Posted by: HamptonIona | March 7, 2011

A Letter to Councillor Hume

Hampton Iona Community Group has sent the following letter to Councillor Peter Hume, head of the Planning Committee:

Dear Councillor Hume,

On behalf of the Hampton Iona Community Group which represents the area in which the Soeur de la Visitation Convent is located, I wish to once again thank you for introducing your motion, in conjunction with the area councillor of the time, to allow for a period of up to March 31, 2011 for the City to investigate and determine the availability of funding for the purchase of a significant portion of land on the southerly portion of the convent site.

We greatly appreciated your view that there should have only been development of up to 4 stories in the entire area south of convent, but that your hands were tied to turn down the development proposal given the staff support.   From the PEC minutes of November 16, I quote, "Councillor Hume noted that much of the criticism had been of the interpretation of the Secondary Plan as it pertained to the southern portion of the site.  He reiterated his reading of the section led him to believe that the intent of the framers of the plan was to have the back portion four stories; however, the professional planners interpret it in another manner."

You showed creativity and leadership in trying to find a way of preserving the site as public open space for future generations through purchasing the site.  In fact, your motion references the lack of sufficient open space in the ward.  As you know Westboro is a major shopping destination hub for all of Ottawa and the Convent is a unique heritage and architectural structure.  While at this time, we don’t know how Ashcroft plans to specifically develop the Convent building, their anticipated mix of commercial use on the site, coupled with the already existing position of the Westboro shopping area, means that the City has an opportunity to create a unique park space on this site which will attract visitors from around Ottawa many of whom already come to Westboro for the shopping.  A site like this is not meant to be a simple neighbourhood park and our association does not contemplate it as such.

I am writing you at this time with regards to the March 31, 2011 deadline in your motion.  While Councillor Hobbs has done an excellent job in organizing a number of public meetings to gauge community sentiment, we are deeply troubled that the decision deadline has been shifted to March 10, 2011 due to the need to bring this before Council and that there are no other Council meetings in March.  This truncated date was not made clear to the public until Councillor Hobbs’ news release on March 4 at 5:30 pm.

For several reasons, we believe that bringing this before Council on March 10 is a disservice to the public and does not follow the spirit of due process for a Council that is committed to embracing transparency.

For the following reasons, we request that you work with Councillor Hobbs and perhaps, Mayor Watson (who is following this issue closely and attended one of Councillor Hobbs’ meeting) to amend your motion to extend the deadline to April 13, 2011, the date of the next full Council meeting.  Our reasons for asking you to consider this are:

  1. Your motion, passed in late-November, allowed the community approximately 4 months to consider the levy, including the amount.  Unfortunately, the appraised value of the property and hence the amount of the levy, was only released to the public on March 1.  With Councillor Hobbs’ meetings only be scheduled from March 2 to 6, many people will have less than one week to learn about the levy, the methodology behind how it came about and make up their minds.   As you are aware, the budget process allows for residents to have almost 2 months to deal with the budget once the numbers are released to the public.  The public had more than one week to consider as to how the Green Bin fee would be handled, once we finally learnt the cost of that important program.  This levy also has a significant budgetary impact on every taxpayer in Kitchissippi.
  2. When you initially proposed a levy, you had estimated that it would be in the order of $4/year for 20 years.  Earlier this year, our councillor indicated that it could in the area of $20/yr. It has even been reported in the press that the levy could be $400/yr.   It was not until March 1, that we were told that it would be $97/yr for 10 years.  As well, we have been given no projections as to how this levy might actually decrease over time as new residents and businesses are located in Kitchissippi.  We were told that this would be the case by the assistant City Treasurer who has attended Ms. Hobbs’ meetings.  Given the level of intensification that we are experiencing in Kitchissippi, this information is very important.  Even the impact of already approved units in the ward could possibly decrease the levy by 10 to 15%, but we can only estimate this amount with help from the City.
  3. While some people are opposed to any levy on principle and precedent (and that is their prerogative), many people are willing to consider a levy but can only afford to pay so much.  With such a compressed time frame, people do not have adequate time to consider if they can absorb such a significant levy as $97/year (and this is only for the average priced property in Kitchissippi).  As well, residents and businesses have received no information on how the levy might decrease over time as the area develops.  This is an important consideration for people and businesses who are making this decision based on their financial situation and ability to pay.
  4. When your motion was initially passed it was during the transition period and I am sure that you did not contemplate that the decision would actually have to be made on March 10 as there would be no subsequent Planning Committee or Council meetings prior to March 31.  The delay that is being requested is only until the next set of meetings.
  5. As it was the Planning Committee that passed your motion, it is important that the residents of Kitchissippi (both those for and against the levy) have an opportunity to speak before the Planning Committee.  You had asked for community views on the Section 37 motion introduced on behalf of Councillor Leadsman, so I know that you view it as important for the Committee to know how public views the entire development process at this site.  There is no such opportunity for residents, regardless of their views, to speak before Council and with a March 10 date, there is no opportunity to discuss this at Committee.  Part of the committee structure is to allow residents to be heard by all members of a committee, not just for the area councillor to provide the information at full Council. Our City is structured this way to allow for direct citizen engagement. 
  6. We understand that Ashcroft has been approached on the possibility of an extension but has not yet replied.  As the original motion was introduced by yourself and passed by Committee and Council without the concurrence of Ashcroft Homes, we do not understand why you require Ashcroft’s concurrence at this time.  We are not requesting that the process be unduly delayed or deliberately stalled, but only extended until the next Committee/Council cycle can hear the matter.  This is only a matter of 13 days.  As Ashcroft already has an application before the OMB which they have not dropped, a delay of 13 days is not going to delay their project.  Even with the delay to March 31, Ashcroft has been able to open their showroom and start selling units are on the site.  

For these reasons, we ask that yourself, Councillor Hobbs and the Planning Committee members work together to bring forward a motion at Council next week to amend the original motion to extend the deadline to April 13, 2011.

I would be pleased to talk or meet with you and Councillor Hobbs to discuss this further should you have any questions.

Yours sincerely,

Lorne Cutler
President
Hampton Iona Community Group

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Responses

  1. An excellent letter. Thanks.

  2. Text of my letter to Hobbs/Watson et al 3-7-11, WENDY ATKIN:

    I attended the session at Churchill Seniors Centre on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find that the city appeared willing to listen to residents’ concerns about the Ashcroft development on the Convent grounds. It was particulary useful to have knowledgeable city staff able to answer questions clearly and honestly.

    I support a levy if that is what is needed. If it is in our ward only, fine, but ideally, this proposal should go to the planning committee, be reassessed in light of the significant concerns of residents and the current higher appraised value, which we have not had time to study fully. I live in a neighborhood that was for sale to the highest bidder under the previous City Council. This Council has the opportunity to do better, demonstrating that we can be a world-class city that takes the leadership needed to ensure a mix of green and urban spaces throughout Ottawa. I am one of the people who has stayed in Westboro improving an older property and maintaining a single family dwelling on a ‘green’ lot. The more that you take the approach of penalizing myself and others, including senior citizens, the more that we go in the direction of a privatized city that is paved over by developers who boast that this is an ‘easy’ place to make a buck.

    Levy – if we must, yes.
    Better to take additional time for full review and spread the burden evenly across the city.


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