March 6, 2006
Rural Summit Task Force E-Bulletin

By Shirley Dolan and Nick Tilgner
Citizen Members, Rural Summit Task Force

Task Force Prepares For Transfer of Responsibilities

The Rural Summit, held in November 2005, resulted in a host of recommendations designed to improve satisfaction with City services and policies for Ottawa’s rural residents. After the Summit, the Rural Summit Task Force took on the responsibility of ensuring that action was being taken.

Since then a lot has been accomplished. The City has made a new investment of nearly $2 million in rural priorities that will improve roads and ditches, expand broadband internet service and enhance the ability of City staff to respond to rural questions and concerns.

Major changes are also underway to strengthen rural voices at City Hall. By this spring, the new Rural Affairs Office will be up and running, the powers of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC) will be expanded, and a new Agriculture and Rural Affairs Advisory Committee will be established to give the City input from rural residents and business owners. The Task Force is getting ready to transfer its responsibilities to these groups, whose job it will be to work with staff and Council to keep rural priorities at the top of the City’s agenda.

Follow-up on Summit policy items
 
The Task Force has reviewed progress to date on all of the priority policy items outlined at the Summit, and is satisfied that actions are being taken to address rural concerns.

Policy Issues discussed at the Summit were divided into two major categories. The first was property rights/land use/environment, which was largely precipitated by identification of potential new areas of “provincially significant wetland” in rural Goulbourn. Although the proposed change in designation from a current "general rural" or "rural natural feature" has not been enacted in the City’s Official Plan, it has caused debate and concern among affected landowners.

To address community concerns, the City’s Planning and Growth Management department has developed a detailed resolution process in concert with the Task Force. Among other things, this process will ensure proper drainage management takes place, will put in place a process for open discussion with landowners on the impact on property values and land use, and will engage the Provincial Ministry of Natural Resources in a review of the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System. A special meeting of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee is being held at 7 p.m. on March 9th, 2006 at St. Philip's Church Hall, 129 Burke Street in Richmond to review the proposed process and to provide an opportunity to hear from affected landowners. For more information about the meeting’s agenda, visit ottawa.ca <http://www.ottawa.ca/>.

The second policy category was one often identified during consultation meetings - one size does not fit all - largely in relation to regulations. Rural citizens clearly expressed their concern about by-laws that did not reflect the rural condition, and were not in the best interest of rural people. Wherever possible, city staff is writing separate policy statements for urban and rural within the same by-law. And, the City has requested a change in Provincial legislation to allow regulations to be enacted differently based on geographic areas. This could provide for urban and rural distinctions when necessary, and could go as far as to allow different policies for different communities within the large geographic area that is rural Ottawa. The Province is in agreement with the City and has indicated its intent to provide enabling legislation. As soon as official notification is in place, staff will be in a position to work with the community to determine which by-laws may need review and change to ensure they reflect the interests of our rural communities.

The Task Force endorsed changes in the consultation process which would see consultation taking place at a time when farmers are not as busy, and agreed that material should be provided to rural citizens with sufficient lead time so that they can be informed prior to getting involved. It was noted by Task Force members that having an Agriculture and Rural Affairs Standing Committee with additional responsibilities and authority, supported by a well-balanced Advisory Committee would go a long way to resolving policy issues before they become problematic for rural people.

Supporting rural business
 
Excellent progress continues to be made on solutions for rural business. Draft guidelines have been developed for a funding program that will support projects by rural business organizations, fairs and farmers markets. The next step is to present the draft guidelines to these rural organizations and get their input on how this program can best suit their needs. The draft guidelines were presented at an open meeting on March 1st at Ben Franklin place. Following this feedback, changes will be made prior to the guidelines going forward to ARAC and Council for approval.

Ottawa’s “Buy local” strategy is also making good progress. An initial survey was sent to local restaurants to help promote the concept, and a “Buy local” Forum is planned for late March. The Forum is a joint effort of the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Food Security Council, and will provide an opportunity for local farmers to meet with restaurateurs and food retailers to identify barriers and opportunities for Ottawa’s large consumers to buy local. The Forum will also present an opportunity for farmers to make face-to-face connections with potential customers. A “Buy local” committee will be created to help set the direction for future activities, which could include the development of an “Ottawa Grown” brand and expansion of farmer’s market opportunities.

Bringing rural views to TOP

Rural voices are increasingly being heard. Task Force member Dave Baxter was appointed to The Ottawa Partnership (TOP) in January 2006 to represent the rural perspective at the table. TOP brings together Ottawa’s economic development agencies, City Government and the private sector around a common table to provide leadership and advice on actions required to strengthen Ottawa’s economy and enhance its quality of life.

Guiding principles for change in rural areas

One of the items that the Task Force has been advancing is a proposed Rural Policy Framework. The Framework outlines fundamental rural values and is designed to provide guiding principles to steer discussions and decisions on potential regulatory and policy changes that affect rural residents and businesses. The Framework has been revised by the Task Force, and will be forwarded to the new Rural Affairs Office and ARAC for further consideration and ratification. This is an important tool to ensure that rural needs continue to be considered in a consistent manner, and that common sense prevails.

Upcoming rural meetings

The next regular ARAC meeting will be held March 23 in Kanata. Residents are encouraged to attend. For more information about the meeting’s agenda and final location, visit ottawa.ca <http://www.ottawa.ca/> or call 3-1-1.

Questions?

If you have questions or issues related to the Rural Summit, contact Moira Winch in the Rural Summit Project Office by email at ruralsummit@ottawa.ca <mailto:ruralsummit@ottawa.ca> or by telephone at 580-2424, ext. 13360.

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Report to Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and Council, 1 March 2006:

PROPOSED WORKPLAN FOR RESOLUTION OF COMMUNITY WETLANDS CONCERNS:
http://www.ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/citycouncil/ara/2006/03-09/ACS2006-PGM-POL-0017.htm


 

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