Committee approves more flexible rules for altering right of way

A graphic with Ottawa City Hall is in the background. A vertical grey stripe and a horizontal dark green stripe are in the foreground with " Transportation Committee update" in the centre.

The City’s Transportation Committee today approved amendments to the Use and Care of Roads By-law that would provide residents and community groups more opportunities to undertake gardening projects and install free library boxes within the City’s right of way.

The right of way includes the travelled portion of a roadway as well as the sidewalk and boulevard area just beyond it. The current by-law is restrictive, to ensure the City retains control over considerations like grading, drainage, access to underground utilities and maintenance activities like plowing. The amended rules would retain that control but offer greater flexibility for residents.

The amended by-law would permit specified gardening activities within the right of way directly abutting a residential property, reflecting a trend away from grass and toward more naturalized areas. No permit would be required, but the amended by-law would prohibit use of hard landscaping materials, like stones and pavers, and prohibit consumable plants like herbs or vegetables, as well as noxious weeds or invasive species. The by-law would permit hand digging only, limit plant height to 0.75 metres, require sidewalks and roadways remain unobstructed, and set a minimum distance from infrastructure, boulevard trees and bus stops.

Free library boxes would also be permitted within a right of way that is both on a local road and directly abutting a residential property, to help promote literacy, increase a sense of community and diversify access to reading materials. No permit would be required, but residents would need to submit a signed letter of acknowledgement to the City before putting up a free library box, to ensure the guidelines and regulations are reviewed before installation. Permanent foundations would be prohibited, and libraries would need to be between 0.9 and 1.1 metres in height and kept in good repair.

The amendments would also allow retailers to sell merchandise on the sidewalk. This is similar to what was permitted on a temporary basis during the pandemic, to help mitigate limits on indoor capacity. Limited retail display and vending would be permitted within the right of way in commercially zoned areas in both the urban area and in serviced villages, provided a two-metre pedestrian clearway is maintained. No permit would be needed, but operators would have to submit a signed letter of acknowledgement to the City, and there would be limits on the size, duration and location of such activities.

The Committee received the Parking Services 2022 Annual Report(link is external), which outlines parking management activities in 2022 and provides details on planned capital spending and the projected long-term status of the parking reserve fund. The City manages 6,544 parking spaces, five parking structures, 11 surface parking lots and 5,570 bike parking spaces. Last year’s operating expenses were $14.1 million, but demand for both on-street and off-street parking rose, and parking generated $12.2 million in revenues. That’s a 26-per-cent increase over 2021 as parking demand continues to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The City contributed nearly $2.94 million to parking reserves and the current balance sits at $19.8 million. While revenues started to stabilize in 2022, uncertainty remains and maintaining a robust reserve fund will ensure funds are available for program-related capital expenses.

To encourage alternative transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the City continues to install new bike parking and invest in park-and-ride facilities. The City spent nearly $1.68 million on such sustainable transportation initiatives. In 2022, work on the Public Bike Parking Strategy and program involved installing 74 bike spaces via bike corrals, delivering 166 new parking spaces at 73 new bike racks, implementing a seasonal inspection process, repairing or replacing 178 bike racks and piloting a winter maintenance program to clear 85 bike racks at 39 locations. Other highlights include continuing a pilot to collect real-time data with cameras at surface lots, upgrading servers to better monitor usage at City parking lots, and supporting 12 newly installed electric vehicle charging stations in 2022.

The Committee also received a report summarizing temporary traffic calming measures(link is external) carried out at more than 1,600 locations in the previous term of Council. The report lists the measures available in the current term, in which Councillors can invest their annual budgets of $62,500 apiece.

The Committee approved delegating authority to staff to install all-way stops(link is external) that do not meet the criteria of the Council-approved warranting process, provided an all-way stop is recommended following an in-service road safety review. These reviews are in-depth engineering studies of existing roads that focus on locations with a high risk or occurrence of collisions that result in fatal or major injuries.

The Ministry of Transportation delivered a verbal presentation to the Committee about the preliminary design and environmental assessment study of a future interchange at Highway 416 and Barnsdale Road(link is external). Given the pace of growth in Barrhaven, especially south of the Jock River, the new interchange would improve highway access for the community and redirect trucking activity away from the Fallowfield Road interchange. The plan is estimated to cost $80 million, although no funding has been identified to advance the project to detailed design and implementation.

The annual Bruce Timmermans Cycling Awards were presented as well, recognizing outstanding contributions to cycling in the city. The Committee presented the individual award to Angela Guay, the first non-binary ambassador for the Somersault Multisport Event Series, where they work to encourage more women and gender non-conforming people to participate in traditionally male-dominated bike races and athleticism. The Committee presented the organizational award to Re-Cycles – a not-for-profit, community bike shop that provides affordable, refurbished bikes to the community along with low-cost, do-it-yourself access to a fully-equipped bike repair shop and skilled coaching.

Recommendations from today’s meeting will rise to Council on Wednesday, June 28.

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