I am writing with regard to Salvation Army proposal for 333 Montreal Road presently before the City of Ottawa’s Planning Committee.
It is with great concern that I have taken the step to speak with you and your council colleagues about this proposal. I respect deeply your right to make decisions at a municipal level for issues that are of municipal nature. I however also believe strongly that the three levels of government have a social responsibility to work in concert for the betterment of our communities, with each government contributing the resources and expertise at their disposal.
While the decision before Planning Committee has been deemed by your City Clerk and Solicitor to be merely a zoning consideration and not a broader social services discussion, I believe that it is important for me to highlight not only the planning considerations but the financial and social impacts a positive decision would have on communities I also represent.
Let me begin with the technical planning considerations I believe will support a decision to decline the requested amendment to the official plan. The purpose of a Traditional Mainstreet as defined by the City of Ottawa is:
(1) accommodate a broad range of uses including retail, commercial, office, residential and institutional uses, including mixed-use buildings but excluding auto-related uses, in areas designated Traditional Mainstreet in the Official Plan;
(2) foster and promote compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development that provide for access by foot, cycle, transit and automobile;
(3) recognize the function of Business Improvement Areas as primary business or shopping areas; and
(4) impose development standards that will ensure that street continuity, scale and character is maintained, and that the uses are compatible and complement surrounding land uses.
With respect to the City of Ottawa staff who prepared the planning report on this proposal, I believe they have overlooked critical sections of the guidelines with respect to the above. Specifically, the requirement for development to “foster and promote” pedestrian-oriented development. The proposal in front of you neither fosters nor promotes a more walkable community. In fact, security concerns, including the public use of alcoholic, tobacco and other products (legal or illegal) will make a difficult walking neighbourhood even more so.
Secondly, any development should “recognize the function of the Business Improvement Areas” as primary business or shopping areas. As I am sure you are keenly aware, local businesses and more importantly the Vanier BIA have been steadfast in their opposition to this proposal. Business owners, and the business community in Vanier, who understand the local environment best, have stated unequivocally that this will not foster business or economic development. Proponents of the development will point to the – in my opinion deeply flawed – economic study that was developed. I would encourage you to read the report in its entirety and query its proponents as to where the organization plans to raise the additional dollars it offers as its own annual investment in the community as outlined in table 6.1 of the report.
Thirdly, planning rationale explicitly states that any proposed development ensure the continuity, scale and character of the street is maintained. In this regard, I would again argue that the staff has provided you with poor advice. The density of development with 60 or 26% – more beds than Montfort Hospital- will substantially and in my opinion negatively create an unbalanced level of pedestrian traffic. Additionally, the impact of 350 men travelling to the downtown core by walking or on the bus each day will further push residents to their vehicles. The proposed amendment to the parking by-law to allow for fewer on-site parking spots than presently allowed by the City of Ottawa will create further disruptions on residential and arterial roads.
Further to my direct planning considerations, I would like to briefly but pointedly outline my concerns with regard to the services to be provided at 333 Montreal Rd. Social services, especially those that support our homeless and those suffering from addiction are critical in our society. There are moral and practical considerations to why we must work collaboratively to ensure that these services are offered in the most effective manner possible.
It is in my opinion disingenuous – while completely within the explicit rules governing the Planning Committee – to discuss this proposal in a vacuum without considering its impact on the clients of these services. As such, I would like to raise some considerations for you to digest.
Firstly, with regard to the facility, experts from across Canada have outlined their view that this is a regressive model of service provision. While economically beneficial to the service provider to create large facilities, it fails to address the system issues that face its clients. The social determinants of health explicitly direct policy makers such as ourselves to consider the likelihood of success for clients. Specifically, the likelihood of acquiring work in their neighbourhood, the availability of healthy affordable fresh food, and the existence of government resources to support their needs. The stretch of Montreal Road that surrounds 333 Montreal Rd has none of these.
Furthermore, existing social service providers are already stretched too thin in the surrounding neighbourhood. All have voiced publicly or privately their concerns for their existing clients, as well as those to come. It is of grave concern to me that indigenous, family, and women’s support centres would have their clients put in greater danger by increasing the number of clients in the area.
Lastly, I am concerned with the lack of available funding for this facility. On multiple occasions the proponents have declined to address the operating and capital shortfalls for this proposal. For an organization that is 75% funded by government, I believe you have a fiduciary duty to be presented with a business plan that addresses the shortfall. The funding requirements of this project require scrutiny at the capital and operating level.
In the coming weeks the Federal Homeless and Anti-Poverty strategies will be released. With it will be a roadmap to ending homelessness in our country. It is of critical concern to me that this decision, an inherently social service decision, could be made in a vacuum without the prerequisite information. I, along with my provincial colleague, and countless members of the community and the social services establishment in Vanier have offered to come to the table to find a compromised solution that would work for all. Unfortunately, this has been met with undeniable opposition from the proponents.
I urge you to deny the amendments outlined in the proposal and insist the proponents work with stakeholders to find a more appropriate option for the community and the clients.
Mona Fortier – Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Vanier