by Scott Moffatt, Candidate for City Council, Rideau-Goulbourn
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]With the October 22nd municipal election less than a week away, I wanted to take a moment and discuss Richmond. Throughout the campaign, there has been a lot discussed, concerns raised, promises made and information shared. I just want to focus on the facts.
Richmond’s growth plan was captured through the Community Design Plan (CDP), which was approved by Council in 2010, just a few short months before I was first elected. It is one of the newest Community Design Plans we have across the City. While the drafting of that plan had its ups and downs, the community was part of the process. It set out the parameters for growth and a vision for the village. In the Western Development Lands, it set out capacity of 2300 units. As it stands today, we are looking at approximately 1800 units either approved or applied for on those lands. The development on the Caivan/Mattamy lands will likely take 20 years to build. It’s significant growth, yes, but it is not the rapid growth we thought would happen or that we see elsewhere.
There have been rumours that infrastructure needs of the village are tied to a certain number of units being built. The truth is that the CDP projects scenarios for new roads but it does not set firm timelines. The CDP is a visioning document. These types of Plans are not set in stone and can be constantly evolving. Every new development will be required to undertake transportation studies. They cannot rely on the CDP and what it sets out. They must produce relevant, up to date data which supports their growth plan. The City updates its Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan approximately every five years. Needs are revised at that time. We need to deal with the transportation priorities as they come, not as they may be set out in a document that’s primary purpose is land use planning, not transportation planning.
In the end, growth brings us vibrancy. Growth has made Richmond what it is today. Richmond Oaks and King’s Grant don’t exist today if we didn’t embrace growth two decades ago. While Mattamy is not Talos and Caivan is not Cedarstone, the basic tenets of growth are still there in terms of business growth and new parks for the community to benefit from as a whole.
There are two road related infrastructure priorities when it comes to Richmond residents: the roads you take when you are leaving Richmond and the roads you live on in town. One aspect is growth related and the other is renewal.
There are several infrastructure growth projects scheduled for the next two years which will help Richmond residents get into the city. Currently, upgrades to the intersection at Fallowfield Road and Moodie Drive are underway. Slated to begin shortly is the Kanata South Link project which will see widening of Hope Side Road, Old Richmond Road and West Hunt Club along with roundabouts, including one at Hope Side Road and Old Richmond Road. Along Prince of Wales Drive, there will be new turning lanes added at Bankfield Road in 2019 and a roundabout at Barnsdale Road in 2020. This will help improve mobility for commuters.
Infrastructure renewal is always a key priority. Since 2010, there has been a 227% increase in annual renewal spending. Over the next two terms of Council, that spending growth on renewal will continue. Immediate priorities are Huntley Road and Fallowfield Road. Next up, the City has projected works planned for Colonel Murray, Hamilton, Cockburn, Strachan and McBean. Renewal projects recently include the Richmond Arena, the forcemain improvements and upgrades as well as the McBean Street bridge rebuild and other roads in the community.
Over the last term of Council, we have worked with communities to find opportunities to bring awareness to speed limits on our local roads. In a community like Richmond, many of the options are low cost, such as painting the speed limit on the road. Electronic speed display boards have been installed and more are on their way. The new ones are more effective so we will be transitioning to those and phasing out the amber coloured boards. Traffic calming is about raising awareness and that has been our focus. We work with residents to find the best solution. Admittedly, not every solution works and not every option fits. Sometimes, it takes time and we remain committed to working through those challenges.
In the three years prior to the 2010 election, property tax increases were approved in three successive years of 4.9%, 4.9% and 3.9%. Since that time, each year has seen a tax increase of at or near 2%. It created predictability but also created some pressures. We managed those pressures by streamlining the top end of the City’s bureaucracy in 2016, reduced the ratio of manager to staff from 4:1 to 9:1. This resulted in an annual operational savings of $20M.
This election campaign has also brought on discussions about the Gas Tax funding that the City receives from the Federal and Provincial Governments. Provincial gas taxes are legislated to be spent on transit while Federal gas tax is more flexible. That said, Council made the decision in 2005 to invest gas taxes into transit as well. Since then, it has been spent on ParaTranspo buses and it also fits into the long term financial plan for LRT. As a result, none of your property tax dollars are spent on LRT. In fact, Richmond residents pay far less for LRT than urban residents based on the transit levy that we pay into.
There is no question that the City could shift focus on where certain taxes are spent. What does that come with though? Since gas taxes are factored into other initiatives, the money has to come from somewhere. Whether it comes from the gas tax or your property tax, it has to come without cutting elsewhere. Instead, our focus has been on responsible use of what we do take in. With reasonable tax increases, the City has managed to increase spending on roads, bridges, parks and recreation facilities. The City has added to Ottawa Police and Ottawa Paramedic Services. We have managed to begin an LRT system that will benefit transit riders in Richmond in the years to come.
And on that note, let’s discuss the future of transit in the village. Our biggest issues with the 283 have been reliability downtown. The new LRT line will help improve that reliability in the downtown core. Extending rail to Bayshore in the next four years will further reduce the time 283 users spend on a bus. It may also increase ridership and thus bring an opportunity for increased service to the village alongside the anticipated growth. These are the keys we need to focus on in the coming years. How can we improve the 283? Is there demand for increased service in Richmond? At what cost? Let’s answer these questions together. In the first quarter of 2019, I will commit to bringing together the community and OC Transpo to have that discussion about the present and the future of transit service in Richmond.
In closing, I would like to use the Richmond Hub to talk about issues facing our community as I have done above. I haven’t campaigned on it or on the Richmond Facebook groups because I feel they are here for community discussion, not for personal promotion. I like to use these communication tools to respond to questions and to share information, not to put myself forward. In the coming years, my hope is to better utilize this forum to share information. That said, there are many residents who want information in their hands as well and we need to do that too. Whether that is working with the Messenger to expand their Richmond coverage or creating our own printed newsletter, I need to do more to put information in your hands.
It has been an absolute pleasure to serve your community and I hope to continue doing so.