Committee approval of the master site plan for the new Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital hinges on protecting trees, working with neighbouring communities on parking, and federal legislation limiting future development of the Central Experimental Farm.
The planning committee voted 6-2 in favour of the site plan Monday after a full day of public delegation Friday, which discussed issues around green space and parking on the site.
Committee members Shawn Menard and Jeff Leiper, whose wards include communities near the site, were the only two councillors to vote against.
Menard reiterated his frustration with the lack of democratic input in how the site was chosen, as well as the placement of important facilities away from the nearby LRT station and the intersection of Carling Avenue and Preston Street.
Call to protect the farm
Coun. Riley Brockington, whose ward encompasses the majority of the proposed new campus, voted in favour. At the same time, he says the process has shown the Central Experimental Farm is vulnerable to the whims of whatever federal government is in power.
"There's nothing that keeps or maintains the farm on the site ... in the heart of Ottawa. That's troubling to me and that's troubling to the people of Ottawa," Brockington told committee.
"We need legislation."
Committee passed a motion put forward by Brockington asking the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada and the National Capital Commission to protect the farm.
Steve Willis, the city's general manager of planning and economic development, said the local government's position aligns with a proposal for legal protection for the farm by Ottawa Centre MP-elect Yasir Naqvi.
Other motions put forward by a trio of central Ottawa councillors, Menard, Leiper and Catherine McKenney — and approved by the committee — will ensure the hospital and city work together to create a community body to oversee traffic impacts from construction.
The motions also seek to improve public transit and cycling connectivity, reconfigure proposed surface parking, and address the loss of mature trees due to the project.
City staff told councillors they expect the project will fell more than 520 trees and staff is working with the hospital to look at ways to replant, replace and protect as many trees as possible.
Campus integrating green space
Coun. Scott Moffatt, who co-chairs the planning committee, addressed some councillors' arguments the proposed hospital site should be more compact to preserve more of the uninterrupted green space on the farm.
Drawing on the experience of his wife, who has worked as a nurse during the pandemic, he said integrating green space into the hospital campus would help support the mental wellbeing of patients and staff on the site.
"I don't think placing health-care workers in a concrete jungle by design is something that's going to help them," he said.
"I'm not sure we do that by shrinking their space and building it tighter ... I don't think it's your primary function when you're building a hospital, but maybe it should be."
Moffatt said the motions passed by committee, and supported by hospital representatives, show there's a commitment to protect green space proposed for the top of the parking garage, and to support the tree canopy.
Full city council will vote on the master site plan at next week's meeting set for Oct. 13.
While the approval would advance the hospital project, the site plans for individual phases of construction will also face the municipal process.