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VIEWPOINT: Tewin history a story of politics and questionable planning
By Fred Sherwin
Feb. 16, 2020

If you’ve been caught up in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the debate over whether or not non-essential businesses and schools should open, or whether or not March Break should be canceled, you can be forgiven for missing the debate over whether or not a 445-hectare parcel of land near Carlsbad Springs should be added to the city’s Official Plan.

The land in question was purchased from the province of Ontario by the Algonquins of Ontario in January 2020 for $16.9 million with the idea of creating a “healthy, innovative and integrated community” while “protecting the natural environment and championing a holistic approach to planning and design”.

“Te-win” is Algonquin for home.

News of the proposed land deal and development sparked immediate contro-versy when several chiefs of the Algonquin First Nations in Québec vociferously voiced their objection to the city’s decision to add the land to the Official Plan.

More specifically, they objected to the city making the decision under the guise of “reconciliation”. And while the city’s choice of motive maybe questionable the final result is not, or at least it shouldn’t be.

The debate over the parcel of land in question dates back to the early ’70s when the former regional government of Ottawa-Carleton was trying to decide on where the future expansion of the region should take place. Five specific areas were under consideration – Orléans, Kanata, Barrhaven Riverside South and Carlsbad Springs – but only four would be given the nod.

Orléans, Kanata and Barrhaven were shoo-ins leaving supporters and opponents of Riverside South and Carlsbad Springs to fight it out for the fourth designation.

One of the biggest proponents of Carlsbad Springs was the former Ontario Housing Corporation which bought up parcels of land in the area to create a “land bank”
with the notion of one day turning the area into “a model city” with a population of 100,000 people and that’s when the politicians got involved.

The former Gloucester Township was afraid it would be left on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs if the Carlsbad Springs project went through. The township even commissioned a report by J. L. Richards and Sons to confirm their fears. The report claimed that the existence of a high water table and leda clay soil would require $190 million in mitigation.

On the other side of the debate were a group of Ottawa councillors, led by Trip Kennedy, who wanted Riverside South to be taken off the map in favour of Carlsbad Springs.

Interestingly enough, the J.L. Richards report, which was penned in less than two weeks, completely contradicted soil and drainage studies conducted by the Ontario Housing Corporation two years earlier which found that there would be “absolutely no trouble in developing the property for standard housing at no extra cost”.

Regional planning staff actually gave the area high marks thanks to its questionable suitability for agricultural use and its close proximity to major trunk water and sewer mains, Hwy. 417 and the abandoned CN railway right-of-way that could be used as a possible corridor for rapid transit.

It was regional council which ultimately kiboshed the plan. Even so, the province held on to the lands until the AOO and the Taggart Group came along and made them an offer.

Besides the Québec Algonquins, the other major objections to a future suburban community near Carlsbad Springs has come from environmentalists who are against any development outside the Greenbelt. They prefer further intensification inside the Greenbelt. Unfortunately, that means one of two things – building up, or building on existing vacant property currently being occupied by trees and grass and such, which would create an obvious problem.

Opponents of so-called “suburban sprawl” love to tout intensification until it comes time to intensify in neighbourhoods that don’t want to have anything to do with it, like Chapel Hill South where a group of residents successfully fought a proposal by Groupe Lépine to build several highrise buildings near Pagé Road. A similar fight has been brewing over a proposed highrise building at Duford and St. Joseph.

The 45-storey highrise being built at Carling and Preston may be an impressive building, but it’s a blight on the landscape.

Populations grow, which means cities must grow as well. If there is one universal rule, it is that expansion is inevitable. The question that needs to be answered is where will the expansion take place and who will be responsible.

Having read the AOO Tewin proposal and having witnessed the Taggart Group’s handling of the Cardinal Creek Village development, which included extensive public consultations, I see no reason why the future community won’t be a huge success.

Besides, we’re talking about a community that won’t be built for another 20-30 years – by then our city will be vastly different.

Given the events of the past year and the need for government employees to work from home during the pandemic, it could be argued that working from home may end up being the wave of the future.

If so, it would drastically diminish mass transit ridership, or at least the notion of transport hundreds of workers to and from downtown. Phase 2 of the LRT currently being built could be redundant before it’s even completed. So could Phase 1.

More people working from home would reduce the need for government office space downtown, saving millions of dollars in commercial leases. Existing government buildings could be sold off to developers and converted to condos for people who prefer to live downtown.

A permanent shift to working from home would also drastically reduce the importance of satellite communities like the one being proposed by the Algonquins of Ontario and Taggart from needing transit links.

The Tewin project presents the perfect opportunity to build a community for the 21st century.

It’s not to difficult to foresee homes equip-ped with solar panels and charging stations seeing as that by the time it’s built out fossil fuel cars will be a thing of the past.
We are living on the verge of a vastly different future with only one certainty – there will be a lot more people living in Ottawa than is currently the case.

According to projections provided by the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ottawa is expected to grow by another 400,000 people over the next 27 years.

When considering changes to the Official Plan, city council must decide where those additional 400,000 people are going to live. There is very little room left in Orléans.

The changes currently being proposed to the OP include a large tract of land between South Orléans and Wall Road between Trim Road and Tenth Line Road and a 32-hectare tract of land just west of Cox County Road near Wilhaven Drive. Together they might accommodate 10,000 to 20,000 people.

Even if you’re an opponent of intensi-fication, you can’t possibly intensify enough to accommodate 400,000 people.

The Tewin proposal is the only possible solution to the housing issue the city will be facing over the next 30 years.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

 

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