The Wellington Village Community Association (WVCA) is a volunteer, non-profit community group of local residents that represents over 1,500 households in our neighbourhood.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Section 37 Agreements in Wellington Village

Dear Councillor Hobbs,

You have invited us to provide you with a list of community benefits that we would like to see in our neighbourhood under a section 37 agreement. While we are not opposed in theory to section 37 agreements, we do share many of the concerns expressed by the Federation of Citizens' Associations of Ottawa-Carleton on the City's "Guidelines and Protocol for the Implementation of Section 37 of the Planning Act" (the Guidelines). Our preference is therefore to deal with community benefits on a case-by-case basis and not provide you with a list.

We have several reasons for this position. First, we believe that a developer should not assume that section 37 is as simple as picking a community benefit off a list. We want developers to make section 37 proposals that represent good-faith attempts to engage with the community. In other words, we want to have the opportunity to try and ensure that there is some linkage and proportionality between the variance sought and the proposed community benefit. For example, a small plaza would be a great addition to our stretch of Wellington Street, but not if it is going to be in an out-of-the-way location, in permanent shade or next to a busy driveway.

Second, we note that, under principle 2.4 of the Guidelines, a benefit that is linked to a development in our neighbourhood could be provided on a "city-wide scale rather than necessarily in proximity to the development". We believe that by dealing with section 37 agreements on a case-by-case process we will have a better opportunity to try and balance the needs of our community and the needs of the City against the potential impact that the proposed variance may have on our community.

Third, we believe that case-by-case consultations and negotiations will allow for greater community involvement and will better accommodate the needs of the community over time. If a benefit is simply chosen off a list and presented to the community as something "chosen for them", there will be even more cynicism about planning and development than there already is. Moreover, there is no guarantee that any community benefits that our Board could choose for you today will reflect the priorities of the community when a possible agreement comes up five years from now. And there is certainly no guarantee that benefits chosen today will constitute a good trade-off for a major variance that no one expected.

Finally - and also with an eye to the future - we believe that dealing with section 37 agreements on a case-by-case basis will give us an opportunity to try and ensure that any community benefit that is located on private property will be properly secured against title to that property. Our concern here is that an agreement that binds the developer of a condominium may not bind the condominium corporation after the handover to the corporation.

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