residents to lawyer up when disputes arise over property lines or damage is not why anyone runs for office.

There needs to be a better mechanism to deal with infill issues. Too many problems are dealt with by too many levels of government and agencies.

Infill development in Stittsville may not be as intense as in Kitchissippi but it’s still happening out here. Just about every month at the Committee of Adjustment there’s an application to subdivide a big residential lot in order to squeeze in another house.  That’s only going to accelerate in the coming years.

It’s not just infill that’s a problem either. New housing development generates lots of complaints too: traffic, noise, dirt, blasting, etc.

I’m not sure an ombudsperson is the most effective way to deal with this issue.  He or she might play a useful role in mediation with GOHBA members, but I bet most of the problematic contractors and developers aren’t members of the group.

Still, good on Leiper for at least raising the issue and bringing attention to it. At the very least, it will spur discussion about how to create a fairer and clearer process to react to homeowner concerns. He’s asking residents to share their infill construction horror stories via his web site…

Councillor Jeff Leiper shared this example of this text message exchange: "Recently, a Champlain Park resident, just trying to get through the infill going in next to them, had an exchange with a builder to ask him to move, as previously agreed, the security fence off their property. The exchange by text is a follow-up to a voicemail left by the resident with the builder that was never answered. The exchange is beyond disrespectful, and I think crosses the line into abusiveness. I’ve had enough.
Councillor Jeff Leiper shared this example of a text message exchange between a resident and a builder: “Recently, a Champlain Park resident, just trying to get through the infill going in next to them, had an exchange with a builder to ask him to move, as previously agreed, the security fence off their property. The exchange by text is a follow-up to a voicemail left by the resident with the builder that was never answered. The exchange is beyond disrespectful, and I think crosses the line into abusiveness. I’ve had enough.

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NOTEBOOK: Congestion pricing, cell phone tower, patio season

CONGESTION PRICING BACK ON THE RADAR
Looks like the debate over “congestion pricing” might be coming to City Hall in the near future. That’s the idea of using financial incentives (or disincentives) to decrease car use and increase transit ridership, particularly from the suburbs of Ottawa into the downtown core.

The four downtown councillors – Chernushenko, Leiper, McKenney and Nussbaum – commissioned a study that was presented at a symposium last week.

The study looks at the potential effects of four pricing models: highway tolls, “cordon” charges (a toll to enter downtown), parking rate changes and a gas tax increase. The authors conclude that raising the cost of parking downtown would be the most cost-effective tool: “The report concludes that while a cordon charge to enter the Ottawa central area could be more effective at accomplishing the stated objectives, the implementation costs given today’s technology would make it impractical. Tolling the highways was evaluated to be less effective given the possibility of leakage onto parallel arterial roads and the inability to address north-south traffic. The study notes important jurisdictional and other challenges regarding the feasibility of raising the gas tax and concludes that focussing on parking charges would be more useful in addressing congestion and increasing transit ridership. Although high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes were not examined in detail, the report suggests their feasibility could increase in light of provincial highway expansion plans.

“Managing congestion using pricing tools is increasingly recognized by cities worldwide as a way to increase transit ridership, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and address commuting frustration” says Chernushenko. “Our goal in commissioning this research and analysis from CPCS is to contribute to an ongoing conversation about how to best to encourage sustainable transportation and support our significant investment in LRT. This is a very important discussion for Ottawa to have.”

There are no immediate plans to move forward on any recommendations in the study, but it’s a debate that Stittsville commuters will want to keep an eye on in the months to come.

You can read the report here…

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CELL TOWER PROPOSED FOR IBER
Via Councillor Qadri: “Shared Network Canada (SNC) is proposing a 50m tri-pole communication tower to be constructed at 145 Iber Rd. The tower will be used to offer space to multiple cellular carriers to enhance and support their networks. A small fenced area with a walk-in cabinet will be constructed at the base of the installation. A public meeting will be held at the Main Hall of the Goulbourn Recreational Complex (1500 Shea Rd) on Wednesday, April 12th to help answer resident questions and concerns regarding the project.” There’s more info about the meeting here…

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590 HAZELDEAN ROAD ZONING
On April 11, the City’s planning committee will be considering a zoning bylaw amendment for 590 Hazeldean Road.  Currently zoned as agricultural land, the proposed change would allow for a residential development with parks, a school and commercial areas.  The initial consultation for the zoning change happened way back in late 2013 / early 2014, but the item is only now coming in front of councillors.

The staff report prepared for the meeting describes the land as “vacant”, but that’s not really accurate. The word suggests empty, worthless land.  In this case it’s quite the opposite. Until a few years ago it was home to an active farm, and the Bradley-Craig heritage house and barn are still standing along Hazeldean Road.  (The barn is supposed to be relocated soon to Saunders Farm.)

You can read the background documents here…

SIGNS OF SPRING


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NOTEBOOK: Potter’s Key zoning; Photo radar; Hartsmere blasting

Minto's Potter's Key
Sign at Minto’s Potter’s Key development on Hazeldean Road.

