Browsing the archives for the Terry Fox Drive tag.

Will Ottawa’s Home Builders Ever Leave the 19th Century?

Climate Change, Green Reality, Legislative Gaps, South March Highlands

The Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Association (GOHBA) recently published an advertisement that appears to have no basis in any of reason, fact, or good judgement.  In what some may view as an  self-serving editorial, and by others as a not-so-funny comedy of errors, the GOHBA somehow managed to allow publication of an article in which virtually none of its facts were accurate.

This article uses tabs, click on each one to read the full article.

Misinformation

If that article is any indication of what the GOHBA’s members believe, one might wonder if they believe it is in their best interest to spread what seems to be misinformation about the need to protect endangered species:

  • According to Natural Resources Canada, urban land use in Ontario was already 1000x greater than claimed by the GOHBA over 15 years ago!
  • Not to mention the fact that Blanding’s Turtles were documented in the South March Highlands (SMH) 8 years prior to the Terry Fox Drive Extension (TFDE) proposal in 2000.
  • Ontario’s Endangered Species Act predates the Blanding’s Turtle studies done for TFDE by 5 years.
  • Macro-ecologists proved over 8 years ago that the number 1 cause of species loss is due to destruction of critical habitat because, duh, that species has nowhere left to live, eat, or reproduce.

Common Sense?

It appears that the anonymous authors of that article expect us to believe that Ontario should allow  developers to trash what remains of our environment because some “rural critters” “choose to” “hang out” in cities.  The article calls for, in the name of “common sense”, the abandonment of recent regulations that protect species at risk and in general require developers to behave as environmentally responsible businesses.

  • So was it common sense to build TFDE through the middle of the most environmentally significant area in Ottawa in the first place?
  • Why is the GOHBA quibbling about the cost of a fence when the entire $50 M cost of the road was not justifiable without the use of inflated population forecasts?
  • The Environmental Study Report done for the road in 2000 actually admits that the worst location for the road was chosen from an environmental point of view.  Could it be because that location was of greatest benefit to the handful of developers who needed the road to expand the urban boundary at that time?

According to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, relentless urban sprawl is a serious problem that does not make for cost-effective cities.   So is it common sense to allow developers to continually push the urban boundary outwards?  Several of the members of the GOHBA recently participated in the expansion of Ottawa’s urban boundary by 1103 hectares – a number nearly 5x higher than originally proposed in Ottawa’s 2009 plan.

Is it common sense for a developer to proceed with early phases of a subdivision plan based on a flawed master storm water servicing proposal?  And after it is discovered that earlier phases of that subdivision’s development are non-compliant with Provincial storm water approvals, is it common sense to allow that builder to continue to deforest the area?

Is an environmental assessment (EA) just red tape in a situation like that?  Is it environmentally responsible for the City of Ottawa to cancel the Class EA that exposed those very problems in the South March Highlands (SMH) in response to what appears to be a request by the non-compliant developer?

Is it common sense to increase flood risk by building storm water ponds in flood plains where these facilities could be submerged when we most need them?  Yet that is what developers appear to prefer along the Carp River adjacent to TFDE.  Even if Provincial authorities stretch the rules to allow them to get away with it, does that make those developers any more environmentally responsible?  Or should they take greater care and perhaps choose to build a few less homes so that those protective facilities are built on solid ground?  Even a subdivision with only a few hundred homes represents $millions in revenue for a developer.

Wildlife Contributes

Science informs us that a healthy climate depends on healthy forests and healthy forests depend on biodiversity. Even common species such as raccoons and porcupines are as important as endangered species when it comes to promoting a healthy environment because they are a major means for circulating a forest’s genetic resources.  Every species has a role to play and the loss of many species in one area inevitably leads to the loss of ecological function.

To portray species trapped within an arbitrarily changing urban boundary as merely “hanging-out” trivializes this essential natural function and suggests that the authors of the GOHBA article may be ignorant of how ecosystems function.  So when imbalances are caused by developers, is it common sense to reduce the protective measures that attempt to restore that balance?  Or does it make more sense to abandon current development in environmentally sensitive areas such as the SMH and to prevent future development in those areas?

In a world that is so obviously threatened by climate change, massive loss of biodiversity, and cancer-inducing pollution, no reasonable person can believe that the status quo is an appropriate response to these challenges.  Even the dimmest among us understands that our weather, crops, and economy are suffering as we pay the price for the excesses of the past.

Greed vs Sustainable

It is possible that a few greedy people may have a vested interest in the status quo which fails to allocate the long-term cost of recklessly exploiting the environment to those same businesses that gain from it in the short-term. However, it is hardly in the common good to continue to subsidize them by not making them do their homework and not requiring them to mitigate the impact of their business practices.

Fortunately a majority of industries are realizing that conducting business in a sustainable manner is not only socially responsible – it is also a more cost-effective and sensible way of doing business. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives has been lobbying our reluctant federal government for years to implement a carbon cap and trade system.  Modern businesses are realizing that their social license to operate depends on recognizing that the economy cannot be separated from the environment within which it exists.

A recent example is Imperial Oil that recently developed oil sands technology that has comparable carbon footprint to the extraction of conventional oil and is significantly better than the carbon footprint of extracting heavy oil in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.  To quote Imperial Oil:

“Certainly it is Imperial’s belief that to gain and maintain a social license to operate and to grow, the oil sands industry needs to present a compelling case in how it’s addressing environmental challenges of oil sands development.”

While the oil sands industry has much further to go in becoming environmentally friendly, it is encouraging to see them making progress down that path.

Perhaps it is also possible that the less arrogant members of the GOHBA are embarrassed that the oil sands industry appears to be miles ahead of them when it comes to environmental responsibility.

In any event, why should Ontario tolerate less environmental responsibility from the industry that develops subdivisions? Is it so that a greedy few can continue to prosper at the expense of the common environment that we all must share?  The entire construction industry contributes less than 5% to Canada’s GDP and home building is a fraction of that number.  Where is the common sense in that?

If the green advertising of the members of the GOHBA is to be seen as more than superficial features in the houses they build likely depends on whether each builder is willing to make a meaningful commitment to improving our environment by conducting its business in a sustainable manner.

We can only hope that the more responsible home builders who may be members of the GOHBA will rapidly distance themselves from the colonial, 19th century style of thinking presented in that article and if necessary establish a more credible association that chooses to acknowledge that we all currently live in the 21st century and that the survival of our society depends entirely on our environment.

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Illegal Lot Creation?

Green Reality, South March Highlands

The planned 73% increase in the water and sewer rate over the next 10 years so the City can play catch-up with repairs and replacement of crumbling infrastructure is especially in the ironic in the context of the “Choosing our Future” report which advocates strongly for sustainable development.

TFDE

To see just how mis-managed infrastructure is in Ottawa, let’s examine the saga of infrastructure planning in the South March Highlands (SMH) on the west side where it meets the Carp River.

In 2010 the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation (SMHCRC) non-profit launched a Judicial Review of the Terry Fox Drive Class Environmental Assessment (EA) with the hope the construction of the $48 Million road project subsidized by the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) would be better mitigated considering its massive impact on the diverse and unique habitat of the South March Highlands, as well as on the Carp River floodplain.

The judicial panel decided not to examine technical evidence in which they had no expertise, and instead deferred to the Ministry of Environment’s support of the City’s decision not to issue an EA Addendum –  despite significant changes to project and environmental setting that actually reversed the mitigation measures that had been reviewed with and accepted by the public in 2004.

Basically the MoE stated to the Court that the EA Process is a “proponent-driven” process and therefore an Addendum to the Class EA was not required if the proponent didn’t believe an Addendum was required – even if the project’s eventual environmental mitigation is the opposite of what was proposed during the original EA process.

However when we look at just how fiscally responsible the City of Ottawa, as proponent, was we see that $Millions from the ISF program were spent on Terry Fox Drive Extension (TFDE) would have been better directed towards fixing crumbling infrastructure.

For example, in 2010, the City spent $48 M of public funds on a road based on a 2001 population and traffic forecast that was subsequently found by the Auditor General in 2007 to be completely unfounded.

In short, there was no valid economic justification for that spending at all.  Yet at no time in the planning process was Council advised of the need to revisit the economic justification of the TFDE spending.

Floodplain

Having decided to build a road that was not needed, the City continued to spend $Millions acquiring property on which to undertake floodplain compensation work – that could have been avoided in the first place by just keeping the road out of the floodplain in the first place.

When TFDE was first approved by the Region back in 2000, it only skirted the floodplain. It wasn’t until Ottawa City Council approved an Addendum to Class EA in 2004 that the road was shifted further out into the floodplain where it has been constructed with infrastructure money that would have better used to upgrade crumbling infrastructure.

If we are to believe what is written in Committee Reports, a memo  by the Deputy City Manager to the Chair of the City’s Transportation Committee explained to Council was that the westerly shift was to avoid a recently constructed barn valued at $60,000.  This is described in detail on page 34 of the 2007 EA Addendum.

