(Councillor Glen Gower, Stittsville Ward, and Councillor Scott Moffatt, Rideau-Goulbourn Ward, were named as Co-Chairs of the influential Planning Committee on July 21, 2021. Photos: City of Ottawa)
Before the summer recess for Ottawa Council, an important vote took place on July 21st to replace the Chair of the influential Planning Committee. For the first time in the history of the Planning Committee, two co-chairs have been named to replace Jan Harder who stepped down at the end of June.
Councillors Glen Gower of Stittsville Ward and Scott Moffatt of Rideau-Goulbourn Ward were named as the new co-chairs with confidence from Mayor Jim Watson. A motion was brought forward by Councillor Allan Hubley to have the workload shared in light of the importance of Ottawa’s Official Plan document and the work to be completed during this term of Council.
The motion to have co-chairs was unbeknownst to councillors prior to the vote, or others would have thrown their hat in the ring to be candidates. One other candidate who did proffer his name as a candidate, Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper, was only afforded 9 votes, with Gower and Moffatt each receiving 14 votes. Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard was named as a new member to the committee after making every effort to do so since being elected in 2018.
The mandate of the Planning Committee sets out the responsibilities for the committee to oversee all development and planning within the urban boundary in accordance with the City’s Official Plan document, including zoning designations, community planning, site design requirements, development charges, affordable housing and making recommendations on heritage protection to Council brought forward by the Built Heritage Sub-Committee.
The Planning Committee is made-up of the following members of Council:
Co-Chairs: Councillor Glen Gower, Councillor Scott Moffatt
Members: Councillor Laura Dudas, Councillor Tim Tierney, Councillor Jeff Leiper, Councillor Riley Brockington, Councillor Allan Hubley, Councillor Catherine Kitts, Councillor Jenna Sudds, Councillor Jean Cloutier, Councillor Shawn Menard
Ex-Officio Members: Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Eli El-Chantiry
On the announcement of naming the two co-chairs to the Planning Committee, Councillor Gower told Stittsville Central, “We have a very heavy roster of planning files this fall. The next meeting in August has more than 20 items on the agenda, which could take two days to go through. The Official Plan deliberations in September will likely span 2 or 3 days. The co-chair arrangement distributes the workload and will make for more effective leadership.
Councillor Menard has been interested in a seat on planning and he was the only person to put his name forward. It’s not an easy committee, so thanks to Shawn for agreeing to serve.”
With respect to the new co-chairs and decisions being made from an urban/rural perspective, Councillor Gower said, “Councillor Moffatt and I are planning to meet for coffee next week to hash out the details. In broad terms he would take on most of the policy files (including the Official Plan) and I would handle development review. We actually have a separate committee for rural issues – Agriculture and Rural Affairs – that both of us sit on as members.”
When making development decisions, we were interested to know if any changes/direction would be looked at by the co-chairs for the committee members, “We’re just two members on a committee with 11 people, and I don’t think it’s our role necessarily to tell the committee how to make decisions. I have some ideas I’d like to explore with committee members and staff on how the committee operates to ensure it’s a fair process and that we’re making good decisions. One of the roles the chair can play is to help solve problems on difficult files, bringing together all the different parties – councillors, builders, community, staff – and that’s one part of the role I’m looking forward to.”
Preservation of our examples of heritage buildings is a concern for a large number of Ottawa residents and has been instrumental in the fight to save Stittsville’s history from demolition with local groups. With that in our mind, we asked if Councillor Gower will look at seeking more heritage designations for properties. “Recognizing and protecting heritage is a priority for councillors and staff, and will continue to be a priority in the next Official Plan. That’s not something that will change with the new chairs.”
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