Ottawa city council votes to keep Tewin lands inside urban boundary

·3 min read
A field around the planned future home of the Tewin development in southeast Ottawa is seen earlier this month. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
A field around the planned future home of the Tewin development in southeast Ottawa is seen earlier this month. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

Ottawa city council has voted to keep the Tewin lands inside Ottawa's urban boundary, rejecting a move by one city councillor who argued creating an entire new suburb in the rural southeast end, with unknown costs for city infrastructure, does not make for sound urban planning.

During debate about the new official plan, Riley Brockington aimed to leave 445 hectares, mainly owned by the Algonquins of Ontario and their development partner Taggart Group, outside the urban boundary for future development. His motion failed in a 15-to-8 vote.

City council's choice to allow the Algonquins of Ontario to pursue a development near Highway 417 and Anderson Road has attracted criticism from several other Algonquin leaders, as recently as Tuesday. They have long rejected the Algonquins of Ontario as an organization, and said letting its realty corporation pursue a housing development does not constitute reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Algonquins of Ontario representatives, including Chief Wendy Jocko of Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, have said it is indeed a step toward reconciliation, and council members supported it last January as a gesture of such.

Focus on planning

At council Wednesday, many councillors — including Brockington — focused the debate on urban planning policies, not reconciliation.

Councillors raised many questions about infrastructure costs. Those included how much it might cost to take 20 kilometres of pipes to the future Tewin area; how much extra it could cost to build libraries and police stations on poor-quality clay soils; and whether the city can hold developer Taggart and the Algonquins of Ontario to their promise to cover costs.

Some suggested re-inserting development lands north of Kanata would put future homes closer to existing city infrastructure and the high-tech employment district.

"We have seen in this city that growth does not pay for growth," said Brockington, saying he wanted to make a decision in the long-term interests of taxpayers and residents.

The general manager responsible for planning and infrastructure, Steve Willis, said staff would follow through on council's direction. Building at Tewin would be possible, but could be expensive, he said.

At the same time, removing those lands at this point could allow Ontario's minister of municipal affairs to call the final shots and decide for himself which lands Ottawa should bring inside its urban boundary. The city needs to expand by 1,281 hectares.

The area's councillor, Catherine Kitts, was among those who voted to let Tewin develop, noting the Amazon warehouse area could soon become an employment hub, and areas in south Orléans are just as far from light rail and also on poor soils. She did gain support for a motion that asked staff to update guidelines about approving developments on sensitive clays.

Watson calls criticism 'patronizing'

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson did choose to stray from the planning focus when he mentioned relationships with Indigenous communities while urging council to vote down Brockington's motion and support the vision for Tewin.

"It is a little more than patronizing for any member of council to take the position that they know better than chief Wendy Jocko of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation what is good for the future of her community," Watson said.

He has maintained support for the Tewin expansion, even after CBC News reported the Taggart family — not the Algonquins of Ontario — are the primary landowner. On Wednesday, he did not mention Taggart but spoke only of the Algonquins of Ontario's proposal.

Watson said the city does make land acknowledgements at public events, but it must go "beyond symbolism when it comes to our relations with our First Nations." The city would continue to work with all Indigenous communities about economic development opportunities, he said, but in the future.

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