The City of Ottawa is challenging an Ontario Municipal Board decision that, if left unappealed, could create uncertainty about the authority of both the City’s Official Plan and local neighbourhood plans.
The Ontario Municipal Board decision on April 29 concerns Official Plan Amendment 117, which implements the Centretown Community Design Plan – a plan that took several years to draft and involved exhaustive public consultation. The decision upholds certain elements of that plan and strikes down others.
“We have spent the last several years drafting and approving plans for Ottawa that give residents and builders certainty about what can and cannot be built,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “We need to defend those plans.”
The decision casts doubt on Ottawa’s strategy of providing development certainty by suggesting there needs to be “flexibility” in City plans and that the Official Plan and Community Design Plans should not be firm with regard to building heights.
“There’s no point in spending lots of public money and taking up the valuable time of residents and developers in drafting these neighbourhood plans and updating the Official Plan if the plans can’t say where buildings are to be located and how tall they will be,” said Councillor Jan Harder, Chair of the City’s Planning Committee.
The City has carefully reviewed the Ontario Municipal Board decision and has decided to seek leave to appeal it to the Divisional Court.
Beginning with the 2012 Planning Summit and continuing through updates to the City’s Official Plan, the goal of City Council has been consistently to provide certainty around what kinds of development can be done where, particularly in terms of building heights.
Through a series of approvals and directions, the City has taken the position that residents should know what the future of their neighbourhoods will be and that developers should know what they can build and where, in order to ensure effective business planning. Working with the community and the development industry, this principle of certainty has been diligently worked into the City’s new Official Plan, multiple Community Design Plans and into the Zoning By-law.