To protect that barn, the developer of the Richardson Subdivision asked that the road be shifted into the floodplain – and agreed that he would be responsible for the extra flood mitigation costs:

Looking at the Richardson Ridge Subdivision, it appears that the developer’s request to move the road into the floodplain has resulted in about an extra 40 units being able to be built.  If these lots are were sold at an average of $500 K each, the developer’s revenue would be increased by about $20 M.

Of course the $60,000 barn will be torn down anyway as it is not shown in the plan of subdivision and is likely to be inconsistent with a suburban housing development.  It isn’t too difficult to imagine that planning staff could have foreseen the fate of the barn!

It is possible that the barn may have been deliberately constructed to justify a westward expansion of the developable land.  Aerial photos published in the Oct 2000 Environmental Study Report for the road shows that there is no barn in the path of the road.

By 2002, aerial photos show that the barn had been built even though the landowner was apparently aware of the planned road.  Appendix A of the 2000 ESR identifies that landowners, including the Richardsons, were directly notified and that they also attended the public workshops for the road.

Property Acquisition

In Ontario, the development of infrastructure in a floodplain requires “floodplain compensation” which involves creating additional flood capacity to make up for what is lost in building the infrastructure.

The 3 property acquisition reports(Broughton, Richardson, Cowick) show that, to avoid the $60 K cost of replacing that barn, the City paid  $1.73 Million just to purchase the property on which it undertook the floodplain compensation on the west side of the Carp River.  Do City managers need remedial training in financial cost/benefit analysis?

On top of the property acquisition costs, there were all of the costs associated with the excavation to compensate for the loss of floodplain storage from all of the fill that had to be placed to create the road embankment.

During the TFDE Judicial Review the City described the extra costs to build a proper road foundation for the road because of the poor soil in the floodplain. It is quite possible that for every dollar spent on purchasing property, there were $2 or $3 more dollars in extra construction costs – all costs that could have been avoided if the road wasn’t built in the floodplain.

According to the committee minutes cited earlier, the landowner agreed to pay the additional costs of shifting the road further into the floodplain.  Since the request to shift the road came from the landowner, they should have been held accountable for 100% of the floodplain compensation costs.

Yet none were assigned because the entire TFDE project was ISF funded by taxpayers at 3 levels of government.  Land acquisition costs are not eligible for that funding, but floodplain compensation costs are.

Even if the floodplain compensation costs were split 50-50 (because some of the original roadway would have impacted the flood fringe), it’s quite possible the developer’s share of costs could have been $2-2.5 Million, or more.

Instead, taxpayers subsidized more than $60,000 in costs for each additional unit of the 40 units the developer could build.  It appears that taxpayers have paid 40x over for the cost of that barn while simultaneously enabling the developer to increase revenue by $20 M!

This lack of fiscal accountability in the City’s planning department is atrocious.  If City management were held accountable by the Mayor for such bad business decisions we wouldn’t be in a situation today where taxes must be increased to pay for crumbling infrastructure.

Lot Creation

Sadly the saga of mismanagement continues and from looking at the City’s zoning webpage, it appears that two new parcels of land were created on the west side of the Carp River floodplain where the City acquired land to undertake the floodplain compensation (these are the parcels of land the City purchased from the Richardson property and from the Richardson-Cowick property).

How could these lots could have been allowed to be created in the floodplain in the first place? Creating lots in the floodplain is clearly inconsistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.

Despite moving the road into the floodplain at the request of the developer, there was absolutely no mention of the need to create lots in the Committee Report for the zoning bylaw for the Richardson Subdivision.

Under Section 50 (3c) it’s possible for the City to acquire property outside of a Plan of Subdivision or Consent process (processes that would at least require some transparent / public process):

“Subdivision control

(3) No person shall convey land by way of a deed or transfer, or grant, assign or exercise a power of appointment with respect to land, or mortgage or charge land, or enter into an agreement of sale and purchase of land or enter into any agreement that has the effect of granting the use of or right in land directly or by entitlement to renewal for a period of twenty-one years or more unless,

(a) the land is described in accordance with and is within a registered plan of subdivision;

(b) the grantor by deed or transfer, the person granting, assigning or exercising a power of appointment, the mortgagor or chargor, the vendor under an agreement of purchase and sale or the grantor of a use of or right in land, as the case may be, does not retain the fee or the equity of redemption in, or a power or right to grant, assign or exercise a power of appointment in respect of, any land abutting the land that is being conveyed or otherwise dealt with other than land that is the whole of one or more lots or blocks within one or more registered plans of subdivision;

(c) the land or any use of or right therein is being acquired or disposed of by Her Majesty in right of Canada, Her Majesty in right of Ontario or by any municipality; “

However before the City can go ahead and create lots in the floodplain (in this case, without a public consultation process), it’s decision has to be in compliance with Section 3.(5) of the Planning Act, which states:

“Policy statements and provincial plans

(5) A decision of the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board, a minister of the Crown and a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government, including the Municipal Board, in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter,

(a) shall be consistent with the policy statements issued under subsection (1) that are in effect on the date of the decision;”

“Section 3.1.2 of the PPS:

3.1.2 Development and site alteration shall not be permitted within:

d) a floodway regardless of whether the area of inundation contains high points of land not subject to flooding.”

Definition of floodway in Provincial Policy Statement:

“for river, stream and small inland lake systems, means the portion of the flood plain where development and site alteration would cause a danger to public health and safety or property damage. Where the one zone concept is applied, the floodway is the entire contiguous flood plain.”

Definition of Development in Provincial Policy Statement:

“Development: means the creation of a new lot, a change in land use, or the construction of buildings and structures, requiring approval under the Planning Act, but does not include:

a) activities that create or maintain infrastructure authorized under an environmental assessment process; “

Misleading or Illegal

According to the property acquisition reports for the Richardson and Richardson-Cowick properties, the City’s Director of Real Estate claims that Public Consultation was completed during the TFDE Class EA process.

Yet there is no basis on which such a claim can be made – as an example, have a look at the City’s study area map for the TFDE Class EA. The location where the lots were created are on the west side of the Carp River that are clearly outside the primary and secondary study areas of the Class E process.

Furthermore, in our Judicial Review, SMHCRC combed through ALL TFDE Class EA materials and nowhere is there any  mention of the need to create those lots – let alone public consultation on them.

This appears to be a serious breach of both municipal process and ethics.

The Planning Act is prescriptive about notification requirements – mail outs to landowners within prescribed distances of applications, posting signs and advertisements about process etc.

The City appears to have created lots in the floodplain without any required process under the Planning Act, with what appears to be a contravention of Section 3 of the Planning Act – seemingly so that taxpayers would effectively subsidize a $60,000 /unit cost to create the 40 units on the Richardson Ridge Subdivision?

Furthermore, it appears that Council was repeatedly misled by staff on the lack of both process, spending impact, and lack of public consultation.

It was only recently that the City advertised a Zoning Bylaw Amendment to change the floodplain overlay on the Richardson Ridge Subdivision and the TFDE floodplain compensation lands – as part of the rezoning associated with the Carp River Restoration Plan:

During the TFDE Judicial Review, the City successfully argued that it did not need to coordinate the floodplain impact assessment of the TFDE with resolution of the Minister’s Order about the Carp River Restoration Plan – yet when the City finally gets around to completing a transparent Planning Act process related to the floodplain compensation – the City decides to lump it in with the Carp River Restoration Plan – as required by the Minister’s Order.

How can both statements be true?

There is no evidence that a Planning Report was ever prepared by a qualified land use planner in support of the lot creation in the floodplain on the Richardson, and Richardson-Cowick property.  Nor was the proper public consultation process followed in accordance with the Planning Act.

In a recent public statement, the Chair of the Planning Committee publicly appealed to developers to be more professional when dealing with the City on Planning Matters.  Why shouldn’t we also expect the planning department act professionally by making sound business decisions, following proscribed municipal process, transparently present cost impacts, and report truthfully to Council and the public at all times?

Why should members of the public believe the contents of Committee Reports, in particular when a memo is written by a Deputy City Manager to the Chair of a Committee in which it is stated that a developer has agreed to certain costs – but there is no disclosure that actually the developer is the beneficiary of $Millions in subsidy and incremental revenues?

Is this the transparent and open government that the citizens of Ottawa deserve?

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Misinformation in the South March Highlands

South March Highlands

Misinformation #1 ? This Area is not an Old Growth Forest

Urbandale says that this forest was studied by IFS Forestry who determined that the trees in this area are roughly 60 – 80 years old and definitely not old growth.  Further confirmation of the age of the trees is found in the 1861 Agricultural Census indicating that the Graham family was active in farming this property at that time.

The MNR defines old growth as older than 120 years old.  There are many examples of old growth in the SMH, as an example the 250-year old Black Sugar Maple that was destroyed to make way for Terry Fox Drive Extension.

These trees survived the great fire of 1870 that destroyed much of the Ottawa River Valley which is why the vast majority of trees in Ottawa are younger.  However, because the South March Highlands is a mountain wetland, it provided a firebreak for the town of March and thus many old growth trees are found. 

