Reconciliation and frustration: Algonquins of Ontario and private developer win 500 precious hectares in expanded Ottawa urban boundary, shutting out other developers

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

In an exceptional alliance, the Algonquins of Ontario and an Ottawa-based real estate developer are pressing the City of Ottawa to approve a 500-hectare site for development in an expansion of the eastern Ontario city’s boundaries.

And they appear to be winning – after the a joint committee of the city’s planning and agricultural committees approved their proposal last Tuesday, overriding city staff, who had recommended other sites in the city’s western side that they (and developers) considered much more suited for urban growth.

Committees approve lands for new neighbourhoods

The Algonquins claim the approval of the planned development called Tewin would be part of reconciliation with Indigenous communities.  It will result in a vast community of 45,000 on land far from transit and other urban infrastructure services. They are planning to develop the site with the Taggart Group of Companies.

“We are building a nation within this nation of Canada,” Lynn Clouthier, the Algonquins of Ontario negotiation representative for Ottawa, told councillors during the  planning committee meeting last week on future development inside Ottawa’s urban boundary. “We need that. It’s a confidence boost, if you like. That’s part of being accepted and included.”

ottawa boundries

However, the Ottawa Citizen reports that the city hasn’t included the land inside options for a proposed urban boundary expansion because it failed to meet the minimum requirements during a site-scoring-process. And the amount of land the Algonquins are seeking permission to develop is about twice the available land for consideration outside the city’s current urban boundaries, meaning if it is successful some lands that would be eligible for development would have to be removed from consideration.

City planners had outlined 1,101 hectares of land to be brought inside the urban boundary.  There is a scoring system that emphasizes proximity to public transit and other municipal infrastructure. As well, the city needs to identify an additional 270 hectares in the next few years (by late 2026) to accommodate population growth over 25 years under a new official plan.

If approved for development, the land outside the urban boundary will increase in value dramatically. The city, conversely, has sought to restrict growth in rural areas as part of its intensification policies designed to reduce strains on urban infrastructure and constrain urban sprawl.

The available 270 additional acres – less than the Algonquins are seeking – could be selected from three options: Considering lands that were just a bit below the previous selection standards, examining potential for three new communities outside of suburban borders, or focus studies on one of these communities.  But the Algonquin/Taggart project means that other development sites in Kanata’s South March area will have to be removed from the development/growth list, and not surprisingly, the developers for these sites are not happy with the decision.

“It is incredibly surprising that in an unprecedented move that politics have taken over a prescribed scoring process and months of work by city staff and included a parcel of land with a zero score on servicing,” said Claridge Homes, eQ Homes, Uniform Developments, Multivesco and Minto in a statement. “The joint committee has taken a step backwards in their supposed step into the future with a new official plan.”

“The Algonquins have waited long enough,” Janet Stavinga, executive director of the Algonquins of Ontario, said before the committees decided to support the proposal. ”

“Councillors were already trying to wrap their heads around their duty to responsibly plot development in the city, while respecting reconciliation with Algonquin communities,” the Ottawa Citizen’s report said. “The City of Ottawa has had a reconciliation action plan since 2018.”’

There were many competing demands for the potential to expand the city’s urban areas. Upwards of 50 delegations were scheduled for the “virtual” public meetings last week.  Developers making presentations asserted the city’s scoring wasn’t correct and the city’s analyses didn’t properly assess their sites.

The city’s intensification goal is to build more than 50 per cent of new all new homes in built-up areas; and this intensification rate will increase to 60 per cent between 2041 and 2046.

Accordingly, granting the Algonquin and Taggart’s request will give the partnership a priority over others in a scarce resource – new land that can be developed.

Ottawa City Council will consider recommendations from the joint committee on Feb. 10. This decision reportedly cannot be appealed.

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