Denley: Ottawa's growth plan has bigger issues than expanding the urban boundary

By Randall Denley, Ottawa Citizen, April 28, 2020

It really will be too bad if the discussion of Ottawa’s growth plan for the next 25 years devolves into a misguided battle over a minuscule addition to the city’s urban area. The far bigger question is how the city’s already-built areas will be able to handle the aggressive intensification city staff like to call “the balanced scenario.”

The city’s new official plan must offer a plausible way to house the additional 400,000 people who will live in Ottawa by 2046. Under provincial regulations, the plan has to include a mix of housing types, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The issue is to what extent that growth can be handled without expanding the urban boundary.

(...)That small expansion has agitated environmental groups, who envision a denser, greener city without the dreaded “urban sprawl.” It’s a superficially attractive idea, until one looks at the details.

First, the city is not sprawling, and will not under any scenario. New development in Ottawa is carefully planned and typically denser than in old neighbourhoods. No matter what councillors do, that suburban development will continue. One might think the term “urban boundary” means the extent of suburbia today, but it doesn’t. The city estimates that land already approved for development will supply 66,300 of the anticipated 89,700 suburban units that will be required by 2046.

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