It is well known that many farms in the area failed because of the thin soil layer that covers the Canadian Shield in the South March Highlands and although several homesteads existed, very little of the land was cleared and used for farming.

 Misinfo #2 ? KNL Isn’t Clear-Cuting Environmentally Significant Forest

 KNL’s development agreement with the City was designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas including Beaver Pond, Kizell Pond, and Trillium Woods. As required by the 40% Agreement, KNL will be giving approximately 265 acres of the most ecologically sensitive land to the City.

However, KNL will destroy the majority of the remaining forest for its subdivision.

The City already owns an additional 1000 acres of forested area in the neighbouring South March Highlands.  This is the same so-called “Conservation Forest” that the City recently built a 4-lane highway through.

According to the City’s Environmental Assessment for Terry Fox Drive Extension filed in 2010 to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the entire area of the Beaver Pond Forest is designated as Natural Environment Area – the highest level of land use protection.

 Misinfo #3 ? KNL Is Trying to Rush This Development to Avoid Debate or Find Alternate Solutions to Preserving the Forest

The City has zoned these lands for development since the 1981 40% Agreement was approved in spite of objections from environmental groups who have opposed development for 30 years.  This opposition included 2 OMB appeals that took years to resolve.

KNL has completed and submitted to the city multiple studies looking at the environmental impact of this development including fish habitat, tree species and age, site archaeology, agriculture potential and more. These been reviewed and approved by City Planning Officials, City Council and the OMB even though these plans will result in the removal of endangered species, such as Butternut, and the destruction of critical habitat for an estimated 20 species at risk.

KNL has never met with the community despite being obligated by their conditions of subdivision approval to implement a communications plan and recently declined offers from the community and the city to buy them out at a profit based on a fair-market evaluation for their property.

Misinfo #4 ? There are no Significant Aboriginal Findings on the Site

As part of the approval process, KNL was required to conduct complete Stage 1 and Stage 2 Archaeological Resources Impact Statements of the site to the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Communications.  This study attempted to find evidence of aboriginal habitation and not surprisingly found nothing of archaeological interest on this site.  Most grade school children are aware of the fact that the ancestors of the First Nations of Canada were nomadic and therefore few had permanent residences.

Recently KNL’s consultant was called back to study a group of stones forming a circle which appears to be a possible indication of a burial ground or Medicine Wheel. 

According to KNL, the same consultant who found no evidence of aboriginal residences is also of the opinion that it is not a medicine wheel because finding such an artefact would be provincially significant as none others are known by him to exist in the province of Ontario.

KNL has stated that the site will be protected pending his confirmation that this is not of archaeological significance – which appears to be a foregone conclusion by him.  Many people feel that this diminishes the credibility of the consultant and that an independent assessment performed by the NCC is the right thing to do.

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You Can’t Eat Money

South March Highlands

Urbandale Protest Demonstration

On January 8, 2011 a public demonstration was held in support of Grandfather William Commanda’s letter of protest to the City of Ottawa.  The 97 year old spiritual Elder for the Algonquin First Nation attended the rally and delivered prayers in 3 languages despite the snowstorm that surrounded us.

Grandfather Albert Dumont opened the proceedings with a prayer for peace and I then spoke the following to the 100+ people in attendence:

Message from South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.

When people form coalitions so that they can speak louder, it is a sign that their government isn’t listening.

When people take their government to court, it is a sign that their right to fair government was violated.

When people take to the streets in protest, it is a sign that their government is failing them.

We are here to tell our governments that their failure to protect the South March Highlands is irresponsible government!

How is it possible for any responsible government to knowingly allow the destruction of the most bio-diverse area in their city and in their national capital?

We have documented 675 species of life in the South March Highlands and are still discovering more because there are well over 1,000 to be found.

  • Of these no fewer than 20 species are officially designated as species-at-risk of extinction.

So what does our government do?

  • It builds a road that they acknowledge will sever the eco-connectivity of this area, choking off the natural function of wildlife.
  • Just take a look at the Berlin Wall on Terry Fox Drive and you will understand why we needed to appeal our court case.
  • And like a robot, our government continues to allow the ongoing destruction of this great forest with one subdivision after another.

The place where you are standing [Holy Trinity High School in Kanata] was once a natural part of the South March Highlands.  Yet, in spite of 20 years of protest and overwhelming evidence to the contrary, our government has allowed this destruction to proceed because they lack the political will to stop it.

This place wasn’t always called the South March Highlands.

A long time ago, the Anishinabe people saw an island that looked like a great turtle rising from the sea and from that point forward they understood that the turtle was an integral symbol of creation.

10,000 years ago, when the waters of the Champlain Sea receded, this highland area was also a freshwater island surrounded by a salt water sea.

  • There are no fewer than 3 species of turtle among the 20 species at risk in this area.
  • Do you think that this is symbolic of how our modern society has become so disconnected from creation?

We have found evidence that the Anishnabek, who are the ancestors of all the First Nations in eastern Canada and USA, lived here 500 generations ago:

  1. The archaeological survey done by the City for Terry Fox Drive called for a follow-up study that according to the Ministry of Culture was never done.
  2. Just down the street from here on Richardson Ridge, the archaeological survey done by the developer found conclusive evidence of a tool-making site that was estimated to be 10,000 years old.
  3. This study was confirmed by world experts but rejected by the developer who is now in court for not having paid the archaeologist. Meanwhile the area has been clear-cut and blasted to the extent that they had to close Kanata Avenue last fall.

  4. On Huntmar Ridge, last July we reported the finding of another tool-making site that was similar to the one on Richardson Side road.
  5. But the City has yet to find $25 K to hire an archaeologist to investigate because they are too busy wasting millions on Landsdowne Park.

  6. According to Dr. McGhee, former president of the Canadian Archaeological Society, the archaeological survey done for Urbandale’s subdivision was fatally flawed because it failed to adequately consider native use of the area prior to the arrival of Europeans.
  7. Recently we reported finding a site that may be a medicine wheel in the Beaver Pond Forest. As a result of a meeting with native people and Urbandale measures may be taken to safeguard it.

What else has been missed and why has the city not required Urbandale to do a proper study in view of all this overwhelming evidence that this entire area is possibly a national historic site?

The great spiritual elder of the Algonquin, Grandfather William Commanda, reminds us that beyond its archaeological history, the South March Highlands are, and I quote,

[a] living temple, a place of Manitou, a special place of nature
and that this precious reality also demands immediate protection and reverence
.

We have much to learn from the native people to lived here long before us.

I’d like to read some of the words spoken by the Medicine Man Kitchi Makwa / Great Bear to Urbandale this week:

We the Anishnabek Peoples of this Land are very close to Nature, in fact we ARE part of nature.

This vision enables us to live harmoniously with Nature!

We are One with Nature and can only live in Peace when our actions are based on love and compassion for ALL living beings, including Nature!

When we live in this harmony with Nature, we become aware of past and present echoes of the forest.

My heart cries that future generations may not have this opportunity to know this forest.

Sadly, like us, many indigenous people have been recently removed from the energy and heritage of the forest. For many years our society has erased their history, art, and culture to the extent that they are almost invisible within our capital city.

But we represent the new voice of Canada.

  • A voice that says that the protection and preservation of native heritage is important because it strengthens us all and teaches us many things.
  • A voice that says that our society must return to what Grandfather Commanda calls a “sustainable relationship” with all living beings – regardless of colour, creed, and culture, and with respect for all species of life.
  • A voice that says that we too are an integral part of this natural ecosystem. We do not walk on it, we exist within it, and we are only alive because of it.

Today we carry our voices to Urbandale to remind them that we have offered them a responsible way forward in this situation. A way forward that preserves the forest and compensates them fairly. We will remind them that greed is no substitute for responsibility.

I hope that all of you will also individually carry your voices to our government representatives and ask them to join us in this new 21st century of reconciliation with nature. Also to request that native culture and rights be respected and that this forest be protected.

As the native people of this area say:

When the last forest is gone, people will learn that you can’t eat money.

IT’s NOT TOO LATE TO DO THE RIGHT THING!

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Understanding The Terry Fox Drive Decisions

South March Highlands

On Dec 14, 2010 the Ontario Divisional Court gave judgement  in a judicial review of the Terry Fox Drive Extension environmental assessment process.  This decision, for which leave to appeal may be sought, appears to be precedent-setting and has significant implications in Ontario.

1. Despite the City’s attempt to challenge the standing of the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.(SMHCRC), the court ruled that the SMHCRC:

(a) has a genuine interest in the matter;

(b) that there is a serious issue to be tried; and

(c) there is no other reasonable and effective manner for the issue to be resolved.

This appears to be an important precedent that will assist other public interest groups assure their standing before the courts.

2. Despite the City’s assertion that the Minister of the Environment as well as the City of Ottawa should have been a party to the case, the court ruled that the City on its own exercised a statutory power of decision that was subject to judicial review.

