Action Sandy Hill Annual General Meeting: zoning tops the agenda

Written by: Danna Leaman

Photo by: Bill Blackstone

Approximately 100 Action Sandy Hill members and other residents gathered in the main hall of Sandy Hill Community Centre on the rainy Thursday evening of 18 May for the ASH annual general meeting. The meeting followed a light supper, served by St. Joe’s Supper Table, accompanied by information tables hosted by the Rideau Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Ecology Ottawa (and the ASH Tree Group), City of Ottawa Planning Department, and Ottawa Police.

The meeting was gracefully emceed by David Dendoven, and the election of new ASH board members briskly and cheerfully managed by Sabrina Mathews.

ASH President Chad Rollins reported on ASH’s priority initiatives. Topmost on the agenda was a special resolution on development in Sandy Hill, in particular revisions to R4 zoning. ASH members voted unanimously to support a “holistic solution” to recent development in Sandy Hill that requires the City of Ottawa to:

  1. Consider R4 down-zoning;
  2. Implement a Floor Space Index (FSI) for all residential zoning (similar to other Ontario municipalities, e.g.;
  3. Create a rental property licensing system (similar to other Ontario municipalities); and,
  4. Maintain Site Plan Control for all development in Sandy Hill.

See an accompanying report by François Bregha and the full text of the resolution on the ASH website:

Additional ASH priorities for 2017-2018 mentioned by Mr Rollins and in ASH board members’ reports include:

  • Canada 150 anniversary contributions with tree planting (goal 150 trees) and publication of 150 Heritage Moments, beginning with those already documented by François Bregha;
  • revitalization of Rideau Street;
  • stronger participation in municipal planning consultation through the Federation of Citizens’ Associations;
  • funding for a gazebo in Strathcona Park;
  • increasing the current membership of ASH (370), supported by a recently completed electronic database and new online sign-up function on the ASH website;
  • bylaw enforcement on noise and garbage, focusing on problem landlords and working through the ASH-University of Ottawa Town and Gown committee;
  • additional heritage designations of Sandy Hill properties and Strathcona Park;
  • transportation issues, particularly the status of a proposed tunnel to remove truck traffic from King Edward Avenue and improvements to cycling safety;
  • installation of an outdoor ping-pong table in Sandy Hill Park (behind the community centre—paddles and balls available at the Sandy Hill Community Centre desk).

Sandy Hill’s elected representatives to city council, provincial legislature, and Parliament made brief comments. Most succinct, the recently elected MP for Ottawa-Vanier, Mona Fortier, explained that she is learning the job, and that she plans to move the Vanier office of her predecessor, Mauril Bélanger, to a more accessible store-front location.

Ottawa-Vanier MPP Nathalie des Rosiers, summarized the provincial government’s proposal to replace the Ontario Municipal Board with a Land Planning Appeal Tribunal that would not have authority to reverse planning decisions of municipal government, but could instead require municipal governments to reconsider appealed decisions that do not comply with official municipal plans and policies. ASH members loudly applauded these comments.

Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury enumerated issues of particular relevance to Sandy Hill on which he and his staff are acting, including the R4 zoning review with specific responses to Sandy Hill bunkhouse development, University of Ottawa campus master plan and Sandy Hill encroachment, the ASH-U of O Town and Gown initiative and garbage/recycling bylaw enforcement, and the proposed truck tunnel. There were numerous comments and questions addressed to the councillor from the floor on these issues.

The ASH board of directors welcomed two new members, elected by acclamation:

Trina Cooper-Bolam, and Guillaume Vincent, and thanked two members stepping down: Judith Rinfret and Sally Southey. Incumbent members Rob Forbes, John Verbaas, and Susan Young were re-elected by acclamation. Ongoing members not up for election include Chad Rollins (President), Pat Archer (Treasurer), Ralph Blaine (Secretary), Larry Newman, and Jeremy Silburt.

The ASH 2016-2017 Volunteer of the Year is Jan Finlay, in appreciation for her work to coordinate the ASH Block Representatives initiative and “behind the scenes” but indispensable support for the Prime Ministers’ Row initiative.

ation of heritage buildings as proposed in Bill C 323. Fortier and Taman were unequivocal in their support for an officially bilingual Ottawa. Dookerman, in line with her support for diversity, emphasized the recognition of Ottawa’s cultural mix, including that of First Nations.

Nationally, the need to focus on issues of democracy rather than politics was stressed. Nuancing many questions were recent political events in the U.S. and how the Government of Canada may respond to them. Immigration and the “safe third country” issue as well as the Bill C23 Border Security proposal elicited different responses from the three candidates. The Safe Third Country Agreement forces refugee claimants away from normal custom and immigration entry points and the NDP wanted to scrap it, the Liberal wanted to study it and the Green wanted to humanize it. Bill C23 increases the number of points for pre-clearance of travellers to the U.S. and the authority of U.S. customs officials in Canada to question pre-clearance applicants. The NDP regards this as an unwarranted threat to Canadians’ Charter of Rights protections. Fortier raised the benefits of more access to pre-clearance and suggested the threat is not significant. The Green candidate questioned why we were so concerned about U.S. interests.

On the environment, questions arose on the withdrawal of resources by the U.S. for programs to protect the Great Lakes, climate change and the Energy East pipeline. Predictably the Liberal candidate claimed the Government was on top of these issues and the others were distrustful of their intentions and the adequacy of the regulatory regime.

An issue of particular interest for Ottawans is the protection of defined benefit pensions afforded in the Government’s Bill C27. The proposal was characterized as part of the Liberal’s corporate plan for Canada and its future administration as suspect as that of the Phoenix pay system.

Electoral reform, or lack of it, raised the temperature a bit. Dookerman, a high school teacher, maintained her students understood why every vote should count. Why couldn’t adults? Taman connected the Liberals’ lack of interest in electoral reform to their changes proposed for parliamentary business and attributed both to a disinterest in accountability. Fortier countered that there was no consensus on a new electoral model. Both of her opponents cited the report of the all-party commission studying it, pointing out its overwhelming consensus on change and decried the lack of leadership.

Unasked and unanswered elephants in the room included the government’s intentions involving marijuana legalization and the fate of the previous government’s draconian Security Canada Information Sharing Act.

It was a worthwhile afternoon and kudos to the organizers.