Who’s boss in city planning? Ottawa’s new Official Plan? Or the energy strategy document, community group asks
Community group files request for review with Municipal Affairs ministry
February 24, 2022
Community group Ottawa Wind Concerns has filed a comment on the city’s Official Plan with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs over concerns about where the document ranks in Ottawa’s planning structure.
“Our worry is that Ottawa’s expressed view that the Energy Evolution document and climate change plan overrides all policies and action means statements in the Official Plan could be subject to amendment at any time,” chairperson Jane Wilson wrote in the group’s submission, filed yesterday.
“What we have is an Official Plan that looks like an Official Plan, but it also appears to have a back door through which the City can make changes and take action by using another plan—one that did not go through any public engagement process.”
The intent of an Official Plan in Ontario is that it is the single document which outlines the direction for the city, Wilson says. In the case of the City of Ottawa, this direction may actually be subordinate to the Climate Change Strategy and the Energy Evolution document.
The community group comment referred to page 23 of Ottawa’s new Official Plan where the city asserts: “The policies of this [Official] Plan should be read as supportive of the Climate Change Master Plan.”
And, on page 26, the City states, “The Climate Change Master Plan and associated Energy Evolution and Climate Resiliency strategies provide the analysis and action plans for City-wide action.”
Ottawa Wind Concerns said the group is worried about how this affects policy on renewable power generation facilities, specifically large or industrial-scale wind turbines.
The Energy Evolution document calls for the possibility of hundreds of wind turbines in the city’s rural areas in a model of how Net Zero might be achieved, while the Official Plan makes statements about industrial-scale wind turbines not being permitted on valuable agricultural land.
“Essentially, it looks like the City is saying, its Energy Evolution document trumps everything. We’re saying, that’s not how a municipality is supposed to use an Official Plan.”
The contents of the Energy Evolution document, approved by Council in 2020 with no public input, are not widely known among Ottawa’s citizens.
There has been criticism from media and analysts who have read it.
Local media branded the strategy document “an expensive pipe dream,” with its $57B (estimated) price tag. Political commentator Randall Denley said the Energy Evolution report was “only the beginning,” and promoted “unachievable goals.”
“How high are they prepared to raise taxes,” he asked, “and what existing services will they cut to fund their quixotic effort to save the planet?”
The City of Ottawa has a history of passing zoning amendments that result in public concern. For example, a zoning amendment was passed without the knowledge of even the local councillor for a large warehouse and truck depot in Barrhaven. That move caused newspaper columnist Kelly Egan to remark, “You know who doesn’t get what they want at city hall anymore? Ordinary people.”
Ordinary people in Ottawa’s rural communities sent emails and made telephone calls to councillors when the wind turbine model in Energy Evolution became known, and STOP THE OTTAWA WIND TURBINES signs went up from Kinburn to Navan, and south to North Gower and Manotick.
City councillors maintained that the Energy Evolution statements were just a “model” but the motion of wind power is present in many City documents and wind turbines are prominent in City banners and graphics. A recent submission to the Ontario Energy Board dated January 17th contained the whole Energy Evolution document, including the wind turbine model, as supporting evidence for the City’s objection to replacement of a natural gas pipeline.
“Everyone wants what’s best for the environment,” says Ottawa Wind Concerns Chair Wilson, “but the fact is, we should be making choices about what is shown to be effective and successful. Ontario is an example of how intermittent weather-dependent wind power doesn’t do anything for the environment, but it does have a huge impact on electricity bills and on communities. Giving the Energy Evolution strategy importance over the Official Plan means decisions can be made on what looks good, not what really is good.”
The community group has asked the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to look at both the Energy Evolution document and the draft Official Plan together, to make sure provincial directives are being followed.
Ottawa Wind Concerns filed its comment with the Ministry and was advised Thursday that the comments were accepted and reviewed, and will be posted publicly.
More analysis on the Energy Evolution document, coming soon.
Ontario definition of an Official Plan
An official plan describes your upper, lower or single tier municipal council or planning board’s policies on how land in your community should be used. It is prepared with input from your community and helps to ensure that future planning and development will meet the specific needs of your community.
An official plan deals mainly with issues such as:
where new housing, industry, offices and shops will be located
what services like roads, watermains, sewers, parks and schools will be needed
when, and in what order, parts of your community will grow
community improvement initiatives
Source: Government of Ontario: Citizen’s guide to land use planning: Official plans | Ontario.ca