While many community groups are busy fighting tooth and nail against developers, Old Ottawa South is hoping to invite them in to review building projects.
There is a growing desire to reform OSWatch, the planning and development review committee of the Ottawa South Community Association. Member Don Westwood went as far as to call the group “dysfunctional” during a Jan. 15 meeting of the association.
The issues the committee deals with are complex and there is a nebulous and inconsistent membership of about a dozen people to review them, Westwood said.
There is a need to invite people with industry expertise to participate, he said. More proactive planning and envisioning what a development’s neighbours would like to see in the community is a goal the committee should look towards, Westwood added.
It’s an ongoing issue for all community associations, said Michael Jenkins, president of the association.
“It is a perennial challenge of OSCA and community associations in general,” he said. “How do you oppose bad development but create a consensus about development you think is important or good?
“We want to encourage a positive agenda,” he added.
This issue was one factor in the recent resignation of community association board member Greg Zador. In a letter printed in the January edition of the Oscar, a newspaper published in partnership with the community association, Zador said recent columns and articles by OSWatch members are troubling, negative and strident.
“They all point out development problems and what is not wanted, at least according to OSwatch members,” Zador wrote. “None offer solutions or speak to what Old Ottawa South wants.”
Jenkins said because the volunteers on OSWatch spend most of their time reacting to a veritable flood of development applications, they have little time or energy left to look forward.
“We spend time reacting to bad proposals,” Jenkins said. “We don’t have time left to put into ideas about what might be good for the community.”
Those efforts would be greatly helped by the addition of members who have expertise in land-use planning, architecture, development and construction, Westwood said.
“We want to engage with those people who are experts in our community,” Westwood said. “Instead of continually moaning and fighting against developers, how can we work with them? They’d be indispensible.”
The discussion during the community association’s board meeting on Jan. 15 led Westwood and others to ponder a renewed push for a community development plan for the area.
City staff had advised against seeking a community design plan for Old Ottawa South in the past, and former OSWatch chairman Brendan McCoy said he agreed that such a plan would not achieve the results the community was looking for. While Old Ottawa South’s efforts are often focused on encouraging compatible residential infill development, a community design plan is a tool the city uses to encourage more dense development in an up-and-coming area.