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City Hall Corner

Updated: 2 days ago

Updates from Councillor Hill on City Hall meetings and policy




April 19th, 2024

Environment and Climate Change Committee

I kicked off my committee work this week with our much-anticipated H20 meeting! On Tuesday we reviewed the Municipal Drinking Water License (required annually by provincial regulation), the Residential Stormwater Retrofit Pilot Program (aka Rain Ready Ottawa), and the 2023 Municipal Drinking Water Systems report. The related Municipal Drinking Water License and 2023 Municipal Drinking Water presentations where both in a good place and did not result in any substantial debate. Getting our drinking water right is the base line obligation of the City, and I’m happy to report that we are continuing to meet our obligations both to the province and to you on that file.

 

While you may not have heard about our drinking water licenses in the evening news, I’m sure some readers heard about the committee’s review of the Rain Ready Ottawa pilot program. Initially created in 2021, the Rain Ready program was designed to incentivize local residents to pick up the slack in parts of the City with substandard stormwater systems. Through a combination of education campaigns, contractor training and financial incentivizes the City worked with local residents of Westboro and Saint Joseph Boulevard to reduce the amount of rainwater that was going into the poor stormwater systems of those areas.

 

Now the City is looking to expand the program into other areas of the City with older stormwater systems. Why isn’t Barrhaven part of that list? The good news is that our stormwater systems are some of the newest in the City and are operating at too high a level to qualify for this program.  We’re not alone in that space. Only about 111,000 households (less than a third of the City) will have access to the program. The budget is also (relatively) small for the program, at an annual spend of $500,000. It will be important to ensure that this money is used responsibly and efficiently.

 

Council:

At Council on Wednesday, we ended what has been a year and half long debate on Community Improvement Plans (CIP).  Council officially approved a new policy for both an Affordable Housing and Economic Development CIP. Council also passed a new Brownfield CIP bylaw, that I dissented on. As part of a compromise to get the new bylaw enacted, Brownfield CIPs have been limited to only redevelopments that will result in new housing units. A little bit of context: Brownfield Community Improvement Plans provide a grant to developers building on polluted land to cover part of the cost of cleaning up the property to meet environmental standards. Effectively, a Brownfield CIP attempts to incentivize the development of sites that would be otherwise too expensive to build on due to how polluted they are. I support the high level objective of the new CIP, we desperately need more housing all across this city.  In practice though I am concerned that we may be closing the door on redeveloping contaminated land that is not viable as a housing project, for example because the property is in an industrial corner of our city.

 

We weren’t just re-hashing old debates at Council this week. We ended our meeting by approving the creation of the new Strategic Initiatives Department. This department is designed to streamline the approach the City takes to a variety of important files, including: Housing, Climate Change and Economic Development. The department will be absorbing teams from other parts of the City to create clear accountability for strategic priorities of Council. Previously, ownership of files like housing would be split across multiple departments, such as Community Services and Planning. There was no clear “point person” on staff for these files. The hope of this department is to rectify that problem, and allow for more targeted actions for the key needs of this City. It’s early days yet, but I’m excited by the opportunities that this shake-up may bring in tackling some of our cities biggest hurdles.  

 

Looking Ahead

We’ll kick next week off with a Monday evening Ottawa Police Services Board meeting, which will largely be in-camera (only members of the committee, which I am not, can attend and debate) to discuss legal and labour matters. Tuesday’s Community Services Committee will get the ball rolling with an answer from staff on Councillor Menard’s inquiry  on a pilot for alcohol in parks (not right now, but will be starting public consultation on this question latter in the year). Next, we’ll review a funding request for a feasibility study for safety measures that can be installed at Mooney’s Bay Park to re-open the sledding hill that was closed there after the tragic death of a child.

On Wednesday the Transportation Master Plan Council Sponsor Group (say that five times fast…) is meeting for the first time. As a member of this group, it gives me an opportunity to provide staff with feedback on the upcoming TMP which will affect roads and transit ways across this city for the next decade. This is an important file for a community that is growing as fast as Barrhaven, and I’m looking forward to working with staff on this Council Sponsor Group.

Thursday’s Transportation Committee has been cancelled, in anticipation of a more hefty meeting in May (Chair Tim Tierney has warned committee members to pack a lunch, which is always the first sign of a fun meeting!).

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