City hall round-up: Bike lanes, vacant units, and a new(ish) city manager
City council decided to keep the Vacant Unit Tax, and other decisions as they return from summer break. Plus, your weekend event guide.
As much as it pains me to admit it, fall really might be approaching. We’re not quite at the point of pulling the air conditioner out of the window, but cool evenings and warm, but not too warm, days have that bittersweet air of the end of summer.
Which is all to say that today we’ve got a big roundup of the return of city council after their summer break. It really is the end of the dog days, and back to the grind.
Let’s get to it.
— Robert Hiltz, managing editor
Friday: 25 🌡️ 16 | ⛈️
Saturday: 23 🌡️ 8 | 🌧
Sunday: 22 🌡️ 7 | ☀️
Monday: 24 🌡️ 15 | ☀️
Round-up: City keeps vacant unit tax, committee approves Billings bike lanes
It was a busy return to city council this week. Here’s a round-up of some key votes and decisions.
Vacant Unit Tax: By a margin of 15-8, the city’s one-year-old Vacant Unit Tax survived a challenge by Orléans West-Innes Coun. Laura Dudas, CBC reported. A motion put forward by Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower won the day, keeping the tax but asking staff to make it easier for property owners to declare their properties occupied or vacant.
Staff will look at allowing in-person declarations, and making the overall process smoother.
Too early: Several councillors said after only a year, it was far too early to decide whether the tax was or wasn’t effective. It’s designed to ease the housing crisis by encouraging owners to keep units on the market, rather than sitting on empty homes, by adding one percent of the property’s value to yearly taxes. The proceeds of the tax go to affordable housing.
Zoom out: Vancouver brought in a similar tax, which is currently set to three percent, and council said it’s doing it’s intended job, according to Urbanized, which is similar to Ottawa’s goal.
Dudas said the tax put too heavy an administrative burden on residents, and too many homes were considered vacant — several times what city staff had estimated.
The Driveway: Despite internal emails from the NCC to the city, uncovered by PressProgress, that the federal agency feels the city’s data collection methods for active-use traffic on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway were “misleading” and contained “methodological errors,” Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said the city’s numbers were “collected effectively,” CBC reported.
Speaking to the press, Sutcliffe said the NCC should be more cooperative with the city about closing a stretch of The Driveway around Lansdowne Park. In the internal emails, the NCC repeatedly asked the city to undertake joint data collections — requests that were ignored.
Bank Street renewal: The transportation committee approved a plan to put bike lanes across Billings Bridge and add a northbound bus lane to Bank Street through Old Ottawa South during evening rush hour. The plan makes an addition to the complete overhaul of Bank from Riverside south to Wakley which will be getting underway in earnest next year.
If passed by the full city council, it’s expected that construction on the bike and bus lanes would begin next year.
The sections of Bank Street to have added bike and bus lanes. City of Ottawa/Handout
New(ish) city manager: Interim city manager Wendy Stephanson was appointed to the job on a permanent basis by council on Wednesday. Stephanson was previously the chief financial officer, and has been with the city for 25 years, CTV reported.
The city brought in an outside firm to conduct an international search for candidates. Six people were interviewed for the job, and three were shortlisted, before the hiring panel of the mayor and several councillors settled on Stephanson.
Rec registrations: After a system failure during fall swimming lesson sign-ups the non-swimming fall activities with the city was a success. After delaying the second round of registration a week, about 10,000 people were able to sign up for classes in the first 10 minutes, CTV reported. About 14,000 people registered overall.
A system update from the private company that has taken over the registrations disrupted swimming registrations earlier this month, causing the site to go down for about 40 minutes.
We asked readers in last issue what you thought of a proposal to pedestrianize more streets in the summer months. Here’s what you thought.
Yes! It makes the city more vibrant - 43%
A couple more streets would be nice - 14%
I don’t know, we have enough trouble getting around - 21%
No way, streets are for cars - 20%
Other - 2%
Here’s what some readers thought of the idea (edited for length and style):
“Ottawa should design its city for people and not cars. While at the same time building a good transit system. If we are to reduce our emissions, getting cars off the road is an important step, otherwise weather related disasters will continue and grow in strength.”
“But not a major artery like the QE Driveway. ByWard Market area could have more with more decent parking on the periphery. We will never get rid of cars.”
“Slightly wider sidewalks and more pedestrian crossings would be a compromise.”
“It's not just that streets are for cars. People with disabilities (visible and invisible) cannot always walk to get places. They rely on cars or buses. Closing off streets causes more congestion and makes travelling longer and more stressful.”
“Cyclists and pedestrians have their own lanes, and sidewalks. Leave the roads for autos. Closing a street will cause more turmoil, it’s bad enough trying to get around with construction and over usage.”
“The city should create green space from the bus lanes downtown. Create linear parks and cafes. Draw people into the city by making it beautiful.”
