Planning reforms already in works: councillors
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Dec 28, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Planning reforms already in works: councillors

Ottawa East News

Both Kanata-area councillors say the planning reforms called for by 33 community association groups across the city last week are already in the works.

Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley said he’s appalled by the letter sent by the community groups, which are calling for four changes to the way the planning department, city councillors and the development industry interact.

“As a former president of (the Glen Cairn) Community Association, I’m very embarrassed and disappointed that this group … wouldn’t put all the facts into this and make such a terrible statement towards city staff, city councillors and the homebuilding industry,” Hubley said.

The reforms called for by the community groups include:

* Banning the city from hiring private consultants to process development applications.

* Preventing city planners from making rezoning promises during pre-consultation meetings.

* Banning campaign contributions and gifts from the development industry to councillors.

* Updating the city’s comprehensive zoning bylaw so that it’s in line with the Official Plan.

“We no longer have confidence in the transparency, fairness, and integrity of the planning approvals process in Ottawa,” said the Hintonburg Community Association, which led the call for action, in the letter.

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said it’s no secret the city is already working on changes when it comes to the suggestions.

And when it comes to campaign contributions, “they have to come from somewhere,” she said.

“Campaign contributions are legislated by the provincial government,” she added.

The province sets a maximum contribution amount at $750 and electors can see where campaign money comes from, said Hubley.

“Nobody can buy a councillor for $750,” he added. “I spend a lot more time talking to residents … then I do any business. To suggest that our vote could be bought if these contributions are allowed is outrageous.”

Hubley said there was once a case where a conflict of interest was discovered when a private consultant worked for the company submitting an application.

“There are rules in place now to prevent that happening.”

Hubley added community associations don’t always represent the views of the entire community.

“We don’t know, if you take a look at any one of these groups, we don’t know how many people these represent. We don’t know if they had a public meeting,” he said, adding the only person elected to represent a community is the ward councillor.

“I come from this world; I know what community associations are about … I have trouble with community associations saying they represent their entire community.”

The only Kanata group on the list was the Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association. Two developments are going through the rezoning process in the area.

The basic message of the letter the 33 groups sent to city hall is there is “way too cozy of a relationship” between the city and the development industry, said Gerry Holt of the Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association in a previous interview.

The city is working on updating its zoning bylaws in the Official Plan, said Hubley. The Official Plan update is set to be completed in 2014.

With files from Laura Mueller

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