This aspect of the decision appears to indicate that municipalities will be held accountable for the effect of their own decisions, notwithstanding the involvement of other authorities.

3. Despite the City’s assertion to the contrary, the City’s decision to proceed with construction of the road is a statutory power of decision and thus subject to review.  Furthermore, the City’s decision to proceed without filing an Addendum that was available for public review has broad public interest implications because of the lack of opportunity for public review.

This appears to indicate that municipalities who decide to proceed with projects without filing an Addendum that was available for public review are subject to judicial review by the courts.

4. Despite the City’s assertion that the situation was moot because the road was near completion, the court agreed that it is not too late to address items such as whether the environmental mitigation is appropriate.

This means that it is not too late to do the right thing.

5. With regard to whether the City of Ottawa was required to file an Environmental Assessment (EA) Addendum the court determined that it could not conclude that the City’s decision to proceed without filing an Addendum was unreasonable.

This aspect of the decision appears to raise a number of questions which require careful consideration by members of a broad community of interest. 

In summary the SMHCRC successfully defended itself on several legal challenges made by the City of Ottawa on questions of legal standing, applicability, mootness, and the extent to which the City was subject to judicial review. 

The SMHCRC now has 15 days to consider whether it should request leave to appeal on the remaining aspects of the decision.

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Taxpayers Pay For Free Rides On Terry Fox Drive

South March Highlands

Did you know that major developers in the South March Highlands are paying proportially less in property tax than you are on your residential city lot?

Ever wonder how developers can afford to hold large blocks of land for years in order to speculate on possible land development opportunities?

All this is done throught the magic of preferential rates for agricultural property taxes!  Click on each of the tabs below to read the details.

Property Tax Rates

You can see this for yourself by comparing the tax classes for property on the City’s property tax website.  If you look up the Urban tax rate for Farmland, you’ll see that the rate is 0.230158% which for some inexplicable reason is actually lower than the Rural tax rate for Farmland (which is 0.244291%).

You will also see a low-cost entry for forest land that is only taxed at 0.230158%.

Most residential property owners are paying based on a rate that is over 4x more (1.090539%).

The purpose of a lower tax rate for farmers is to encourage vital agricultural production.  A lower property tax rate recognizes that many acres of forest and farmland are integral parts of working farms that cannot be taxed at the same rate as a suburban lot without bankrupting farmers.  Legitimate farmers need this tax break – however land speculators and developers clearly don’t!

However, to assist developers who have to re-zone lands from rural to urban in order to develop them, the City of Ottawa has for years gratiously allowed agricultural property taxes to be paid on lands zoned for urban development. 

This allows a developer to buy-out a legitimate farm, survey it for a subdivision, apply for a draft plan of subdivision, clear-cut and change the grading of the land, build and sell houses, etc. without ever changing the tax rate until you or I buy a house from them.

2 Examples in the SMH

At least two classic examples of this can be found in the SouthMarch Highlands.  According to the Consent to Enter Agreements executed by the City between Richardson Ridge (owned in part I believe by Regional Group) and Uniform Developments (according to their web site partially owned by John MacDougall who also appears to have an interest in Richarson Ridge since he signed both these agreements) which both state:

The City of Ottawa agrees that should use of the Land … result in a change to the current assessment of the Land, which is currently based on a rural farmland use, the City of Ottawa agrees to make appropriate representation to assist Richardson Ridge/Uniform in its appeal to any change in the assessment to the land which is claimed to be a result of [constructing Terry Fox Drive].

Should Richardson Ridge/Uniform fail in such appeal, the City of Ottawa agrees to pay Richardson Ridge any increase in taxes that result from the foregoing.”

What a sweet deal for these developers!  Even though these lands were rezoned in 2004 and upheld in a 2006 OMB ruling as urban, these developers have been paying preferential property taxes as if they were the same struggling farmer that they bought the land from.

Not only that, the City of Ottawa will ensure that they never pay a dime more – no matter how much these lands are developed in future.  Heck we’ll even refund them if anything slips through the cracks in the deal.

There is no Consent to Enter agreement for Urbandale since the conditions of subdevelopment approval require them to convey land for TFD to the City at no cost (since all these developers benefit from and in fact require this road to make their subdivisions viable).  So we can’t easily determine whether or not Urbandale is benefiting from preferred taxes for farmland and forests, but it would seem unlikely that they would not also want to take advantage of the City’s largess with our tax base if they could too.

What You Can Do About It

Most of us would expect that the tax break for farmland is available for only lands that are zoned rural (RR, RU), regardless of whether they are within the urban boundary or not. 

Part 13 of the current Ottawa Zoning By-Law only provides for rural zoning in the Greenbelt and Rural Area.  What city allows for farms within its Urban Boundary?   This makes sense since what city-dweller wants to live next to cows and pigs?  The farms that are already within the Greenbelt are already designated as being outside of the Urban Boundary, so the current By-Law already protects legitimate farmers.

The loophole can be plugged by removing  farm and forest preferential tax rates from the Urban property tax ratings since they are not required (by legitimate farmers) within the Urban Boundary.  If there are any freak cases of where an individual farmer, who is not a commerical organization, actually has a producing farm within the Urban Boundary, then the By-Law can be amended to allow for a rural zoning of that land.  However, if that land is ever re-zoned as urban (a precondition for development approval), then the full tax rate should apply.

The time has come to plug the loophole that allows developers to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes! Perhaps we wouldn’t be hearing excuses from Larry O’Brien for not meeting  his previous campaign promise of not raising taxes if everyone were paying their fair share.

Why don’t you write an email to Larry O’Brien and ask him if he wouldn’t have found it easier to balance the City’s Budget during the past 4 years if everyone were paying their fair share of taxes?  And ask him why we should believe him that he can manage our tax base if re-elected when he has let millions of tax dollars slip through this loophole in the past?

You can also email to Jim Watson and Clive Doucet who are running for mayor and ask them if they will plug this loop hole if elected.    While you’re at it, you might want to ask Jim Watson if he is still accepting campaign donations from Urbandale.  (Clive Doucet is the only mayoralty candidate who doesn’t accept donations from developers.)

It’s time to send the message that the average taxpayer will no longer tolerate free rides for developers in the South March Highlands or anywhere else in Ottawa!

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Species Loss in South March Highlands

South March Highlands

Species-at-Risk (SAR) are classified based on the risk of extinction due to declining population within geographic areas.  As populations decline and vanish, the species’ classification increases until the species is either recovered (saved) or ultimately goes extinct.

This is not a theoretical risk.  According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), there are 13 species that once existed in Canada and are now extinct and a further 23 species that no longer exist in the wild in Canada (but exist elsewhere).

The loss of bio-diversity can readily be seen in the South March Highlands (SMH) as evidenced by the SMH Conservation Forest Natural Environment Assessment [Brunton 2008].

Click on the tabs below to see how real the risk is and why it the SMH should not be further developed.

Extirpated

The following 11 species are already believed to be extirpated (previously observed and no longer present in the SMH) as a result of development that has occured to-date in the SMH:

  1. Cathcart’s Woodsia
  2. Oregon Woodsia
  3. Spiny Coon-tail
  4. Adder’s-tongue Fern
  5. Back’s Sedge
  6. Large Duckweed
  7. Long-spurred Violet
  8. Showy Orchis
  9. Southern Arrow-wood
  10. Strawberry-blight
  11. Virginia Spring Beauty

Endangered

The following 3 species have been observed in the SMH and are Endangered both provincially and nationally:

  1. American Ginseng (a plant known to exist in SMH and once thought to be extirpated, subsequently re-discovered in 2009 when surveying for Terry Fox Drive Extension and subsequently extirpated in 2010 to make way for the road)
  2. Butternut (the SMH is one of the few locations in North America with some healthy, disease resistant trees)
  3. Loggerhead Shrike (possibly extirpated as there are no recent observations of this bird)

Threatened

The following 8 species have been observed in the SMH and are Threatened:

  1. Blanding’s Turtle (Ontario & Quebec)
  2. Whip-poor-will (All provinces east of Alberta)
  3. Golden Winged Warbler (Ontario & Quebec)
  4. Western Chorus Frog (this species is listed Federally for Ontario & Quebec but not yet listed under Ontario SARO)
  5. Eastern Musk Turtle (Ontario & Quebec and possibly extirpated in the SMH as there are no recent observations)
  6. Olive Sided Flycatcher (All Provinces)
  7. Chimney Swift (Ontario)
  8. Bobolink (Ontario)

Special Concern

The following 9 species have been observed in the SMH and are of Special Concern:

  1. Bridle Shiner (a small fish observed in Shirley’s Brook and Kizell Pond)
  2. Short Eared Owl
  3. Black Tern
  4. Common Nighthawk
  5. Snapping Turtle
  6. Eastern Milksnake
  7. Monarch Butterfly
  8. Bald Eagle
  9. Red Headed Woodpecker

SAR Candidates

These additional 18 species have been observed in the SMH and are on the COSEWIC Candidate List for Ontario:

  1. Evening Grosbeak (high-priority)
  2. Eastern Wood Peewee (high-priority)
  3. Wood Thrush (high-priority)
  4. Bank Swallow (high-priority)
  5. American Bullfrog (mid-priority)
  6. American Kestrel (mid-priority)
  7. Belted-Kingfisher (mid-priority)
  8. Eastern Red-Backed Salamander (mid-priority)
  9. Field Sparrow (mid-priority)
  10. Blue-Spotted Salamander (low priority)
  11. American Toad (low priority)
  12. Bluntnose Minnow (low priority)
  13. Boreal Chickadee (low priority)
  14. Killdeer (low priority)
  15. Midland Painted Turtle (low priority)
  16. Northern Two-Lined Salamander  (low priority)
  17. Green Frog  (low priority)
  18. Wood Frog  (low priority)
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McNamara’s Fallacy In Action

South March Highlands

The City of Ottawa has been warned by scientists, several times and in several studies, that TFD fragments the eco-system in the South March Highlands (SMH) and dramatically reduces the ability of the SMH to withstand change.