OTTAWA BY THE NUMBERS
🥫 $75,000: The amount the Ottawa Senators Community Foundation donated to the Ottawa Food Bank after donations dropped off severely. [CTV]
🚨 550: The number of impaired driving charges the city issued so far this year. Last year, they issued 535 in total. [CTV]
🏢 $18.5 million: The amount city staff want council to approve to buy an abandoned church seminary and the surrounding lands to convert into transitional housing. [CBC]
💐 Keith Spicer has died at the age of 89. He was the country’s first commissioner of official languages, a university lecturer, CRTC commissioner, and editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen. [Ottawa Citizen]
😷 For the first time since January, Ottawa Public Health is warning that COVID levels in the community are quite high. Hospitalizations and positive tests are on the rise, as is the wastewater signal of the virus. [CBC]
⚖️ The RCMP has taken over a potential investigation into the provincial government’s opening up of protected lands in the provincial Greenbelt to new housing development in the provincial Greenbelt around the GTA. The political staffer who an auditor general’s report said selected many of the lands at the behest of developers has resigned. Those lands have appreciated some $8.2 billion in value because of the government’s plan. [CBC]
🚨 A dump truck driver who was towing heavy machinery behind his truck was arrested after crashing off the 417 just after the morning rush hour. Police said the 29-year-old’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. [Ottawa Citizen]
🦺 With the school year just around the corner, the city is facing a shortage of crossing guards. The Ottawa Safety Council needs to hire about 50 more crossing guards to keep kids safe starting next month. [CTV]
🚌 Because of a driver shortage, the local school bus authority has yet to release bus routes despite the school year starting in only a few weeks. [CTV]
SPONSORED BY CLASSIC THEATRE FESTIVAL
Come see a comedic thriller roller coaster ride at the Classic Theatre Festival
Sleuth from the Classic Theatre Festival is equal parts mischievous humour and gripping anticipation. It continually puts the dramatic pedal to the metal, drawing audiences to the edge of their seats as they try staying one step ahead of the increasingly desperate characters’ life-and-death, cat-and-mouse battle of wits.
This Tony Award Best Play winner is an ingenious story of a mystery writer whose obsession with the inventions and deceptions of fiction and his fascination with games and game-playing sets off a very dangerous and deadly chain of events.
BroadwayWorld writes: "there is truly never a dull moment on stage" in this outstanding production.
The Classic Theatre Festival performs Sleuth 8 times weekly at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Ave.) until Aug. 27, with tickets at: www.classictheatre.ca, (613) 695-9330
What to do this weekend
📜 Hamlet - by A Company of Fools, Friday and Saturday: The last week of shows for Shakespeare in the park, with puppets, swordfights, and a scary ghost. At parks across the city. Pay what you can, suggested $20 donation.
🏇 Major League Show Jumping, Saturday and Sunday: World-class show jumpers are in town to compete for more than $800,000 in prize money. With classes, live entertainment, a market and more. At Wesley Clover Parks, 401 Corkstown Rd. Tickets from $17.
🌽 Stittsville Sweet Corn Festival, Saturday 10 am: Head on out for a day of corn. A corn- eating contest, corn crafts, corn vendors, corn husking competition, corny jokes, live music and corn. Lots and lots of corn. Proceeds go to the Stittsville Food Bank. At 1469 Stittsville Main St. Free.
☕️ High Tea on the Veranda, Friday 12 pm: Experience delicious eats and specialty teas at the veranda at the Laurier House National Historic Site. At Laurier House, 335 Laurier Ave. E. Tickets $49 per person (two-person minimum).
🍄 Fungi for Families, Sunday 9:30 am: A guided forest tour to look for, and understand, mushrooms — what’s safe, and what to avoid — in a day designed for kids 6-12 and their parents. At Pinhey Forest, 1701 Woodroffe Ave. Tickets $23.
🎬 Capital Pop-up Cinema - Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Friday at dusk (8:30 pm-ish): Bring a chair and popcorn to enjoy a screening outside of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, at Sparks Street and O’Connor. Free.
🏳️🌈 Capital Pride, until Sunday: The city’s Pride festival kicks off Friday night with an opening concert and culminates in Sunday’s Pride Parade, followed by a closing dance. All over the city. Free with some paid events.
🏴 North Lanark Highland Games, Saturday 8 am: With 20 pipe bands, 100 dancers, championship heavyweight athletes and plenty of Scottish culture, you won’t want to miss this festival. At 195 Water St, Almonte. Tickets $18.
💃 Latin At Lansdowne, Saturday 6 pm: Start the night off with latin dancing lessons, and finish with a social dance event. At the Aberdeen Plaza at Lansdowne Park. Free.
This week in food
Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
Every week our team at Capital Eats scours Ottawa for the best places to eat, drinks to try and events to attend. Here’s a breakdown of all the biggest stories.
🇲🇽 Traditionally made tortillas and house-made salsa. What more do you need to know? This brand new shop is a Mexican food lover’s dream.
🍕 (Insiders) Forty years of wood-fired tradition goes into the pies at this Little Italy mainstay.
🇮🇹 (Insiders) Calling something “the best” is a tricky business, but this really might be the best Italian sausage sandwich you’ll find anywhere.
🍝 (Insiders) Our food editor takes a trip down memory lane to a few favourite Toronto haunts to see how they’ve held up, and how they compare to Ottawa’s best.
🥃 (Insiders) With fall’s arrival you might be looking for a nice, smooth sipping whisky. You won’t regret this Canadian choice.
Many movie theatres in and around the city will be offering $4 tickets Sunday for National Cinema Day. [CTV]
Have you seen this bike? It was stolen recently in Hintonburg. [Reddit]
Several years after a fire gutted the restaurant, the owner of Vittoria Trattoria said he’s ready to return to the ByWard Market. [CTV]
This fall, Porter is planning to launch to direct routes to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida from Ottawa. [CTV]
At the right time of day, the Experimental Farm is really something to see. [Reddit]
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Michèle Lanoue/Ottawa Lookout Reader
Today’s photo comes from Michèle Lanoue, who took it during an early morning ride across the recently opened William Commanda Bridge.
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Congrats to Adam, Michèle, Gord, Charles, and Jennifer, who knew this week’s Ottawa Guesser was of Preston Street, just north of Carling.
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