Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ottawa committee OK’s Infrastructure Master Plan draft

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Full city council must still vote on a plan that lays out how the city will manage drinking water, sewers and storm water runoff for decades to come.

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Ottawa’s huge Infrastructure Master Plan passed another hurdle Thursday despite objections from some councillors who wanted further study of plans to service the controversial Tewin property near Carlsbad Springs.

Councillors at a joint meeting of the planning and housing committee and the environment and climate change committee approved a draft of the $2-billion master plan that lays out how the city will manage drinking water, sewers and storm water runoff for decades to come.

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But the inclusion of watermains and an “oversized” 1.5-metre diameter trunk sewer to Tewin — far beyond what the proposed Tewin development itself needs — had some councillors balking.

Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard brought a motion to have the plan modified in case the Tewin development didn’t get off the ground. The motion was narrowly defeated.

Tewin, a 445-hectare satellite community proposed by a development partnership between the Algonquins of Ontario and Taggart Investments, was approved and adopted into the city’s official plan in the previous council term. Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower, one of those who opposed Menard’s motion, said it was unwise to try to revisit old decisions.

“We made a decision last term around urban expansion,” Gower said. “Every city struggles with the decision of where is the city going to grow and how it is going to grow. The decision we made — I’m still undecided whether it’s good or bad — it’ll take years to figure that out. But we’re trying to move forward as a city and make responsible plans going forward.

“If we start to go back and reopen those decisions, it’s setting our work back in terms of making sure the city continues to grow and having the infrastructure we need for all our new arrivals. There’s nothing in front of us that suggests that decision will be or even can be reversed.”

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At times, Thursday’s meeting seemed to be a referendum on the Tewin development itself.

An alliance of community groups — including Horizon Ottawa, the Greenspace Alliance, Ecology Ottawa and ReImagine Ottawa — urged councillors to put the brakes on Tewin, which they said was too costly and would lead to more urban sprawl. About one-third of the cost of the master plan is for the oversized Tewin extension and potential taxes and development charges from the Tewin development will cover only a portion of those costs.

Neil Saravanamuttoo of ReImagine Ottawa said paying for the oversized infrastructure was like “voting for a two-per-cent tax increase” because of the likely shortfall in development charges and the higher cost of providing services to homes outside the greenbelt.

“There’s a lot about Tewin that we don’t understand yet. A lot of the financials are not very clear and they’ll have major tax implications for people across the city — all taxpayers,” Saravanamuttoo said.

“We need to understand what we’re getting ourselves into.”

The draft Infrastructure Master Plan must still be approved by full city council. Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who chaired the joint committee meeting, said Thursday’s decision did not approve any spending and there were still off-ramps ahead.

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“If you assume the city is going to continue to add to the urban boundary, then adding to Tewin makes a lot of sense,” Leiper told reporters after the meeting. “But that’s making assumption that the urban boundary is going to expand, and I don’t think that’s something that anyone sitting around the table today can predict.

“There are still a number of decision points to come,” Leiper said. “If those costs turn out to be extraordinarily high, council still  has the opportunity to say no. Nothing is final, final.”

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