Reading Ottawa’s existing Official Plan shows how vague some provisions are.
This is an abridged assessment of how modifying one thing in the new Official Plan could be a game-changer.
In the current Official Plan, section 2 – Strategic Directions, sub-section 2.5 Building Liveable Communities, the preamble statements sound good. The Plan promotes livable communities featuring housing, employment, greenspace, history and culture and community design based on collaboration.
Design objectives for the built environment are articulated with a big caveat: that proponents can be creative and not be limited by the design objectives. Proponents need only “…to demonstrate how their proposal addresses the Design Objectives.”
Given the flexibility offered in the design objectives, it is difficult to prove that the earlier preamble about community design and collaborative community building is not being met by a specific development proposal.
So, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to rely upon if defending one of the Four Tests – the intent of the Official Plan.
What appears to be lacking is specificity of intent.
This means the new Official Plan needs clear wording that can be relied upon before the Committee of Adjustment, the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal, Planning Committee and even the courts.
Battles about variances, community development proposals, zoning and the like tend to become pretty technical and legalistic before these bodies.
By design, the new Official Plan must have language that articulates clearly the City of Ottawa’s intent to balance (or dare I say, favour) community and neighbourhood interests with developers’ interests.
Furthermore, greater clarity and urgency needs to be applied to protecting heritage properties.
We can’t go through another several years of Official Plan “testing” to find out that it is too vague to allow communities to exert greater influence over development proposals and in protecting heritage assets.
What the wording is remains to be determined. Certainly it can be more clear than it is now.