During the week of March 20th, the Carlington Community Association (CCA) made its position known before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) regarding the Central Park Development on Merivale Road. For those of you who are not familiar with the OMB, it is more or less the Supreme Court of planning in Ontario. If an individual involved in the land use planning process objects to a planning decision by the city or region, they can formally file their appeal with the OMB, and their case will be heard before a judge or chairperson.
Prior to the hearing, the city, region and the developer (Ashcroft Homes) had finalized a plan whereby all traffic from this new development would exit onto Merivale Road. This is precisely where our community association objected to the plan. Previous to Ashcroft Homes developing this property between Clyde and Merivale, the registered plan showed an exit onto Clyde at Maitland. Although no one in our community was crazy about adding traffic into our neighbourhoods, we had always maintained that an exit on both Merivale Road and one at Clyde was a fair solution in properly distributing the traffic from the new development.
The new plan put forward by the city, region and Ashcroft Homes changed all that. Although there is only a difference of 300 vehicles per hour between Merivale Road and Clyde Avenue, the city and region saw fit to add an additional 2000 vehicles per hour onto Merivale, and 0 vehicles onto Clyde. We asked ourselves, where was the fairness in this decision? Our mission in this hearing was to prove that the city, region and developer were wrong in their planning decision regarding the distribution of traffic.
As part of our case, we called upon Mr. Lyle Massender of the Ottawa Carleton Regional Ambulance Service who testified that an access was necessary to provide prompt emergency services to Central Park residents. (Our regional Councillor Wendy Stewart reported just last month that our ambulance service is the worst in Ontario.) In addition, Chief of Police Brian Ford also testified on our behalf to say that an access was extremely desirable on Clyde Avenue. Both of these witnesses insisted on having a full vehicle access onto Clyde. They commented on how dedicated emergency accesses have proven to be ineffective and are more of an obstacle than anything else. Are city and region planners prepared to risk the lives of residents in this new development by not providing prompt emergency services?
We also introduced evidence that showed OC Transpo has agreed to provide bus service to this new development that will be less adequate than what was proposed in 1992. The region's official plan insists on bus service being improved, not worsened. Did the region make this concession so that an access onto Clyde would not have to be built? OC Transpo testified that they would definitely use an access onto Clyde to provide better service if it was built!
Some of the more important aspects of the hearing included testimony from a number of traffic experts. Our community had always been told by the city that we were going to be affected by less traffic with the new development plan. We discovered quickly in the hearing that this was not true.
We heard testimony that the intersections of Baseline/Clyde and Baseline/Merivale around the development were going to fail whether this new community was built-up or not. We also learned that when a regional road intersection fails, it is the major cause for cut through traffic in the surrounding communities. However, the city, region and developer were using this as an excuse not to build the access at Clyde and Maitland, claiming that the community on the west side (Copeland Park) would be impacted more by the traffic coming from the development than Carlington.
The truth of the matter is that the region has been neglecting the problems at these intersections, and decided to take the easy way out by directing all the traffic into our community. Their hope was to deal with the cut through traffic at some later date in the Carlington community, or possibly not even deal with it at all!
Since the developer doesn't own the land at the intersection of Clyde/Maitland, we've asked the OMB to impose an access onto Clyde Avenue just north of the intersection. We've also requested that a full intersection be built at Clyde/Maitland nonetheless, and to even consider an access onto Baseline between the Boy Scouts Building and Laurentian High School. And finally, we've requested that the region be ordered to make improvements at Clyde/Baseline for the benefit of all the surrounding communities. We're anxiously awaiting the OMB decision that is due sometime in early April, and will report back on that decision when it becomes available.