This warning is a well-considered and inevitable scientific conclusion, backed by years of research, that sadly cannot be scientifically quantified.  Questions like: How much further change can the SMH take? How much change is introduced by urban development? How long will the Conservation Forest survive, etc simply cannot be quantified.

So does that make the unmeasurable any less important to decision-making?

McNamara's Fallacy

Robert McNamara  was Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War and was obsessed with making decisions based on only what could be measured.  He also had a predilection to prefer only information that fit into his metric-based world view.  This led to increasingly absurd decisions by the US Government for many years until they finally withdrew from the Vietnam conflict.

Sociologist Daniel Yankelovich described a process he called McNamara’s Fallacy to explain why some of us have a tendency to under-value what cannot be measured.  The mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead has also referred to this tendency the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness“.

McNamara’s Fallacy is a process having 4 steps.

  1. Measure what can be measured.  This is fine as far as it goes.
  2. Disregard that which can’t be measured or give it an arbitrary quantitative value.  This is arbitrary and misleading.
  3. Presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t very important.  This is blindness.
  4. Say that which can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist.  This is madness.

TFD Fallacy

The Terry Fox Drive (TFD) extension is an excellent example of McNamara’s Fallacy in decision making.

Step1.  The City haphazardly commissions several piece-meal studies of the South March Highlands (SMH) area to identify existing ecological conditions and count species.  However, only easily studied vegetation is studied.  There are no comprehensive studies of fauna, insects and non-vascular plants.

Step 2.  Issues such as the size of eco-passages are ignored since the impact of the size on the effectiveness of eco-passages cannot be predicted (disregard what can’t be measured).   This leads to mitigation planned for TFD relying on experimental ideas whose effectiveness has no established scientific evidence at all (assigning an arbitrary value to them).

  • Instead emphasis is placed on having several smaller (measurable, so more must be better) passages instead of fewer, larger (more costly) ones. 
  • The location of these eco-passages is inferred from a 3-month winter study of wildlife movement because a summer study is too hard to do for the wide-variety of species affected.

Step 3. The long-term impact of losing ½ of SMH to development is never studied (too difficult to measure so don’t look at it at all).  The City has never examined its economic justification for TFD relative to its environmental impact (no cost/benefit analysis) because it is presumed that ecological value is unimportant (because it is difficult to measure).

Step 4. Councillor Wilkinson asserts that TFD can be ignored when promoting SMH as an NCC-owned wilderness park.  The the long-term effect of fragmentation of habitat and species kill-rate caused by TFD don’t exist (because they can’t be measured).

The reality is that the effect of TFD cannot be mitigated because it cannot be measured.  The very concept of mitigation depends on establishing an equal and compensating benefit to make up for the impact.  This is not possible when the impact cannot be measured.

Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle holds that where there is uncertainty regarding an approach that could cause significant harm, the uncertainty should be resolved before proceeding.

This principle is well established both in law and in medicine.  It is a statutory requirement in the European Union.  Perhaps it is also time for City Hall to apply it to the environmental assessment process too.

In the meantime, anyone that contemplates allowing TFD into the South March Highlands does so at great peril to the environment and to all the species that live in it.

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Terry Fox Drive & South March Highlands Overview

South March Highlands

This posting uses tabs.  Be sure to click on all of them to see the whole article.

SMH

The South March Highlands (SMH) has been described as a “wild island” of natural landscape within the City of Ottawa.

No other major city in the world  literally includes a vigorous old growth forest with as much bio-diversity that includes endangered species.  The closest is Vancouver’s Stanley Park which is 1/3 the size and contains ½ the variety of vascular plants compared to the SMH.

The SMH  is rated as a Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) for both its Life Science value (895 hectares) and is also ANSI rated for its unique Wetland Complex (114 hectares).  A double rating is very rare in Ontario and speaks to the ecological significance of the area to the Province.

SMH has been rated by scientists as the “most important reservoir of  ecological potential” in the City of Ottawa because it has the densest bio-diversity of any area in Ottawa and provides resources for the renewal of depleted natural areas elsewhere.  There are 10 distinct habitats within the SMH that are home to  17 species-at-risk (SAR) and the largest deer wintering yard (925 hectares) in the City of Ottawa.

The hydrology of SMH is integral to both the Carp River as well as to the Shirley’s Bay wetland complex in the Greenbelt.  Two subwatersheds that have headwaters in SMH feed both ends of Shirley’sBay wetlands in the National Capital Greenbelt.

The SMH is geologically unique in the City of Ottawa and supports over 440 species of vegetation, including: 64 Regionally Significant, 50 Locally Significant, 6 Provincially Rare, and 2 Nationally Endangered species of vascular plant life.  This habitat is crucial for 164 species of bird, including 136 species that breed in this area, 9 bird SAR, and the 30 Regionally Significant species of bird that inhabit this ecosystem.

Yet, even though the Regional and City Official Plans have officially “protected” the SMH since 1972, less than 1/3 of the original area remains. 

TFD 2000-2005 

In 2000 the City prepared an Environmental Study Report (ESR) that recommended that  Terry Fox Drive (TFD) be routed through the centre of this fragile ecosystem.  This choice had the highest ecological impact of the 4 alternative routes considered in the study and completely ignored the results of the 3 public criteria workshops that consistently rated ecological impact as the most important evaluation criteria for the City to use. 

Two of the four reasons for choosing the environmentally worst option were to mitigate the impact that TFD would have on future development within the area – development that was not approved at that time, and on lands that were not zoned for urban expansion at that time.

In 2004, at the request of residents, a Special Study of the NEA zoning was conducted that improved the protective zoning of lands south of the proposed road.  However, later that year an EA Addendum was prepared that was used to justify an expansion of the urban boundary. 

An EA Addendum is required whenever there has been a material change to either the planning or environmental context for a project.  The Notice of Completion was filed for this Addendum on January 2005.  A Notice of Completion creates the only opportunity for interested parties to formally intervene in the EA process and they only have 30 days to file a formal appeal (called a Part II Order Request).

A Part II Order Request was filed by a land developer that was not resolved until January 2007 after a private deal was struck with the City that relocated the Goulbourn Forced Road (GFR) & TFD intersection so that it would provide easier access within the subdivision that the developer was planning.  Note that a  subdivision plan had not received even a draft approval at that point in time. 

This deal had the effect that GFR could no longer serve as a conduit for south bound traffic along 2nd Line Road (part of the original justification for the TFD extension).  The City has adopted the position that changing the intersection is not a material change to the EA Addendum even though GFR is the boundary of the project scoped by the 2005 EA Addendum.

Meanwhile, the developers (KNL/Urbandale) challenged  the 2004 NEA zoning and obtained an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruling in 2005 that approved a draft plan of subdivision for development within half of the SMH. 

Neither of the 2000 or 2005 “environmental” assessments, nor the OMB, addressed the ecological impact of both the road and urban development.  The Special Study’s scope was restricted by the City to a narrow area and did not examine the holistic impact of road and urban development on the SMH.

TFD 2006-2010

In 2006, the City of Ottawa made amendments to the Official Plan that effectively creates the TFD roadway as the outer edge of the western urban boundary. Inside the curve of TFD, areas previously identified as Natural Environment Area were changed to General Urban Area or to Urban Natural Feature. In effect most of the forested area was re-zoned to general urban use inside the arc of TDFE, while outside the roadway arc lands remained zoned as conservation forest, agricultural or greenbelt rural. 

In 2007, after public challenge, the OMB upheld the change to urban boundary.  The City then prepared another EA Addendum in 2007 but has never filed Notice of Completion for it.   In order to accelerate qualification for federal Infrastructure Funding, the City adopted the position that it did not need to complete the 2007 EA Addendum even though there have been two OMB rulings affecting zoning since 2005 Notice of Completion.

In 2007, Ontario became the leading jurisdiction in North America for SAR protection when it passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Even though there is no impact analysis on SAR  in any of the 2000 ESR, 2005 EA Addendum, or the unfiled 2007 EA Addendum, the City has taken the position that the passage of ESA does not constitute a material change to the environmental planning context. 

