July 10, 2019
Dear Mayor Watson,
I am writing to appeal to you to request that any members of Council who have taken campaign donations from executives at Larco Development Group or Regional Group (or from members of their families, or their lobbyists) abstain from voting on today’s planning decisions regarding the Chateau Laurier and Greystone Village. It is important to ensure that these decisions are made without any perception of conflict of interest.
I make this appeal after sorting through a flood of emails about proposed renovations to the Chateau Laurier, all of which are negative. I believe that concerns about the Chateau Laurier are reflective of broader public concerns about how we plan our city, which I have heard consistently in my first year as the MPP for Ottawa Centre.
To summarize what I’ve heard: many believe our city’s infrastructure is defined by developers, who also play a major role in funding municipal election campaigns. This is leading residents to cynical conclusions about the powers of municipal government, the use of engaging in city planning, and the willingness of city officials to ensure Ottawa’s built infrastructure reflects shared values and priorities.
Last week, I supported residents of Old Ottawa East who were outraged that Regional Group walked away from its commitment to the Old Ottawa East secondary plan for its Greystone Village buildings that border Main Street. The historic Deschatelets Building is now likely to be obscured, and residents are furious that the city allowed this to happen.
Last spring, as I knocked on doors in Centretown, I heard plenty about the 900 Albert St. development of luxury condos that morphed into a millionaires’ feud between Eugene Melnyk and John Ruddy. Despite a community development plan that established a 30 storey limit, city officials approved two towers of 65 and 56 storeys. Complaints about the south side of these buildings overshadowing local residences were ignored.
I sympathize with those who think local voices don’t matter in Ottawa’s urban planning process, and any work community associations do on a volunteer basis is shunted aside whenever developers want zoning and Official Plan amendments. If we want a city that builds something beyond spaceship buildings with walls of glass, we must do better.
Mayor Watson, I invite you to consider the Chateau Laurier and Greystone Village decisions as indicators of the health and transparency of Ottawa’s local democracy.
I offer my thanks for reading this letter.
My very best,