Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Tewin development project passes latest hurdle, but some say it still doesn’t belong

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A future suburb in the city’s southeast end continues to raise concerns amongst some councillors and residents over the price tag to service the area.


In June, city council approved a $2 billion Infrastructure Master Plan, which helps direct how the city spends money to support growth, such as water, sewage and roads.


It will cost $590 million in infrastructure spending to service the Tewin development. Tewin is a future residential community of approximately 445 hectares south of Leitrim Road and north of Thunder Road near Highway 417.


It is a partnership between the Algonquins of Ontario and developer Taggart Investment.


“I hate it, hate everything about it, hate the idea. We’re the best kept secret in Ottawa right now,” said Leena Triebe who lives in nearby Carlsbad Springs


Triebe says the location of the project is the biggest issue.


“There’s a shortage of affordable housing. So I don’t see how building up all these new communities (here) is going to help solve that issue.” Triebe said.


“It’s going to change everything. Everything about it. There’s a sense of community around here and you’re going to add all these extra people in.”


The last term of city council approved the project in 2021.


During a media availability last week, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe emphasized the importance of building more homes in Ottawa, but said the Tewin development was not his decision.


“I was not a member of city council last term when the decision was made, and it’s not my decision to make. My job is to make sure that we move forward with the decisions that have been made by city council and that we protect the best interests of our residents and taxpayers,” Sutcliffe said.


“I don’t want to go back and revisit decisions. So we need to move forward and focus on building more homes throughout the city. Not just at that one site, but everywhere. That’s what we need to do. So I’m focused on that.”


A statement on behalf of the Tewin Ownership Group says it is tackling Ottawa’s housing crisis “head-on” with “essential, integrated housing solutions.”


“Let’s be clear – Tewin will cover the cost of its own essential services, including water, sewage, transit, and roads. As we have always promised, ‘Tewin will pay for Tewin,’ ensuring balanced and self-sustained growth. We are dedicated to creating a once-in-a-generation community for Ottawa, setting new standards in community development and sustainability.”


Resident Sheila Brown says despite more density, she doesn’t mind the new suburb.


“Development has to happen. I’m surprised it didn’t get developed out here years ago. It was inevitable. We’ve got all these people that need houses. We’re going to put roofs somewhere, so it’s not going to bother us,” she says.


But some councillors say the plan and its price tag is not smart planning.


“My concerns truly are that when I imagine what are the future needs for the city of Ottawa and how we should build, I don’t think anybody can objectively look at the Tewin project as it is currently planned and say that it’s good planning. It doesn’t seem like it is in the long term best interest of the city, financially, to do that project in the way that it’s currently being designed,” said Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Sean Devine in an interview.


Devine says his concerns also include its location, saying it is far from the urban boundary.


“Everybody has to remember when the city of Ottawa approved expanded lands, the Tewin project wasn’t even on the radar of projects that staff wanted to support because it failed to meet even the most basic criteria for good planning,” he said.


CONCERNS OVER CITY STAFF PAID BY TEWIN


Devine is also raising questions about three senior city staff members whose salaries are being paid by Tewin, an issue that was brought up during last week’s city council meeting.


“I kind of want to go on a bit of a fact finding mission of what’s going on. But ostensibly, what we have here is we have the Tewin landowners who are paying the full salary of three Ottawa employees who are tasked to work exclusively and primarily on the Tewin Project,” he said


The city’s director of transportation and planning Vivi Chi said during the last city council meeting that there is no conflict of interest.


But Devine says it doesn’t smell right.


“It just feels like what we have here is a developer and a group of landowners who are paying for access to staff, possibly in order to expedite the approval and the process and planning for a project that many people already have concerns over,” he said.


On staff members being paid by the developer, Tewin said in a statement: “Just like all municipalities in Ontario, the City of Ottawa runs their planning approvals process on a cost recovery basis. That means no cost to taxpayers. Through their fees, all developers pay the cost of administration, including staff.”


“As has been done in other projects, the City sought cost recovery to administer the Tewin Planning Process. The City selected and hired the requisite staff. The staff report to City Management, Council and not to the Tewin applicants,” Tewin said.


Last month’s infrastructure plan approval does not involve financial budget commitments from the city. The city says council can still change its decision.


But some residents who lives on Piperville Road says they would consider moving if Tewin is built.


“Just a lot of more traffic, more noise, and a lot more neighbors,” one resident told CTV News.


“And I think that a lot of the privacy, too, will be gone because a lot of the developments is right behind our houses …I think that what I love about this place is going to change and I don’t see a reason staying here in the long term, unfortunately.”

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