The unpublished EA Addendum in 2007 provided for changes to rail-grade separation.  But  when the City accelerated the project for 2010 construction, it decided to incorporate the design for a raised rail crossing but not implement the bridge until later.   Use of the raised-crossing design  with level-crossing implementation will not only violate Transport Canada regulations for train line-of-sight safety, but also pose serious risks to human safety.  Without public review, there is no opportunity to ensure the safety of this rail crossing.

In 2008, the Minister of Environment (MoE) issued an order setting conditions regarding the approval of the Carp River Restoration Plan (CRRP), 1 km of which overlaps with, and is hydraulically interconnected to the management of drainage for TFD.  In 2009, flooding in the Carp River watershed affected 1500 homes. 

According to the 2005 EA, TFD will impact the floodplain storage area by over 45,000 cubic metres – significantly exacerbating the risk of flooding since the impact of the road was analyzed using an assumption that peak flows would be 30- 40% less than what it is now understood to be.

According to the 2009 TFD Storm Water and Floodplain Management Report, the construction of TFD “directly impacts the Carp River floodplain”. 

In 2010, as a result of the discovery of questionable parameters used by the City for hydraulic modeling of the Carp River flood levels, the MoE required that CRRP be regulated as a sewage works requiring approval under the Ontario Water Resources Act. 

Yet, even though there is a 1km overlap between TFD and the CRRP, and even though it is now known that the storm culverts planned for TFD are insufficient for the task, there has been no re-examination of the design impact of TFD storm water management on the setting of Carp River grades.

In 2010, to qualify for federal funding, the City completed two Canada Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) Screening Studies for different parts of TFD that cross through the SMH.  The City subdivided the project into two parts (A & B) so that they could meet federal deadlines for approvals for Infrastructure Funds. 

Despite the fact that both the content and depth of these CEAA studies are larger than the original Provincial EAs, the City chose to perform those studies without public review and input.  

 

Mitigation Denial

The City’s CEAA studies rely heavily on environmental mitigation plans for which there has been minimal to no scientific basis. 

  • Eco-passageways proposed as mitigation for turtle habitat fragmentation are regarded as experimental by the scientific community and there is no scientific evidence that they will even be used by turtles.  
  • The size and location of eco-passageways were determined on the basis of least project cost and a 3-month long winter study of wildlife movement (when many mammals and all amphibians and reptiles are hibernating). 
  • Vegetation studies have been piece meal and have never holistically examined the entire SMH context. 
  • Herpetofauna (reptile & amphibian) studies for the road were based on a random-walk that only conducted a single sample of the area, except for the salamander study which was required to be performed in greater depth by the CEAA. 
  • Fisheries studies have been cursory, never exceeding 2 days in length. 
  • Despite the fact that Blanding’s turtle, a SAR, has been repeatedly observed in SMH since at least 1991, there has never been a radio-telemetry study of their movement. 
  • Even though the Monarch Butterfly, a SAR, has been observed in SMH there has never been an insect study.

The Part B CEAA Study contains material changes to the planned re-alignment of Shirley’s Brook.  Over the past 10 years, 5 different re-alignments of Shirley’s Brook (depending on which EA is referenced) have been proposed – even though previous studies determined that re-habilitation of the brook was not necessary.  None of these changes examined the collateral impact on drainage and floodplain requirements, nor did they examine the collateral impact on SAR.

The fisheries impact analysis presented in the CEAA Part B Study conveniently omits the presence of a SAR, Bridle Shiner, at the location impacted by the various re-alignments of Shirley’s Brook.   The effect of omitting this information results in a material reduction in the risk assessment for fish habitat. 

To-date the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans has declined to revisit their approval of this project because Bridle Shiner isn’t listed for the SMH in their SAR database. Yet separate studies conducted by the City of Ottawa in each of  1998, 1999, and 2000 confirm the presence of Bridle Shiner in SMH.

Meanwhile the City, Ontario MNR, and Environment Canada continue to ignore the uncharacteristic and increasingly blunt warnings from scientists about the serious fragmentation of habitat caused by TFD. 

  • The 2004 Special Study determined that the extension of TFD will sever the eco-connectivity of the SMH to the extent that it is called a “Berlin Wall” by Dan Brunton, the foremost scientific authority on the area.  
  • The leading turtle scientist in Canada, Ron Brooks, has declared that, regardless of the proposed mitigation measures, building the road will eradicate the entire population of Blanding’s turtle
  • The City of Ottawa’s expert Forest and Greenspace Advisory Committee passed a unanimous resolution expressing “grave concerns about the ecological damage caused by the TFD extension”, denouncing the proposed mitigation measures as seriously inadequate and expressing concern over the failure of the City to protect the area. 
  • The Ottawa Field Naturalists, Canadian Bio-Diversity Institute, Greenbelt Coalition, Riverkeeper, Ecology Ottawa, Sierra Club, Save Our Greenspace, and several other ecological and community groups have endorsed a statement that the road should be abandoned.

No Reason

The justification for the road evaporated with the tech bubble in 2001. 

  • The City’s Auditor General in 2007 found that the population projections used to justify it and several other projects were unrealistic and unreasonable since actual growth has been 80% less than forecasted. 
  • City Management agreed with the AG’s findings and undertook to review all existing growth-related plans and programs. 
  • In 2008 the City reduced the forecast in the Transportation Master Plan but failed to update the TFD traffic study (used to justify the increase in scope of the project in the 2005 EA). 
  • The City has never obtained Council approval to continue with a project that no longer fills an economic need. 
  • The City’s Transportation Master Plan, 2008, continues to assert without justification that the rationale for the TFD expansion project is that it “Accommodates the vehicular capacity deficiencies for growth areas in Kanata“.

Meanwhile, in 2010 another developer (Richcraft) as applied to the OMB to have the lands outside of the arc of TFD zoned for urban development – yet again using the road to justify the push of the urban boundary westward.  This application is currently being reviewed by the OMB and is opposed by community and ecological groups.

The Municipal Class EA Process is unambiguous in requiring that an EA Addendum must be prepared whenever there has been a 5-year lapse of time between filing the Notice of Completion and the commencement of construction.  Notice of Completion for the 2005 EA was filed January, 2005 and project construction for Parts A & B did not commence until April 2010. 

The City holds the position that the 5-year limit applies only to the 2000 ESR for which construction started in 2003 south of the area scoped in the 2005 EA Addendum.  This position conveniently ignores the fact that, by definition, a subsequent EA Addendum represents a material change in scope to the project.  To assert that the 2005 EA Addendum does not reset the lapse-of-time clock defies any reasonable interpretation of Ontario’s Environmental Assessment process.

Ontario’s MoE staff have concluded that, under the Municipal Class EA Process, it is up to the proponent to decide whether an EA Addendum is necessary.  Consequently, the MoE has to-date declined to require the City to update its 2005 EA. 

Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) provides that Ontario residents can expect that government ministries will protect their environmental rights.  The responsibilities of each Ministry in this regard are specified in a Statement of Environmental Values.

The MoE’s reluctance to require the City to update its 2005 EA appears to be in contravention of that Ministry’s Statement of Environmental Values that states, in part, “The ministry works to protect, restore and enhance the natural environment by: Undertaking compliance and enforcement actions to ensure consistency with environmental laws

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Ottawa Citizen Continues to Whitewash TFD

South March Highlands

The Ottawa Citizen has put so much white wash over the Terry Fox Drive (TFD) extension project that it will soon be unsafe to drive.  Each article that they publish seems to add more white-wash than the last.

The article, “Councillor muses about Terry Fox land swap“, quotes Marianne Wilkinson as saying she wants a park, but “the road must go ahead“.

Click on each tab below to reveal why she is wrong.

Why?

There is no economic justification for spending $47.7 M on a road that will sever the eco-connectivity of the area that Councillor Wilkinson wants to create a park in.

The original justification for the road evaporated with the tech bubble in 2001.  The City’s Auditor General in 2007 found that the population projections used to justify it and several other projects were unrealistic since actual growth has been 80% less than forecasted. 

City Management agreed, yet the traffic study for the road has never been corrected, nor was Council approval obtained to continue to proceed with a project of this magnitude having no economic justification.

No wonder Council can’t balance the City budget.

Who?

According to the Census, only 26,000 people in Kanata live north of the Queensway and most of them live south of South March Highlands – Morgan’s Grant, Dunrobin, and North March being the only communities in the north end of Kanata.

Meanwhile there have been 4 roads built in Kanata to enhance north/south connectivity (in addition to the 4-land March Road) since TFD was planned in 2000:

  • Hertzberg road now connects to TFD,
  • Kanata Avenue links to Campeau and TFD,
  • CastleFrank now crosses the Queensway,
  • TFD links Centrum to Kanata south.

The City is also spending $18 M to upgrade Goulbourn Forced Road so that is will be a usable road. 

How many roads do 26,000 people need?

