27 Mar 16

Column: City shows disdain for rural neighbours

by Candice Vetter

The rezoning of Boundary Rd. just north of Russell Township near Hwy. 417 was a telling topic at the City of Ottawa’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee meeting at Ben Franklin Place in Nepean on Thurs., March 3, resulting in derisive comments from three out of five City councillors, including a snort by Councillor Stephen Blais.

This reporter appeared at the meeting with the intention of asking questions for clarification about the rezoning, which could have a negative impact on Russell Township. On being informed only statements, and not questions, would be accepted, several points were made in hopes that responses from the City’s rural councillors would shed light on the larger plans for that intersection and area.

Nearby residents, both from the Edwards and Carlsbad Springs areas and from Russell Township, have concerns about the uses the land will be put to. The request was for rezoning of several parcels, making up a 35-acre area north of Devine Rd. and up to the highway, from either Rural Countryside (RU) to Rural Heavy Industrial (RH) or from Rural Heavy Industrial to a new Rural Heavy Industrial Exception zone—permitting additional land uses.

In his presentation, Eric Bays of Novatech, the firm consulting for applicant Michel Pilon on behalf of the landowner East Gateway Properties Ltd., said the new subdivision would “comprise five large development blocks, ranging in size from 3.74 hectares to 10.95 hectares. Block 1, which is located along Boundary Road, is proposed to accommodate both rural industrial and rural commercial uses. The interior blocks, Blocks 2 to 5, are proposed to accommodate rural industrial uses.”

His presentation also said, “Vehicular access to the subdivision will be from a new signalized intersection with Boundary Road and Thunder Road…”

The same company, East Gateway, has a companion proposal for a long-combination vehicle (LCV) truck stop. It is also working with Taggart Miller (which is proposing the 450-acre CRRRC mega-landfill) in the Boundary Road Landowners’ Group, regarding expanding the Carlsbad Springs trickle feed water system, to service specified properties, including theirs, while excluding others owned by long-term residents—a project which concerns many residents nearby. That amendment was approved by the City last July.

Both the proposed LCV truck stop and the proposed landfill would require high numbers of very long, heavy vehicles to exit the highway, go south a few hundred metres on Boundary Rd., then turn left across traffic.

LCVs are specially equipped tractors which pull two full-length semi-trailers. The proposed LCV facility would be for the purpose of dropping off and picking up trailers, which cannot travel through Ottawa and can only be driven on 400-series highways. Accordingly the LCV truck stop would require a complete redesign and rebuild of the Boundary Rd. exit and entrance ramps to the highway, as well as the recently rebuilt bridge. It appears that City and provincial taxpayers will be on the hook for this “new signalized intersection.”

At the meeting, this reporter stated that all these proposed land uses, including the landfill, although technically within Ottawa, are right near the border, and will have a much larger adverse impact, proportionately, on the Township of Russell than on the City of Ottawa, and Russell should be taken into consideration.

Councillor Stephen Blais, who represents Cumberland Ward, replied that rural townships need the City and that, “We’ve (the City of Ottawa) been trying to manage Eastern Ontario for a long time,” implying that Ottawa should have control over the province’s neighbouring townships.

In that he echoed statements made many times by the landfill proponents that, “People in the country are dependent on the city.” This is a statement most rural dwellers, especially farmers, find laughable. Cities can’t grow enough food to feed themselves, so the dependency model goes exactly the opposite direction. However, the attitude is prevalent among politicians in larger urban centres like Ottawa and Toronto—the belief that cities matter more to the world than the communities which support food production. It appears that rural ward councillors have not noticed the “Farmers Feed Cities” signs which dot the landscape.

Blais also referred to the neighbouring townships east and south as, “a bunch of small municipalities working against each other.” He did not clarify why he appears to think the townships within UCPR or SD&G are working against each other.

In spite of the proximity of these proposed uses, there has been no consultation between the committee, or any representative of the City, with Russell Township’s mayor or councillors, about these proposals. When that was brought up, Blais physically snorted in response. Then he and Councillors Allan Hubley and Scott Moffat (committee chair) started aggressively throwing verbal darts—which all missed the mark.

The councillors began talking at once, claiming, “You use the city to commute, to get what you need, you work in the city, you drink city water.”

This reporter does not work in the city, does not commute to the city, does business and shopping locally, and has independent well water, so replied, “No, I don’t.”

At that point Moffat blurted, “How’d you get here? On city roads!”

The response, “I came here on a provincial highway,” was not answered.

At that point Blais, who was red-faced and appeared angry, said, “I find that rich. Had Russell consulted with us about the dump going into Russell many years ago we’d be using it now. The former mayor, J.P., used to talk to me regularly. The new mayor has not reached out once.”

Councillors George Darouze and Eli El-Chantiry did not join the debate. Although presenters were informed that an audio recording of the meeting would be on the City’s website the following week, it does not appear to be available.