ISSUE REVIEW: Rural Council is shocked by City mishandling of wetland designations in Goulbourn ...


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   SHORT WETLAND QUIZ:
 
               Related to the two landscapes, pictured below...

1. Which property is newly designated "wetland"?, and,
   2. Which property is city-approved "development land"?

 

 

South side of Flewellyn Road, at Conley Road

 

North side of Hazeldean Road, at Main Street


You guessed it!

 

The City is attempting to downgrade the manicured lawns and dry forest of the private residential property (shown above left), by re-designating it from General Rural (RU2) to "Wetlands", thus reducing its resale value by approximately 85%.

 

Meanwhile, not too far away, the City is simultaneously upgrading this wetland property --with its wall-to-wall cattails-- (shown above right), located at the entrance to Stittsville ...for development into housing and other commercial use.


To make matters even worse, many of the more than fifty private property-owners, with lands similar to that shown on the left, are being subjected to "contrived" wetlands designations by a series of City maneuvers that landowners consider, at very least, unfair, but some say is more likely the result deliberate backroom connivance.

There are several points at issue:

Drainage failures abound:
City drainage failures are causing seasonal, (and in some cases, year-round), flooding of portions of many of the subject lands. Under the Drainage Act, the City is responsible for maintaining proper drainage. It is NOT doing that. The area in question has experienced years of City neglect, even after repeated requests for proper ditch maintenance to remove accumulating water that has been redirected to the Fernbank Road and Flewellyn Road areas from development projects to the north, (projects that were largely built on true wetlands).

The City has an obligation to its ratepayers to return these downstream properties to their original un-flooded state before ANY honest and fair evaluation of their wetland potential can be considered.


WOULD THE CITY'S ROADS AND DITCHES EXPERTS PLEASE EXPLAIN WHY THESE INCREASING FLOWS, THROUGH DECREASING CULVERT SIZES WOULD NOT CAUSE FLOODING OF PRIVATE PROPERTIES?

Upstream flows from a 7'x5' culvert crossing Fernbank Road collect more water from inlets along the unopened road allowance, (shown at left), then cross Flewellyn Road and continue through a 4' culvert, then proceed along Conley Road, having to pass through a 3' culvert, before making a 900 turn to the right, pouring into the overgrown Hobbs Drain (shown at right).

 
Unopened road allowance on north side of Flewellyn Road, just before crossing to south.   Overgrown opening to Hobbs Drain as it heads westerly from its Conley Road starting point.

Working behind the backs of impacted landowners is unacceptable:
The fact that the City had secretly worked with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) and Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for close to two years, to plan wetland re-designations on specific properties, before informing residents of its intention to re-designate these private properties, appears dishonest. Given that this clandestine project is now seriously tainted as being unethical, the City should cease and desist its wetlands acquisition project in this area, and begin an open and transparent review of the matter, some years down the road, after the City's own drainage problems have been corrected.

City must develop a policy for fair compensation before playing 'Robin Hood in reverse':
The fact that the City was doing all of this secret planning, while at the same time was destroying hundreds of acres of TRUE WETLANDS in the Stittsville area for development use, also appears to have created a distrustful double standard. It's a sort of 'Robin Hood in reverse: Rob from the poor, and give to the rich' scenario. If the City wishes to artificially create replacement wetlands, then it should first develop a policy of fairly compensating landowners for their losses in property values. (Anything short of that smacks of fascism.)

"Complexing" not legitimately used in this case:
The overused buzzword in all of this is “COMPLEXING”, used to describe connectivity of one recognized wetland with other potential wetland sites. The arbitrary distance of 750 Metres is used to apply wetland designations to new properties with very little, if any, real science or detailed study to back it.

“Complexing” may have limited application in a legitimate wetland context, but used as a ruse to re-designate non-wetland properties to wetland designations by mere use of the term --rather than through the application of scientific diligence-- is a scientifically and morally specious exercise and a fraud.

Given the almost confluent strings of cattails (and other wetland flora) in Goulbourn's badly neglected municipal drains and roadside ditches (a serious degradation since amalgamation), and following the above mentality to its ridiculous endpoint, one could easily argue that there are sufficient grounds to re-designate ALL of rural Goulbourn as a significant wetland area.

That, to a lesser degree, is exactly what the City and its cohort agencies (the RVCA and MNR) are effectively trying to do when they “complex” new wetland designations from their aerial ‘wish lists’ of properties they malevolently seek to re-assign ---in total absence of on-the-ground science or examination of City drainage maintenance deficiencies.

Conflicts of Interest are especially worrisome in Goulbourn's case:
Finally, it has to be stated that the negatively impacted Goulbourn residents feel doubly disadvantaged because the most targeted area of the City for its ("Subwatershed Reach 2") contrived wetlands replacement assault by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) and Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) ---at the behest of the City--- is Goulbourn ward, the Councillor of which: sits as Vice-Chair of the RVCA.

The ratepayers who are victims of this clandestine land grab feel that the Councillor’s work on behalf of the RVCA, puts her in direct conflict with the landowners’ interests, when it is actually the ratepayers who pay her salary, not the RVCA. Residents not only feel abandoned and unrepresented by their Councillor, but they feel that their interests are actually being sabotaged and undermined by this grave conflict situation.

The whispered fear of the rural property owners is that their land is the Councillor’s sacrificial lamb, or appeasement offering, for the 50% lost quota of wetlands (3% vs. 6% according to the RVCA) that may have been promised in trade for the exceptionally high Ward-6 loss of true wetlands bordering Stittsville, that has been turned over to development interests.


ONE MORE STITTSVILLE WETLAND CONVERTED TO DEVELOPMENT*

 

BEFORE

 

AFTER


 

*FAIR SOLUTION?...

Perhaps the City should require developers of wetlands to pay the cost of purchasing equivalent acreage of replacement wetlands out of their own profits, rather than have the City simply "steal" it, at the expense of lost property values to small local property owners.

That way, the small landowners could be paid fair market prices for their lands, and the City and its 'sub-agency', the RVCA (and others such as MNR), could flood all they like, to artificially create their desired replacement wetlands.


Links to Related Elements of the Story:

Aug 24 - 2005    Two daily newspapers report on land stripping defense move
Aug 22 - 2005    Lack of trust of city's motives given as reason for clearing of land
Aug 16 - 2005    Goulbourn Landowners Group invite LLA to share ideas at presentation
Aug  8 -  2005    City backs off on wetland designations - for now - The Stittsville News
Aug  9 -  2005   LETTER: Complexing is a violation of natural justice - The Stittsville News
Aug  9 -  2005   LETTER: Not a wetland! - The Stittsville News
Aug  7 -  2005   THE POLITICS OF WETLAND PROTECTION - The Ottawa Citizen
Aug  5 -  2005   Goulbourn residents voice concern with city decision-making - OVN
July 26 -  2005   There is a definite dual standard here - The Stittsville News
July 19 -  2005   650 acres of land are dry forest, not wetland - The Stittsville News
July  4 -  2005   Wetlands Designation Problems outlined in position paper presented to City
June 8  - 2005   Rural Council Protest Rally at City Hall - (Go to presentation re: wetlands)
May 16 - 2005   How farmland became wetland - from The Ottawa Citizen
May 3 -   2005   Heritage farm threatened by city land grab - LETTER: The Stittsville News
May 3 -   2005   Rural Goulbourn residents are being robbed - The Stittsville News
Aug 4 -    2004  Report on the LLA Meeting in Richmond - re: "Jock River Reach 2"

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