As campaign signs line the streets and candidates gather to debate, Kitchissippi residents are in election mode – and raising issues that impact the ward on a daily basis.
Whether it’s development or cycling, candidates have their own points of view, and different ideas of how they would solve some of the ward’s concerns if elected.
Development and infill
From high towers to placing modern homes in between older structures, Kitchissippi’s candidates have a wide range of perspectives when it comes to how development and infill in the ward should be handled.
Jeff Leiper says he’s dedicated to solving issues related to development and infill by collaboration with the community and creating a transparent way of conducting relations between city hall and residents.
“Over the past four years, we feel that developments are being imposed on the community,” says Leiper, adding that he would like to see development conducted in a way that the community would like to see.
While he says there have been some good examples of infill across the ward, he would like to see more that fit with the neighbourhoods’ character and maintain existing mature trees.
Katherine Hobbs, the ward’s incumbent, says she is proud of the community design plans and bylaws that have been created in the ward so residents know where and what type of development will occur.
“With current zoning on every site in Kitchissippi, it takes a lot of angst and concern away,” she says.
She adds that with light rail transit (LRT) extension into the west end, her plan if elected for 2014 to 2018 would be to re-open a design plan process in the Westboro area and heading west of McKellar Heights.
“I want to make sure we’ve protected those areas,” she says, adding that bylaws created for infill developments will help maintain the character of the area’s neighbourhoods.
Michelle Reimer says she has heard residents voice concerns about constant construction and the damage it leaves behind – such as broken curbs and grass that isn’t patched up.
“I can work closely with these new builds to ensure we are doing it in a fair manner, not breaking the rules, and not leaving residents’ annoyances behind. It’s unnecessary,” Reimer says, adding that development and infill is part of urban renewal. “We’re seriously in transformation and in renewal mode, so we have to continue to do it, live with each other and welcome new neighbours and new families who are now our friends.”
Candidate Larry Wasslen, an Orleans resident who is planning to downsize with his wife in Kitchissippi, says he would like to see more transparency and community consultation when it comes to development and infill.
“It’s a really big issue here in Kitchissippi,” he says. “There’s a feeling among residents, when I go door-to-door, that developers more or less have special privileges.”
He adds that he has also heard negative feedback on some types of infill, and that it’s important to him that residents have infill developments that fit with the character of their neighbourhoods.
“They are not opposed to development – they want appropriate development,” he says.
Candidate Ellen Lougheed says height guidelines should be respected, and she’s also concerned with how close developments are built together.
“There’s a part of Wellington where there are condos on both sides, and if you walk through that area on the sidewalks, it feels like a mini Grand Canyon,” she says, adding that construction around new developments have caused sidewalks to be inaccessible.
When it comes to infill, Lougheed says she would like to see developments modeled after other areas of the city where they keep their heritage and character, and be large enough to suit bigger families.
As developments continue to grow in Kitchissippi, candidates say that residents have also voiced concerns over traffic in their ward.
Reimer says traffic has been caused by the increased population in the urban core.
“There are young families, families without kids, and an aging population in the mix,” she says. “This is all growing in the core, and we need to figure out quickly how to share our spaces and roads together.”
While Reimer says she would have liked to see traffic plans in action a long time ago, she says if elected she would take a hard look at the entire road system in Kitchissippi.
Wasslen says traffic has been an overwhelming issue for Kitchissippi residents, particularly with cars coming in and out of new developments.
He says he is in favour of a “complete street” idea, which would incorporate motorists, cyclists and pedestrian traffic.
While he says there are some areas of Kitchissippi that are pedestrian traffic-friendly – such as the wide sidewalks around Wellington Street West and Caroline Avenue – more needs to be done in the ward.
He adds that if elected, he would like to encourage residents to use public transit.
Lougheed says there are a couple of dangerous areas for traffic that concern her – including the area around the Real Canadian Superstore, and at the intersections of Holland Avenue and Wellington Street West and Parkdale Avenue and Wellington Street West.
“The traffic is fierce there,” she says, adding that drivers will often ignore the hours posted indicating when they can turn right on a red light.
Leiper feels that traffic congestion and volumes have been proceeding faster than traffic studies can handle, and that there needs to be a way to short cut the traffic study process.
He adds that intensification has caused problems with speeds, and has increased cut-through traffic on residential streets.
“One street will make its concerns known in a very public way and the concerns will be dealt with, but not dealt with on a systemic basis,” he says. “We need to accept that traffic cut through is a problem across the ward, and deal with it systemically.”
Leiper adds that if elected, he would work with the broader community in a transparent way to deal with traffic.
Hobbs says that over the last four years, the ward was able to receive about $2 million from the city for traffic mediation, but that it’s still not enough.
“We need to look at a lot of different problems and issues in parts of the wards,” she says. “Many different neighbourhoods experience cut through traffic, and my hope is that once the Confederation Line is up and running, we won’t be increasing traffic.”
