6 May 2021 / #news #planning Revised draft version of Ottawa's new official plan slated for this summerAn “unprecedented” level of public engagement with the City of Ottawa’s new official plan will result in a second draft plan to be released this summer.City planners will also put together an interim report to review the public comments received from the original draft, to be released sometime this spring. That interim report will also give an open to residents who want to ask questions or provide further feedback. So far, over 100,000 Ottawans have engaged with the new plan’s creation process.The official plan (OP) is a key document that guides development in Ottawa. The new plan will serve to replace the existing OP, which has been in use since 2003, and will guide how Ottawa grows and changes all the way to 2046. The City of Ottawa says it wants to become “the most liveable mid-sized city in North America over the next century", and the new OP will be a tool to turn this vision into a real, long-term strategy.According to a post on the city’s website, this is the schedule for the next steps of the OP:Spring - Public presentation and online engagements on the interim As We Heart It report providing the opportunity to submit questions and additional feedback.Summer – Online engagement on updated draft New Official Plan policies.Late Summer – Public Open House on the full updated draft New Official Plan.Fall - Statutory Public Meeting at the joint Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Residents can register to present to Committee on these dates.It is expected that city council will vote on the new OP this fall. If approved at council, it goes to the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which will review and approve the plan, putting it into force.While we wait on the interim report, the city has put out an FAQ meant to address come common questions and concerns that came up during the first public review. You can check it out here. There are some topics it touched on that I found interesting, which all relate to the so-called “15-minute neighbourhoods”.15-minute neighbourhoodsThis is a really critical concept when it comes to the City of Ottawa’s current direction on planning policy, and the good news is that it’s pretty simple. The idea with 15-minute neighbourhoods is that people can live in a community where everything they need is within a 15-minute walk from their home, including work, recreation and shopping. Back in 2019, the city came out with the “5 Big Moves” report (PDF here) which discussed the concept as it relates to various city-planning topics. For example, you’d read about the 15-minute neighbourhood under “Growth Management”, and then later see it again under “Climate, Energy and Public Health”. This highlights how important the simple idea is to the new Official Plan.Of course, the devil is in the details. As a result, there were a number of questions addressed on this topic in the recently-released FAQ. One that I think is important to highlight is that the city is not foisting this idea on anyone (the question was: “Why does the City assume that all residents want to live in a 15-minute neighborhood?"). Rather, they are putting in place the policy framework that will allow people who want to live in such a neighbourhood to do so. The city is of the (correct, in my view) perspective that 15-minute neighbourhoods carry many benefits to residents. They reduce car dependency, encourage active transportation, and foster strong social connections, to name some of the benefits. Of course, if someone doesn’t want that then they don’t have to live in one.DensityYou can’t have a 15-minute neighbourhood without density and mixed-use development. A lot of this will come from new development, either in brand-new communities or in existing communities where there is redevelopment occurring over time. One good point to consider is: “How will the city ensure that density in established 15-minute neighborhoods also includes more affordable housing?” The city said achieving this result means “making sure we have more diversification and range of housing types to meet different income levels”, and mentioned that _inclusionary zoning will play into it as well. This is basically where the city requires developers to reserve a certain number of units in a new residential development as affordable housing. The city has said it intends to adopt such a policy, but the full policy has not been created yet as planners are still conducting research to inform it. When the policy has been created, there will be a public consultation process before it is adopted.Taking things literallyThis question was just funny, and I guess it’s true: “Why don’t you call it the 30-minute neighborhood as you need to include the return trip?” Yeah, good point!If you want to read more from the FAQ, the PDF can be viewed here. All updates to the new OP process are posted on the city’s project page.