According to OCRI, high tech employment is lower now than it was in 2000 and is likely to be flat for the foreseeable future (click to enlarge):

Graph of OCRI: Knowledge Based Employment Showing Flat Trend

Negative to Flat 10-year Growth In High Tech Employment

With the demise of Nortel, causing its parts sold off to foreign investors, we are unlikely to see significant employment growth returning to Kanata.

Who does the Councillor expect to use this road?

How?

The Citizen chose not to challenge Councillor Wilkinson on how she expects to justify a park to the NCC when TFD extension will sever eco-connectivity to it.

Scientific studies have proven that the road severs both the existing park in Trilliam Wood and the future park that the Councillor wants to have south of the road.  The leading scientific expert on the area, Dan Brunton, has called the road a “Berlin Wall” because it creates an impassible obstacle that will kill any animal that tries to cross it.

The City’s own Forest and Greenspace Advisory Committee, consisting of an expert panel of ecological advisors, passed a unanimous resolution expressing “grave concerns about the ecological damage caused by the TFD extension”, denouncing the proposed mitigation measures as inadequate as well as the failure of the City to protect the area. 

The Ottawa Field Naturalists, Canadian Bio-Diversity Institute, Greenbelt Coalition, Riverkeeper, Ecology Ottawa, Sierra Club, Save Our Greenspace, and several other ecological and community groups have jointly issued a statement appealing that the road be abandoned.

In trying to promote a park and build a road, how does the Councillor expect to have her cake and eat it too?

When?

Councillor Wilkinson is right in asking that the NCC extend the Greenbelt to embrace the South March Highlands.  The entire area should be a park that is out of the reach of the developer-driven planning at City Hall.

However when will the Councillor drop her support for a road that is no longer needed?

When will she rescind delegation of authority to City staff that enables them to approve developer plans for this area without public review?

If the Councillor were actually opposed to development in the area she would be using every mechanism available to her to delay it. 

When will she act as she speaks?

Conflict of Interest?

One can only wonder about why the Councillor floated a $100 M price tag for the purchase of land that cost considerably less for the developers to purchase.

In 2012, the land will soon be close to worthless from a developers’ perspective when habitat protection automatically kicks in as a result of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. 

There are 17 species-at-risk identified with the South March Highlands, many of which currently reside in lands owned by developers.  With habitat protection, it will be very difficult and costly for developers to develop this area.

At some point, Ontario’s Ministry of the Enviornment will also get serious about dealing with the Radon gas that is embedded in the granite beneath the area.  This gas will be released by any blasting done for development and is already a health hazard for existing residents of North Kanata.

Environmental mitigation for radon gas emissions will make it harder for developers to sell homes in the area.

Without the road, developers will have to rework their draft plans for subdivisions, involving costly engineering work.  And even if the road is allowed to proceed, the environmental assessment process for development in such a sensistive area should be subject to lengthy public review.

Selling the land to the NCC at even cost plus 10% makes better business sense from a developer’s perspective because it creates more economic cash flow than tying up expensive capital for diminishing returns.

It appears that the Councillor is not experienced in the art of business negotiation, so why is she batting about high price tags?   Is it because the City is too accustomed to giving developers whatever they want?

Ecology Ottawa, Do_Developers_Run_City_Hall, examined campaign funding by developers for City Councillors in the last election.  It will be interesting to see how much funding from developers goes to Wilkinson and other candidates in this year’s election.

Ecology Ottawa also tracks the environmental voting record of all City Councillors and it will be very interesting to see if there is any inverse correlation between the declining environmental grades given to several councillors and any increased campaign contributions they receive from developers in the upcoming election. 

As an example you can see from page 2 of postcard-and-grades, the Councillor for North Kanata’s environmental record has deteriorated from a B to a C-D rating since the last election.

While we are looking at the long hand of developers, we should also ask why doesn’t the City’s editorial board ever allow its reporters to challenge the road? 

Could it have something to do with the significant amount of advertising revenue from the City of Ottawa each year? 

Or perhaps the massive amount of advertising revenue from advertising from developers.  This volume is enough to justify a whole section of the paper each week called “New Homes”.

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GHG Denial in TFD EA

Climate Change, South March Highlands

Opportunity Cost

The 2010 CEAA Screening Study for Terry Fox Road Part B contains a manditory section that summarizes the effects of the project on air quality.

Amazingly, the road is assessed as having No Significant impact due to tailpipe emissions and resultant smog and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) effect!

CEAA Summary of Effects On Air Quality

Table 6-5 From CEAA Screening Study

The US Environmental Protection Agency, however, measures vehicle emissions based on the distance driven.  By creating more roads, our cities expand the opportunity for vehicles to drive (generating more GHG in proportion to the length of the road) and create a disincentive for using public transit – roads are more convenient. 

By investing in Terry Fox Drive (TFD), the City has also created an opportunity cost of $47+ M by not putting the same amount of money into public transit.  As an example of the impact of this opportunity cost, currently there is some concern over the cost of student bus passes that are now manditory.  An expenditure of less than $5 M is probably sufficient to allow all students to ride the bus for free.  The $47 M being spent on the road would have enabled students to ride the bus for free for over 9 years!

Real Disclosure

The City should have disclosed that TFD will result in a net total annual emission of 90,324 Tonnes of GHG per year.

 The calculation for this is:

  • GHG increased by volume of traffic x amount of time of traffic on road.
    • Use avg traffic volume x 24 hrs x avg GHG emission per hour per vehicle
    • Assuming peak to average ratio is 10:1 and that peak hour volume is 2 hours x morning & afternoon
    • US EPA: light duty vehicle (incl passenger car but not SUV and miniVANs) = 337 gCO2 per mile
    • US EPA: SUV, miniVAN, pickup trucks are approx 1.3 x worse
    • US EPA: Combined Cars & Trucks = 1.13 x passenger = 1.13 x 337 = 380.81 gCO2 per mile driven
    • 380.81 x 1.6 = 609.296 gCO2 per km per vehicle = 0.6 kg CO2 per km
    • TFD is 4.8 Km long = 0.6 x 4.8 = 2.88 Kg CO2 per vehicle
    • Using unconstrained modal split disclosed in the 2004 EA Traffic Study of 8950 vehicles per hour (In+Out) 8950 x 2.88 = 25776 Kg CO2 per peak hr
    • 8 x 25776 / 1000 = 206.208 tC per day from peak plus 16 x .1 x 25776 / 1000 = 41.2416 tC non-peak per day
    • 206.2 + 41.24 = 247.44 tC per day x 365 = 90,315.6 tC per annu
  • GHG absorption decreased by loss of forest cover due to clear-cutting for the road:
    • Use hectares removed by road times GHG absorption per hectare
      • 4.67 ha Dry-Fresh Sugar Maple-Ironwood Deciduous Forest
      • 0.34 ha Dry-Fresh White Ash-Hardwood Deciduous Forest
      • 5.61 ha Fresh-Moist White Pine-Hardwood Mixed Forest
      • 0.37 ha Young Deciduous Forest
      • 4.67 + 0.34 + 5.61 + 0.37 = 10.99 ha
    • 10.99 x 0.75 = 8.2425 Tonnes Carbon absorbed per year
    • According to David Suzuki Foundation, other GHG removal per hectare of forest is 60 kg/ha = 0.06 t/ha
      • 0.75 + 0.60 = 1.35 GHG per ha
    • 10.99 x 1.35 = 14.8365 Tonnes of GHG per year

 Net change in GHG = 90315.6 + 8.24 = 90323.84 Tonnes per year

Lack of Accountability

The analysis used in the previous section is based on the City of Ottawa’s own traffic study statistics which are based on unreasonable traffic volumes.  Nonetheless the City was obligated to disclose the impact based on the numbers that they used to justify the road.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) was also obligated to ensure that the disclosure was accurate.  How could they have accepted an error of over 90 MegaTonnes of GHG emission?

We deserve much more responsibility and accountability from our public servants at both the Municipal and Federal levels!

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Terry Fox Roadkill

South March Highlands

The railway crossing design for Terry Fox Drive appears to be unsafe. 

The problem has arisen because the City of Ottawa accelerated the project to obtain federal Infrastructure dollars.  In doing so they had to drop the planned railway bridge documented in the 2007 EA Addendum.  The upshot is that they have a design for a bridge, but are implementing a level rail crossing. 

The big difference between the two is the possibility of train/car collision!

From the engineering drawings in the City’s environmental assessment, it appears that the City has not left enough sighting distance from the road to the approaching train. It looks like the at-grade crossing sightlines are blocked by the berms and rock outcrops. Because the ‘at-grade’ CN crossing is split over two drawings it is difficult to make out. However the text suggests they have not even considered this safety implication.

Transport Canada rules state there should be a distance between the crossing and car of 140 metres for an 80km/h approach speed of the car. Assuming a slow moving train at 20mph, then the car driver needs a clear view up the track ( The Hypotenuse of triangle).

This equates to a distance from the crossing down the track to the train of  91 metres to the train. Both these distances will increase the faster either the train or the vehicles travel.