POTTER’S KEY ZONING APPROVED
This week City Council approved a zoning change for 6111 and 6141 Hazeldean Road, site of Minto’s future Potter’s Key development. Attached to that zoning change was a condition that “only single detached units are to back onto existing single detached units in the Echowoods and Jackson Trails subdivisions”.  
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NOTEBOOK: New date added for water rate consultations

The City has added another public consultation session for proposed changes to water/sewer rates, and this one is nearby in Kanata. This one’s on Monday, April 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Kanata Recreation Complex, 100 Charlie Rogers Place (formerly Walter Baker Place), Hall A.  That’s just off Terry Fox near Hazeldean. More info…

Recommended reading: Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper commissioned an independent study of different approaches that the City could take to change water and sewer fees.  This is a complicated file and I don’t envy councillors as they try to find a more equitable way to charge for these services. You can read the study here…


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Stittsville items in front of Committee of Adjustment February 17

The Committee of Adjustment will consider several Stittsville applications on February 17:

  • 12 Meadowland: “The Owner wants to subdivide the property into three separate parcels of land. It is proposed to construct three one-storey detached dwellings, with one on each of the parcels. The existing dwelling and sheds will be demolished.” More info here…
  • 12 Meadowland: “The Owner has filed Consent Applications (D08-01-15/B-00489 & D08-01-15/B-00490) which, if approved, will have the effect of creating three separate parcels of land. It is proposed to demolish the existing dwelling and sheds in order to construct three, onestorey detached dwellings, with one on each of the parcels, as shown on plans filed with the Committee. The proposed parcels will not be in conformity with the requirements of the Zoning By-law.” More info here…
  • 6176 Hazeldean: “The Owner wants to subdivide the property into three separate parcels of land. It is proposed to construct a five-storey mixed-use building with a residential care facility and rooming units on one parcel. The other two parcels will remain vacant.” More info here…  (A retirement home is proposed for one of the parcels.)
  • 6176 Hazeldean: “The Owner has filed Consent Applications (D08-01-15/B-00472 & D08-01-15/B-00473) which, if approved, will have the effect of creating three separate parcels of land. It is proposed to construct a five-storey mixed-use building with a residential care facility and rooming units on one of the parcels and the other two parcels will remain vacant. The proposed mixed-use building, as shown on plans filed with the Committee, will not be in conformity with the requirements of the Zoning By-law. ” More info here…
  • 5661 Hazeldean: “The Owner wants to enter into a long-term lease in excess of 21 years for a portion of its property which containing a retail store (Toys “R” Us).” More info here…

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COMMENT: Bradley-Craig demolition debate was constructive (somewhat)

ABOVE: Bradley-Craig Barn, October 2015. Photo by Barry Gray.

UPDATE: City council approved the demolition/relocation on Wednesday. The vote was 20-3, with councillors Leiper, Nussbaum and McKenney opposing demolition.

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Today’s marathon debate at Planning Committee on the fate of the Bradley-Craig barn was so long that councillors ordered in pizza, and one even fell asleep (I won’t name names). Continue reading


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COMMENT: Questions to ask about the 2016 municipal budget

(Photo: The 2015 draft budget includes $150,000 for two new arena dehumidifiers at the Goulbourn Rec Centre. Photo by Barry Gray.)

Mayor Jim Watson wants us to judge the City budget on how much (or how little) more tax we’ll pay.  Limiting the tax increase in 2016 to 2% is a good thing, but putting so much emphasis on this one metric makes me wonder what we’re not being told.

For example, your water and sewer charge will be going up by six percent, adding nearly as much to your yearly household bill as the tax increase will.  Watson left that part out of his budget speech.  (A 6% water bill increase adds about $49 to the average yearly bill.  A 2% tax increase translates to about $72 more in municipal taxes for an urban home assessed at $375,300.)

Here are a few questions I have for Mayor Watson and his finance team:

  • The draft budget includes $40,000 per ward for traffic calming, but how many speed bumps or flex-signs does that actually pay for? Is it enough to address the many neighbourhood problems that we have in Stittsville?
  • What exactly is being cut? And how will the cuts impact services? Here’s a concern raised by Kitchisippi councillor Jeff Leiper, who says that the draft budget lacks transparency in explaining how “efficiencies” are being found“We’re going to need a lot of answers between now and when the budgets are debated at committee to understand whether this budget is as advertised: a balance between a low tax increase and no impact to services. I don’t feel comfortable that we have enough information to determine whether we’re putting our future ability to do public works at risk given how much of our reserves we’re spending.”
  • Is the budget good for the long-term financial health for our city?   Veteran councillor Rick Chiarelli brought this up in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen recently: “We are currently only investing a fraction of what our dedicated public service and outside accountants advise is the optimum level of investment in repair, maintenance and lifecycle replacement to achieve the mid and long range lowest cost to taxpayers. Failure to invest enough in these elements of the budget are false savings… Every dollar we evade spending on these things can create a bill of 10-50 times that amount in avoidable future costs when, instead, we have to reconstruct the asset.”
  • Are we getting our fair share in the suburbs? Citizen columnist David Reevely offers a cogent analysis on “assessment growth”, and how tax revenue from new condos and communities gets incorporated into the city budget: “Coun. Marianne Wilkinson, who represents Kanata North, has complained for years that new neighbourhoods in her ward have been denied transit service they deserve. Mainly, OC Transpo has stretched its existing service to cover more territory rather than putting more buses on new routes. If you live in Kanata Lakes or Morgan’s Grant (or any of Ottawa’s newer suburbs outside the Greenbelt), and you wonder why the bus isn’t better, the cannibalizing of assessment-growth money is one reason. “

Councillor Shad Qadri told StittsvilleCentral.ca in an email last week that he was generally pleased with the draft budget.

“There are a number of important items for Stittsville and I will continue to work on other items that I also feel require funding in our community,” he said. (Although he wouldn’t elaborate on what those other items may be.)

You can find more information on the budget and how it impacts Stittsville on Qadri’s web site.  You can send comments to budget2016@ottawa.ca.  And if you can fit your comments into 140 characters, tweet them using the hashtag #ottbudget.

 

 


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