Today's letters: Intensification should respect community context

By Alex Cullen, Ottawa Citizen Letter to the Editor, January 26, 2021

The good, the bad and the ugly (intensification)

Recently, there was a re-zoning issue at planning committee for 33 Maple Grove Road in Kanata, where a single-family home on a corner lot was to be replaced by two low-rise apartment buildings of six units each The local community was vigorously opposed but planning committee approved the proposal 8-1. The issue was posed as a test of the city’s commitment to intensification.

This is a false dichotomy: there is a difference between “good” intensification and “bad” intensification.

There is a lot of “good” intensification going on. This is intensification that fits the fabric of neighbourhoods, that doesn’t provoke community opposition. It has been occurring for decades in Ottawa. Look around you. It is “bad” intensification that grabs the headlines, is objected to by community groups, and appears to set the narrative “communities oppose intensification.”

This is unfair and misleading. Not all intensification is “bad” or opposed by community groups. And not all community groups are wrong to oppose “bad” intensification.

The narrative “communities oppose intensification” is often used to undermine the city’s targets to handle a significant part of projected growth via intensification, leading to the alternative: more urban sprawl.

The Federation of Citizens Associations, in the debate about expanding Ottawa’s urban boundaries to accommodate growth, opposed urban sprawl – bad for the environment, requires costly infrastructure, bad for taxpayers. But that does not constitute giving a blank cheque to intensification. Intensification that respects the community context, that doesn’t overload infrastructure, that involves the community in design and planning, will be far more successful in building the city we all want.

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