It looks like it won’t be just deer and turtles at risk of being killed by this road!  Hopefully it won’t be you.

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The Terry Fox Clown Show

South March Highlands

As described in a prior post, the MCEA process in Ontario is “proponent-driven”.  The City of Ottawa evidently interprets this as meaning that they can get away with just about anything as long as they go through the motions of consulting with MNR, MoE, and CEAA. 

None of those “authorities” have actually any authority to dictate to the City any standard of compliance.  Meanwhile the city’s project staff can claim to have the “approval” of those same authorities as they merrily go about making a mockery of the process.

Consider the following timeline of “compliance” by the Terry Fox Drive Extension project:

  1. The City conducts public hearings, as required by the MCEA when preparing the 2000 EA, to obtain input on criteria to be used to evaluate alternative alignments for the road. 
    • A total of 3 workshops were conducted, resulting in unanimous agreement by residents that the natural environment was top priority (this is well documented in the 2000 EA Appendices). 
    • Project staff then proceed to ignore this feedback by not applying any criteria priority weights when evaluating the alternatives (clearly evident from reading the 2000 EA). 
    • The result is selection of the alternative that, by their own analysis, was rated by project planners as 5x worse for the natural environment than the most eco-friendly alternative. 
    • Does compliance with the process mean only lip-service to it?
  2. The traffic studyin the 2000 EA that  justify the traffic volumes for the road double counts traffic running along March road 3x.
    • It also counts traffic from subdivisions that were not even approved at the time that the traffic study was performed. 
    • In fact those subdivisions were not approved by the OMB until 5 years later!
    • How is the use of inflated traffic volumes compliant with MCEA process?
  3. In calculating the costs for the 4 different alignments considered for the route that the road should take, the cost of upgrading Goulbourn Forced Road (GFR) was applied against the eco-friendly alternative routes, but not against the alternative recommended by staff. 
    • The result was that the recommended alternative (carving out an entirely new road) is claimed by staff to be $4 M less expensive than the shorter route of upgrading an existing road!  As if. 
    • The cost of the GFR upgrade was also accurately costed to be within $1 M of today’s cost, but the cost of the recommended alternative was only $13 M in 2000 as compared to today’s cost of $47 M.  
    • Even at $47 M, this cost does not include future development of more lanes, a railway bridge, and several other expensive features.
    • How is fiscal manipulation and under-costing compliant with any process?
  4. In presenting the recommended alignment to the Transportation Committee in the fall of 2000, the City minutes reveal that there is no mention of the fact that the recommendation was in conflict with the highest rated priority expressed by residents.
    • Is this a transparent process as required by the MCEA or as expected by City Council?
  5. One of the reasons given in 2000 for the recommended alignment was that other alignments would split communities that had not been approved yet!
    • No consideration was given to the fact that the recommeded alignment would split a conservation forest in two.
    • The lands for the future development were not even rezoned as urban use for 5 years after the 2000 EA was issued.
    • Yet the westernmost road alignment was used to justify an expansion of the urban boundary in 2004.
    • How is using an EA to justify future development compliant with the EAA?
  6. The traffic study updated in the 2004 EA Addendum uses population projections  that are wildly optimistic.  They forcast that population growth will double in Kanata by 1996.
    • Yet census data reveals that population growth in Kanata from 2000 to 2006 was actually only 18%.
    • How can the road be justified based on this and why does this material fact not require a new EA Addendum?
  7. After completing a special study in March 2004 of the area caused by the shift in urban boundary arising from the 2000 EA recommended alignment, none of Daniel Brunton’s findings regarding the presence of significant species found in the area appears in the 2005 EA Addendum.
    • How is the documentation of 7 distinct habitats and the discovery of 268 (including 4 regionally rare and 12 Regionally Uncommon) native species of vascular plant, 6 Regionally Significant birds (including 1 one now on the SARO list), as well as the observation of Blanding’s and Snapping turtles not relevant to the EA Addendum?
  8. After approval of the 2005 EA Addendum by City Council in Oct 2004 (containing only a 400m diversion of Shirley’s Brook), but prior to filing the notice of completion, project staff “slipped in” a 1370 m diversion (project staff used those very words to describe this to a City Advisory Committee). 
    • However the document did not contain the costs for the larger diversion, nor an impact assessment of it, as required by MCEA process. 
    • Is that an example of EA process compliance?
  9. Despite moving a critical intersection with GFR 3 times from the original plan in 2000, the City maintains that there is no need to file a Notice of Completion for the 2007 EA Addendum because there was no change to the planning context. 
    • So why did they prepare the 2007 version of the EA Addendum at all? 
    • And if intersection location is not important to the process context, why was it the objective of a Part II Order request filed by a landowner pursuant to the 2005 Notice of Completion? 
    • It was evidently important enough to justify a negotiated change the the EA Addendum at that time.
  10. Despite there being a change to the urban boundary as a result of an OMB hearing in 2005, the City maintains that there is no need to file a Notice of Completion for the 2007 EA Addendum because there was no change to the planning context. 
    • If an OMB ruling does not change the planning context for a municipality what does?
  11. Despite the introduction of the SAR acts both federally and provincially after the only Notice of Completion filed by the City in 2005, the City maintains that there isn’t sufficient change to the environmental context to warrant a revised addendum. 
    • If the passage of environmental legislation at both federal and provincial doesn’t affect the sensitivity analysis of an EA what does?
    • Given that, as a result of that legislation, there are now 17 identifiable species-at-risk in the scope of the project where previously there were none flagged, how is that not a material change to the environmental context?
  12. Notwithstanding the fact that the 2000 EA documents the presence of Bridal Shiner in Shirley’s Brook, a SAR listed both in SARA and SARO, project staff conveniently omit this critical information in their application for DFO approval. 
    • How is that compliance with CEAA process requirements to disclose the presence of all species-at-risk?
  13. Notwithstanding an Ontario-Canada agreement (2004) on the coordination of EAs that requires the proponent to follow an integrated process having a single body of documentation, the project staff chop the provincial EA into two parts and performs 2 separate additional EAs for the sole purpose of obtaining Federal approval (as documented in a memo from the General Manager of Infrastructure Projects to City Council). 
    • Is this in any way considered process compliance?
  14. Despite having not really started the part B project until April 6, 2010 (as stated by the General Manager for Infrastructure Planningin his memo to Council in April) project staff now maintain that they started part B in 2003 based on a technicality (amounting to the installation of a few hydro poles) so that they can avoid the 5-year lapse of time deadline imposed by the MCEA. 
    • Is that really in the spirit of process compliance?
  15. This technicality claimed by the City actuallyoccured a full year before the scope of the project was defined and approved by City Council! 
    • That is because the 2004 EA Addendum moved the intersection where the “start of work” was supposed to have occured.
    • How can construction have started a full year before the project was even defined, let alone approved by City Council?
  16. City Council minutes, April 6, 2010,  describe that the General Manager for Infrastructure Planning telling council that the official start of Part A was Feb 16, 2010 and that the tender for Part B was to close April 6, 2010.
    • How can the project staff claim that the start of the project was earlier if the General Manager was telling the truth to City Council?
  17. Now that project staff realize that their failure to adequately plan for the 1370 m diversion of Shirley’s Brook may be grounds for a judicial review causing a halt to the project, they have now changed the impact to a 250 m diversion and still have no plans to issue an EA Addendum reflecting the scope change.
    • The MCEA requires that all changes to project impacts be documented (not just increases). 
    • At a minimum the staff should publish their evaluation of how the 250m alternative is now sufficient when for years they were convinced that nothing less than a 1370m diversion would suffice.
    • So how can the staff claim to be running a compliant process?
  18. At the OFGAC meeting April 26, the project staff now state that Bridle Shiner were found in Watts Creek near the Beaverpond and Kizell Pond and that none were found in Shirley’s Brook.
    • Yet the 2000 EA presents a table that clearly indicates that none were found in the Beaverpond and Kizell Pond and that 4 were positively identified in Shirley’s Brook.
    • Is misleading a City Advisory Committee within anyone’s definition of an acceptable process?
  19. A reveiw of the 1999 Subwatershed study reveals that Bridle Shiner were reported in both Shirley’s Brook as well as in the Beaverpond an Kizzell Pond!
    • Was this information suppressed in the 2000 EA so that re-zoning for development could occur in the Beaverpond area?
    • Why did project staff omit this information when submitting their Screening Study to the federal Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO)?
    • Is suppression of observations of a species-at-risk compliant with the CEAA process?
  20. The CEAA EA for Part B of the road shows that a level grade is planned for the railway crossing at TFD. 
    • Yet the 2005 EA Addendum was prepared on the basis of a raised overpass crossing.
    • How is this change in scope not grounds for another EA Addendum?
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Shirleys_Pond

South March Highlands

Shirley’s Pond

Shirlley’s Pond is the headwater for Shirley’s Brook which will be disrupted by the Terry Fox Drive expansion.

Shirley’s Brook is a breeding ground for the endangered Bridle Shiner, a fish that is now very rare in the Ottawa River.

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