Text of Oral Presentation to City Planning Committee on Hospital lands Development

( Quentin Bristow Feb 8 2000)

[This was one of several presentations in the same vein from community residents, nevertheless, the committee voted 4 to 1 to approve the development anyway, saying that it would be 'good for the community'!]

The regulation of land development adjacent to an established community is a balancing act between the right of the owner to profit from the sale of the land, and the rights of the community not to have their quality of life adversely affected. In this case the owner of the land in question is none other than our esteemed federal government, right at the top of the food chain, newly awash in cash and with continuing surpluses projected practically to infinity.

Clearly the owner in this case does not need the money. It therefore follows that the only consideration in the disposition of this land should be the public interest. There should not be any other consideration when the federal government disposes of public land for which it does not need the money. Canada Lands will claim that it is a commercial company like any other, and engaged in a routine for-profit real estate transaction. Not true, it is a Crown Corporation reporting to the Minister of Public Works and there is a process for the federal cabinet to direct it to do something or not do something when it considers it necessary. I make this point at length to be sure that everyone here connects the dots. Whatever is being done with this land is being done in the name of the federal government, it cannot hide behind some arms length argument and wash its hands of the matter. It is rather more than abstract symbolism in this case to say "This land is our land".

Who will be the beneficiaries from this proposal? The main one will probably be Canada Lands, then of course the commercial consultants and developers and finally the city tax coffers. These are the only winners in this entire project that I can identify. The losers will be the adjacent communities with many thousand of residents, as the construction proceeds over the next eight years with falling air quality and increased traffic noise and congestion. Is this the "enhancement of quality of life in the community" for which Canada Lands claims to strive in its web page? I don't think so.

The proposal includes a residential section which will be located practically next door to a helicopter pad which is absolutely insane. Helicopters are sonic boom devices because the tips of the rotor blades move at well above the speed of sound, generating a continuous series of sonic boomlets. When one flies over your house at three in the morning - it really cleans your clock, as we in the community know only too well. If this residential project were to be proposed for a location that close to a helicopter pad at an airport, it would be turned down flat for non-compliance with noise regulations, regulations which apply to airports, but amazingly not to urban residential areas. Another speaker will address that in more detail. Is this in the public interest? I don't think so.

A massive office development is proposed for the site, this at a time when the downtown core has substantial office vacancy rates. I understand that this is a problem you are trying to address but which will be exacerbated by your federal government, because potential tenants will be attracted away from the core to new office space in this site if the proposal is approved. Is this in the public interest? The argument might be made that it will create jobs. Yes indeed, low paying clerical jobs. I am prepared to bet that not one person currently on the welfare rolls will benefit from the new jobs, either because they don't have the skills, or because the salaries offered wouldn't be enough to cover daycare costs. Those jobs will be filled by people migrating from outside the region, which will mean more massive housing developments like Hunt Club and Conroy Road. Is this in the public interest? Certainly not.

The City study four years ago recommended that funding for a portion of the Alta Vista Parkway should be in place, before further development within the Health Complex takes place. This is now a bone of contention between the two levels of government and will not be resolved before the new single administration is established with overall authority to integrate infrastructure with new development. Meanwhile the picture has changed dramatically. There is now almost half a million square feet of new building on the books and it is absolutely essential that there be an additional road to take the pressure off Smyth road and Alta Vista Drive.

Finally it seems to many of us that none of this development is needed and that absolutely none of it is in the public interest from any conceivable point of view. It would however be very much in the public interest if the land were to be ceded to the Ottawa Hospital for the inevitable expansion of health care facilities that is certain to be required if the recent call to arms by the ten provincial premiers is to be believed. That indeed would be a responsible course of action by the federal government.

Accordingly I urge you to put this whole project on hold at least until we have the new administration in place with the authority to deal with all aspects of its impact.

Finally I wish to point out that if all the residents of the community could be here today there would be a firestorm of opposition, but they all have full time jobs and busy lives, so the defence of the community is left to a disparate group of seniors who are up against a group of high priced Canada Lands consultants, which is being paid essentially from tax dollars.