She adds that she would like to implement more creative solutions for the ward’s roads, and create natural speed inhibitors.
“I want our streets to look natural,” Hobbs says, adding that cyclists and pedestrians are also her priority. “They are the most vulnerable on the road.”
Many Kitchissippi residents hop on their bike not just for exercise – but also to run errands and commute to work, and the ward’s candidates have heard residents speak passionately about the subject.
Lougheed feels that cyclists have a hard time on main streets like Wellington Street West because of traffic, and would encourage cyclists to use side streets like Spencer Street.
“For them to take Spencer takes 30 seconds out of their time,” she says. “I often take Spencer myself. The sidewalks around there are great, and I can take my dog out and there are few cars.”
She adds that using side streets would be an overall safer option for cyclists because they are not nearly as busy, and they can avoid issues like distracted drivers.
Reimer says she is dedicated to sustainability in the city, and cycling fits into that platform.
“Cyclists are the strongest lobbyists in the city,” she says, adding that she often hears about cycling issues while canvassing door-to-door. “I absolutely 100 per cent encourage cycling, and investing in infrastructure to ensure safety and connectedness.”
Leiper feels that cycling is becoming much more important in the ward, and it is one of the main ways residents commute around the neighbourhood and in the city.
“I want to ensure that it’s as safe as possible,” he says, adding that there are problem areas of the ward including along Wellington Street West and Richmond Road. “We need to acknowledge the problem, and work together to address it. Cycling issues are not easy ones, but the first step is to acknowledge where we have the problems and work together”
Hobbs says that Kitchissippi ward has more cycling infrastructure than anywhere else in the city, but there is still not enough.
“I’m very pleased to work on cycling projects and push for cycling projects,” she says, adding that the re-design of Churchill Avenue to include cyclists has been important to her.
The Scott Street redesign would also include cycling and multi-use paths, she says, which are important for cyclists of all levels.
The weather also shouldn’t make an impact on pathways available for cyclists, she adds.
“We’re going to have a lot of snow again, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have those big multi-use pathways,” she says.
Hobbs also says it is important to build infrastructure for every level of cyclists’ abilities.
“My goal is to make sure we have something for everybody,” she says.
Wasslen says his youngest son lived in Europe for four years, and he has seen first hand how important it is to have the proper infrastructure in place for cyclists.
“The cycling there is just incredible,” he says. “People are cycling long distances, and we can move forward on that too.”
He adds that Kitchissippi is a very popular neighbourhood when it comes to cycling, and that it would be important to maintain cycling infrastructure throughout all the seasons – including the winter.
“People have the idea that cycling is only OK in the summer, but dedicated cycling lanes should be cleared up year round,” Wasslen says.
As home values continue to increase in Kitchissippi, candidates say residents have also voiced concerns about affordable housing options in the neighbourhood.
Hobbs says she believes that there needs to be a change in mindset when it comes to affordable housing at the city level.
“I believe we have to change planning principles and policies in the city to ensure that we can build different types of houses on lots that will be less expensive to build, and less expensive for people to buy or rent,” she says.
Lougheed says that affordable housing is one of the main issues of her campaign platform, and an issue that she is particularly passionate about.
As someone who lived in co-op housing for 14 years, Lougheed says she learned many skills in that environment including chairing committees, and how to settle disputes.
There are not nearly enough affordable housing options in Kitchissippi, she adds, and she would like to see more.
“With all the condos going up, there are houses that are being torn down and nothing being built to replace them,” Lougheed says, adding that residents who live in co-op housing have a pride in ownership. “You shouldn’t have to force people into apartment buildings. I would like to see more housing, and co-op housing built where people are not evicted unless it’s for a serious thing like not paying their rent.”
Leiper says he’s happy to see Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s pledge to add $2 million a year to a housing and homelessness fund because affordable housing is still very much needed in Kitchissippi.
He also believes that affordable housing could tie into Section 37 – a section in Ontario’s Planning Act that allows municipalities to negotiate community benefits with developers who want to build overly tense or high developments in communities.
“We should prioritize affordable housing with Section 37,” Leiper says.
Wasslen says affordable housing is a major part of his platform, and he would like to see more publicly-owned and publicly-built housing.
“There’s a problem with homelessness in the city,” he says. “And there’s a problem with people paying 40 to 50 per cent of their income on rent.”
He adds that he believes there needs to be a more direct role from the city in constructing these housing units.
“We need affordable housing, but we need to take the profit motive out,” Wasslen says, adding that the City of Ottawa should also provide emergency housing for the homeless and build affordable social housing to create jobs.
Reimer has also made social issues, such as public daycare and affordable housing, a major part of her platform.
She says that Kitchissippi ward simply does not have enough affordable housing, and that she’s particularly concerned about the aging population.
While Reimer is encouraged to see that the mayor had announced the $2 million funding for housing and homeless in the city, she thinks it’s still not enough.
“It’s a rather urgent matter to address,” she says.
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