Last week in my e-newsletter I provided information regarding the Shea Road Woods and this week Planning Committee received a memo regarding the acquisition of Urban Natural Features. This memo responds to the motion I put forward to Council on July 8, 2015 that directed the following:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City Council approve that the partial or outright acquisition of the Urban Natural Features identified in the 2013 report be included as a priority in the 2015-2018 City Strategic Plan under the Strategic Objective ES1 – Support an Environmentally Sustainable Ottawa, and that Planning Committee have oversight over this strategic initiative; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT staff be directed to explore other funding options, such as those outlined in the September 2013 Urban Natural Features Strategy Update, to advance the acquisition of urban natural features and provide a status update to Planning Committee and Council by Q3 2016, and that staff be directed to develop options to change the current Council policy of replenishing the Environmental Acquisition Reserve Fund only with future excess amounts from the City of Ottawa Sinking Fund for consideration as part of the next Long-Range Financial Plan.
The City’s Strategic Plan is a very important document providing the direction of our City and in it Council included the Urban Natural Area Acquisition Strategy and under the strategic initiative performance measure it is noted to acquire 100% of the three priority urban natural features areas recommend for acquisition (UNA 193 Shea Road Woods, UNA 95 Nates Woods in Orleans, UNA 100 Armstrong Road South Woods in Riverside South) by Q4 of 2018.
An Urban Natural Area (UNA) is any natural feature evaluated in the 2006 Urban Natural Area Environmental Evaluation Study. These may be publically owned or privately-owned. They do not necessarily have protection, although most do. An Urban Natural Features (UNF) is any UNA that has been designated on Schedule B of the Official Plan. Urban Natural Features are normally zoned “environmental protection”, there is an absolute prohibition on development and the City may have an obligation to purchase UNFs at the request of the landowner.
I have been in continued contact with the Mayor’s office and City staff to work on the acquisition of the Shea Road Woods with staff. I am pleased that the City is taking the preservation of our natural environment seriously by approving $200,000 in the 2017 City Budget towards the Shea Road Woods acquisition to ensure that negotiations can continue with the developers who own this land. It is very important as a City that we find the means to acquire the Shea Road Woods as they are an important Urban Natural Area.
The Shea Road Woods is located in the Fernbank Community Design Plan lands and I was actively involved in this process and there is a great importance to retaining these woods from development. The Fernbank CDP outlines extensive development that will occur within the area. It is very important that we ensure these woods are saved for the community as they would be the only natural area left for residents of the area. In addition the site would be very well connected to other pathway systems and the Trans Canada Trail.
In addition to the Shea Road Woods UNA 193, there are also some other UNAs that were identified in the Urban Natural Feature Acquisition Plan that was approved by Planning Committee and City Council in October 2013.
- The Fernbank Wetland UNA 132 is located in southwest Stittsville and a large portion of this area has been acquired by the City, however there was a portion that was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board for the development of the site at 6279 Fernbank Road known as Porter Place. The original urban portion of the feature was 24.6 hectares, of which the City has acquired and protected 18.1 hectares (74%). I was actively involved in the discussions for this purchase prior to becoming a political representative. As a community leader in Stittsville, I worked with former City Councillor Janet Stavinga to ensure that some of this natural area was retained and I am very pleased this was achieved.
- The Poole Creek Corridor UNA 27 is located in the centre of Stittsville and is mostly protected in City ownership or as constraint land. Privately-owned portions are being acquired as constraint land through adjacent development applications. This includes 6.6 hectares in City ownership. The remainder is protected through floodplain and open space zoning. Some peripheral areas lie outside the EP and open space zones and may be impacted by adjacent development.
In addition there are a number of other UNAs in Stittsville which are identified in the excerpt of the City wide map prepared by the City in 2013.
- Upper Poole Creek Wetland UNA 28: Portion protected and portion developed
- Stittsville Arena Park UNA 26: Portion protected and portion developed
- North of Hazeldean UNA 29: Property developed as Jackson Trails Subdivision, this is an example of an area that the recently approved woodlands report could assist in protection. As part of development there was protection provided around Feedmill Creek.
- Lower Poole Creek Corridor UNA 30: Protected property
- Bell Memorial Park UNA 31: Protected property
- UNA 182Abbott/Iber Woodlot: Protected property
- UNA 185Poole Creek North: Protected property, small portion developed.
- In addition to these UNAs there is also Kemp Woodlot located west of Sacred Heart High School is also protected property.
With all the development taking place in Stittsville, I feel it is very important that we retain our natural environments when possible and the Shea Road Woods have been identified as having environmental significance. Growth beyond the greenbelt is rapidly expanding and we need to work to protect our natural areas and show that Ottawa and Stittsville takes our natural environment seriously.
For more information on Urban Natural Features please review the following information: