NCC Watch

Working to consign the NCC to oblivion

Search string: "scott"

Matches found: 13

Friday, January 24, 2014

NCC board member recuses

The Citizen's David Reevely reports on conflicts of interest on the NCC board:

A National Capital Commission board member didn't know his private consulting firm worked for a landowner who stands to benefit from the city's western extension of its first light-rail line when he joined commission debates on it, NCC chairman Russell Mills said Friday.

Robert Tennant, co-founder of urban-planning firm FoTenn Consultants, should have known he had a conflict of interest between his private business and his public trust as an NCC board member, Mills said.

FoTenn, the city's largest urban-planning firm, works for numerous property developers, including a Toronto company that owns a strip mall right next to a place the city wants to put a new LRT station, near Richmond Road and Cleary Avenue. It needs the National Capital Commission's permission to use a strip of land near the Ottawa River for the billion-dollar project; the NCC board has been skeptical, demanding expensive changes to make the proposed line less intrusive on nearby property owners.

Tennant, a distinguished figure in Ottawa's development industry, was too busy to talk to the Citizen Thursday and cancelled an interview scheduled for Friday morning. Mills spoke on his behalf. He'd previously said that FoTenn's work for practically every large property developer in the city posed obvious challenges when Tennant was appointed to the NCC board in 2007, but he'd pledged to have nothing to do with any matter that came before the NCC that involved a FoTenn client.

The strip mall's owner, Torgan Group, is planning a redevelopment there and a FoTenn consultant, Brian Casagrande, lobbied city planners and spoke to a city council committee meeting in July about integrating Torgan's building with the potential new station. FoTenn also has working relationships with landowners near other potential stations and alternative routes.

The commission's board met in public on Wednesday and got an update on the city's western rail planning from deputy city manager Nancy Schepers. Tennant warned her not to skimp on the plans to pay for a further extension west to Bayshore mall that the city’s added to the plans in the last few months. Tennant quizzed deputy city manager Nancy Schepers about aspects of the city's plan but particularly praised some changes to the Cleary station, abutting FoTenn's client's property.

[...]because of the perception created by the Citizen's reporting, Mills said, "he will recuse himself from participation in any discussion or votes on the western LRT route."

Reevely "created the perception" the day before, when he highlighted FoTenn's connection to the LRT project:

NCC board members have repeatedly insisted the city spend more money to make the western rail extension more attractive and less intrusive on nearby landowners. A $900-million price estimate has risen to $980 million already, thanks to attempts to get the NCC's favour by partly burying the line on its property and sprucing up the line's new stations.

[...]Tennant's personal dealings were a concern when he was appointed, Mills acknowledged. After an exhaustive examination that included the federal government's ethics commissioner, it was decided he'd bow out when the commission's board took up an issue where FoTenn was directly involved, such as a proposed redevelopment of the islands in the Ottawa River. "He's been scrupulous about doing that," Mills said. But "I don't see any conflict here with western light rail. He doesn't have any clients dealing with that."

FoTenn actually has represented clients with projects around the planned western rail line, including right next to a proposed new station at Cleary Avenue and Richmond Road. FoTenn consultant Brian Casagrande addressed a city council meeting about it in July on behalf of a Toronto developer called Torgan Group, specifically about the site's connection to the train station. Casagrande also lobbied three senior city planners who report to Schepers, according to the city's lobbying registry.

At Wednesday's NCC meeting, Tennant praised tweaks the city has made to the design of that Cleary station.

FoTenn shepherded an application to redevelop land at Scott Street and McRae Avenue, steps from the Westboro transit station, for Bridgeport Realty. Under the city's plan, Westboro station is to get rail service to replace the Transitway.

FoTenn also works for Arnon Corp., whose holdings include a big property where the O-Train tracks cross Carling Avenue. A piece of that land, which Arnon wants to build on, is off limits in case the city needs it for an alternative rail route west. Tennant's fellow founding partner, Ted Fobert, has lobbied the city on that.

Citizen: NCC board member didn't know about firm's LRT-related work: Mills [24 January 2014]
Citizen: NCC board member has firm whose private clients stand to benefit from LRT route [23 January 2014]
Citizen: Tribal mentality breeds contempt for rules rest of us must obey [29 January 2014]

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From the Archives: Durrel, Pigott and Haydon have great plans

The Citizen has republished a blast from the past - the three heads of the over-governed metropolis reflect on Ottawa in 2000, from October 8, 1986:

About two kilometres from city hall, Pigott is in her downtown office talking about the NCC's mandate to plan Ottawa for all Canadians.

She is proud of the NCC's accomplishments, saying she doubts Canadians would have such a beautiful capital to boast about if there wasn't a federal commission overseeing planning of federal lands.

The NCC will continue to jealously guard its properties and parkland in order to develop or preserve them for the benefit of all Canadians, she says.

LeBreton Flats, one of the last vacant pieces of downtown property, will be developed with national and cultural themes in mind, she says. So would Victoria Island, Brewery Creek and Jacques Cartier Park in Hull.

One of her ideas for the LeBreton lands or perhaps Victoria Island is a series of pavilions representing the provinces. Here, history from all parts of the country would be on display, a project that Pigott says will be of great interest to children.

The federal Canlands property in the downtown core, eyed by Ottawa as the major solution to its parking woes, must also be planned with the attitude that only a project befitting the capital should be developed here.

Another NCC project is to develop a ceremonial route in time for the 1988 opening of the new National Gallery on Sussex and the Museum of Civilization in Hull.

The route would consist of Wellington Street, Sussex Drive, the Alexandra Bridge, Laurier Street in Hull and the Portage Bridge.

Pigott would also like to work with local government to see what can be done with Metcalfe Street, which she says has been ravaged by poor planning. She says if redeveloped properly, it could be turned into a "beautiful boulevard" that could serve as the gateway to Parliament Hill.

NCC plans also call for a new multi-million dollar headquarters that would incorporate three historic buildings facing Confederation Square. The three are the Central Chambers, Scottish Ontario Chambers and the small building in between.

Citizen: OTTAWA 2000: Durrel, Pigott and Haydon have great plans [4 September 2013]

Monday, February 25, 2013

History of the Vanier Parkway

First in a four part series, Vanier Now takes a look at the history of the Vanier Parkway - a creation of the Greber plan that saw rail lines throughout the city torn up and turned into arterial roadways.

Vanier Now: The History of the Vanier Parkway - Part One: Bytown and Prescott Railway Company [25 February 2013]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Watching another NCC blunder take shape on the Flats

City Journal columnist Mark Bourrie reflects on the NCC's plans for LeBreton Flats:

I'm all for putting rich people in grotesque buildings and over-charging them. However, that should be left to the private sector, especially the hotel industry. The Daly site was special, and it ended up being used in a way that benefited the NCC (which still holds the lease to the property), the developer, and the tenants. The rest of us were welcome to drop by and enjoy the shucking.

And that's what I suspect is brewing on LeBreton Flats. The "model home" near the war museum is ugly. The streetscape on the NCC's billboard facing Scott Street is cold, sterile, unpleasant, and unhappy-looking. And it shows the scene in the summer, when people are supposed to be having fun.

My bet: people had more fun on the flats in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were used as unofficial parkland. The festivals that used the property, the temporary Cirque de Soliel, the crowds that turned out to watch Canada Day fireworks, the campers, the happy dog walkers - they'll all go the way of the original flats.

And what will they be replaced with?

Something that will put money in the NCC's account, but will short-change the rest of us.

City Journal: Watching another NCC blunder take shape on the Flats [12 Apr 2007]

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

NCC has no intention of cleaning up toxic soil

The Citizen reports that the NCC admits the Scott Paper land is contaminated, but they were just going to use it for a waterfront park anyways:

The National Capital Commission says it has no intention of cleaning up the Scott Paper site in Gatineau, 85 per cent of which an environmental study found to be contaminated.

Instead, the federal agency says it plans to spend $3.8 million to contain the contamination at the eight-hectare site on the Ottawa River, and use it for a waterfront park when the land becomes available in 25 years.

In a letter in today's Citizen, NCC chairman Marcel Beaudry acknowledges that the site is contaminated.

But Mr. Beaudry says the soils are not considered hazardous enough to merit a full cleanup, which an environmental study says would cost about $34 million.

"It is not the intention of the NCC to spend $34 million to clean up the Scott Paper lands. ... The sampled soils contained contamination but were not found to be hazardous waste for the purposes of cleanup," Mr. Beaudry wrote.

Asked if the letter meant the NCC would not clean up the site at all, spokeswoman Eva Schacherl faxed this response: "The NCC does not plan to use the site for excavation and construction development. The estimated cost of environmental risk management for the purposes of using the site as parkland, which is the NCC's intention, including risk assessment, soil capping, installation of soil and groundwater barrier, and groundwater treatment, is $3,864,000."

However, according to documents obtained by the Citizen, the containment costs could be as high as $23.6 million. A document prepared by NCC Environmental Services dated May 26, 2003, says "depending on results and identified land use," the risk assessment, which includes capping and barriers, would cost between "$3,864,000 and $23,568,000."

Some environmentalists, however, say the numbers game should not obscure the fact that it is wrong, even irresponsible, for the NCC to buy contaminated land that could pollute the Ottawa River and surrounding buildings and not clean it up completely.

Citizen: NCC has no intention of cleaning up toxic soil on Scott Paper lands [26 Jan 2005]

Friday, January 14, 2005

NCC's Scott Paper site oozes chemicals

The Citizen reports today that cleaning up the Scott Paper land could cost the NCC $34 million:

To fix environmental problems at the site, the consultants proposed two solutions, the less costly of which includes soil capping, a groundwater barrier and on-site groundwater treatment over five years. This measure would meet federal standards for an urban park and cost $3.8 million.

The other proposal is a full cleanup that involves digging up the site and clearing the contaminants, at a cost of $33.7 million. The land won't be developed for a park for at least 25 years and NCC spokeswoman Eva Schacherl said a decision would be made at that time.

The federal agency acquired the land in 2003 as part of its grand vision to transform the Ottawa River shoreline and beautify the nation's capital. The plan includes an aboriginal centre on the east end of Victoria Island and a string of waterfront shops and restaurants on the west end. An urban park, museum and federal office building on Chaudiere Island would round out the rebuilding.

The NCC bought the site "as is" for $36 million from George Weston Limited and leased it back to the company for $29 million over 25 years. According to documents obtained for the Citizen by researcher Ken Rubin under the Access to Information legislation, George Weston, in turn, leased the land back to Scott Paper for more than $70 million over 25 years.

The NCC also agreed to commemorate the role of the Weston family at the site, possibly with a plaque. In 2028, Scott Paper would have to demolish its buildings and hand over the site to the NCC. However, George Weston turned down an NCC request to guarantee that Scott Paper will leave the site as required, suggesting the agency might have to "enlist the assistance of the courts to obtain possession of the site."

Ms. Schacherl said the NCC considers the purchase of such an important urban site a good deal for taxpayers. She said Treasury Board and the auditor general approved the deal.

Citizen: NCC's Scott Paper site oozes chemicals [14 Jan 2005]

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Flush with government cash

Sun columnist Greg Weston has more on the NCC's purchase of the Scott Paper plant in Gatineau:

...the NCC purchased the eight-hectare site of the Scott Paper plant last October from the grocery and industrial conglomerate, Weston Inc.

But having paid Weston $36 million for the property, the NCC then leased it back to the company for 25 years for a total amount over that time which, the commission claims, has "a net present value" of $17 million.

For the lucky folks at Weston Inc., the deal effectively provided $36 million cash to invest at returns easily more than double what it is costing in lease payments.

The NCC claims the deal was essential to grab the property now before someone else got it (notwithstanding almost certain expropriation for anyone stupid enough to try to buy the site).

Sources familiar with the transaction, however, say no matter how much the NCC wanted the property, the truth is no one in the Liberal government was about to kick 500 Quebec workers out of their jobs.But there's more.

In one very important clause in the deal, the NCC agreed to take over the property completely on an "as-is basis at its own risks and peril."

Translation: Canadian taxpayers 25 years from now will be on the hook for any and all environmental cleanup from 100 years of chemical and industrial uses.

And finally, there is the small matter of the monument.One of the 17 pages in the agreement is devoted entirely to the terms and conditions of the Weston family building a monument to themselves.This unspecified "suitable commemoration" will be erected in the future park whenever the site stops being used to make toilet paper.

The NCC, on behalf of future generations of angry taxpayers, has agreed to provide "an appropriate and conspicuous location for it (the monument) ... where it can be readily visited or observed by visitors to the property."

Sun: Flush with government cash [11 April 2004]

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Arrogant NCC now targets key islands

Researcher Ken Rubin critiques the NCC's development projects in the Citizen:

As the luxury condo slab on the Daly Building site rises and the start of the LeBreton Freeway sends cars speeding on their way, we are being saddled with expensive developments that are neither balanced nor attractive.

They benefit a few, ignore the environment and cater to the well off.

Even the crazy car drive down Island Park Drive isn't good enough for the NCC, so it's putting roadway markers and a new traffic divider along the way to remind taxpayers that it can do as it pleases. Their power is evident too in their cutting several new roads in or through the Gatineau Park that will further carve up the capital's only wilderness park.

The recent NCC announcement that it is spending millions of dollars to acquire the Scott Paper land on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River (with the actual transfer date being 25 years from now), may, on the surface, seem out of character. But don't expect that riverside land to be developed as one big green space beyond 2028, or to be without significant development projects. They could include more of the same type of tacky sightseeing pavilions as the Canada and the World one spoiling the Ontario side of the river next to Rideau Falls.

Let's also not forget that it was the NCC that adamantly resolved to sell off a large chunk of riverside green space, the Moffatt Farm, along the Rideau River, so that now, despite opposition, a mundane housing development is proceeding.

Indeed, it's the NCC's penchant to plan intensive development for the capital's three tiny islands in the Ottawa River that symbolizes just how out of control the NCC now is. Declassified NCC documents that I've obtained under the Access to Information Act show how the natural environmental settings of these islands takes second place to seeing how many structures with commercial payoffs can be stuffed in.

Take the four-hectare Bates Island, located off the Champlain Bridge. The NCC is not content to enhance the island's focus point for strolling, kayaking and fishing. Instead, it has pre- development infrastructure plans that call for spending millions of dollars for building, with a private developer, a hotel of up to 60 rooms that will occupy both sides of the bridge roadway.

Filling in the island space would also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in cable and natural-gas lines. In addition, there would be increased traffic and up to 53 new parking spaces.

Similarly, Victoria and Chaudiere Islands, off the Chaudiere Bridge near Parliament Hill, would be overdeveloped.

The recent NCC studies there envisage not just a long-promised aboriginal centre, but possibly a hotel, government office space, recreation complex, and even a junior college. Again, there would be increased traffic flows and costly infrastructure installed, such as new water mains and sewage pipes. Even the proposed aboriginal centre would be a large structure and is slated to be more of an institutional social-service building than a meeting place.

Citizen: Arrogant NCC now targets key islands [8 Oct 2003]

Thursday, October 2, 2003

NCC pays $36 million for Scott Paper land

The NCC has followed through on its plan to buy the Scott Paper land in Gatineau. Chairman Beaudry somewhat arrogantly observed that "a lot of highrise condos could have been built on it, which would not, in our view, have served the purposes of what we want to do with that part of the capital of Canada." People living in the heart of the capital - can't have that. Not when they have "events and activities of national significance" planned.

The land will be leased back to Scott Paper for the next 25 years -- to quote the Ottawa Business Journal, "don't expect to go walking the dog yet." Who are they kidding?

CBC: NCC pays $36 million for Scott Paper land [2 Oct 2003]
OBJ: NCC buys Scott Paper [2 Oct 2003]
Radio-Canada: La CCN achete les terrains de Papiers Scott [2 Oct 2003]
NCC Press Release [2 Oct 2003]
Sun: Flush with government cash [11 Apr 2004]

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

NCC gets permission to do something, possibly

We're not sure where the actual news item here is. Apparently, the federal government has given itself permission, via the NCC, to develop land it doesn't own, but not in the "foreseeable future." But hey! The NCC's created a web page to get us all jazzed, so a few bureaucrats were kept busy for a few hours this week. And although nothing's happening, you can be damn sure they are consulting the public about it. The preferred option is, wait for it, a "park." Maybe a "museum." Whatever it becomes, it will "provide a dramatic stage for events and activities of national significance," bien sur. It's all part of a much larger plan, however, so we can all sit back, relax, and wait to see what Scott Paper extracts from everybody's favourite real estate mark, the NCC.

Citizen: NCC in talks to buy 'shadow of the Hill' [25 Jun 2003]
CBC: NCC gets OK to buy Scott Paper site [25 Jun 2003]
Citizen: Ottawa's waterfront transformation [3 Jul 2003]

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

NCC's fees scare off tourney

The Citizen reported today that William Wilson Group, organizers of a national street hockey tournament, have dropped Ottawa from its list of venues because of the National Capital Commission. While other Canadian cities are charging on the order of $500 for the use of streets for the tourney, the NCC wants $7,000 to use the Queen Elizabeth Driveway, and also want the group to become a "platinum" member of the Friends of the Rideau Canal for a mere $3,000. The organizers expect between 3,000 and 5,000 players in each city.

[Company co-CEO Scott] Hill said he doesn't want a quarrel with the federal agency because Ottawa is an important location, and his group wants to make the city part of the circuit. Still, he said the only reason William Wilson [Group] pulled out was the NCC's financial demands -- including, he insists, a request to become a member of the Friends of the Rideau Canal at extra cost.

He said when the company told the NCC it could not join the Friends of the Rideau Canal -- which helps raise funds for canal maintenance -- officials cooled "to the point that they wouldn't return our calls and e-mails. I didn't mention it (in the e-mail) because I didn't think it was in our interest to push too much. We think this program is good for kids and good for Ottawa. We are not looking to burn bridges, we are looking to build relationships."

Citizen: NCC's 'exorbitant fees' scare off street hockey event [26 Mar 2003]
Centretown News: Facilities rental cost offside, says organizer [11 Apr 2003]

Friday, December 22, 2000

NCC hands heritage sites over to Hull

The Citizen reports on a deal between the NCC and Hull:

The National Capital Commission yesterday handed over several buildings, including historic Scott House, to Hull under a deal in which the city will maintain several NCC parks for 20 years. The cost to the city will be $3.4 million.

Under the agreement, Hull will acquire Scott House, built in 1863 by Richard William Scott, who served as mayor of Ottawa. With the heritage house comes the Gamelin Experimental Farm, on which the house and several buildings sit. The city also gets the Connor Building, a former metallurgical plant.

In return, Hull will maintain several NCC properties including the Gatineau Parkway, Char de combats Park, Portageurs Park and Lac de Fees Park. Hull will pay maintenance costs of about $170,000 a year.

Citizen: NCC hands heritage sites over to Hull [22 Dec 2000]

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Local Liberal MPs content with NCC

No surprise here, the Citizen asked Ottawa area MPs what they thought of the recently released report on the NCC and found overwhelming apathy:

A major report from the National Capital Commission on how to improve its relations with local governments and citizens has been available for almost a week now, yet most Ottawa-area members of Parliament have been slow to find out what's in it. The few who have read the report seem strangely content with the idea of the NCC safeguarding its habit of secrecy.

Ottawa Centre MP Mac Harb, whose constituency includes Sparks Street and LeBreton Flats, insists that opening NCC meetings to the public would politicize its work and make it impossible to carry out the NCC's mandate on behalf of all Canadians. If some of its decisions anger his constituents, well, Mr. Harb considers that a small price to pay for all the NCC's good work in the region.

Eugene Bellemare (Ottawa-Orleans) agrees. He says the report means there will be more openness at the NCC than before, although people with "extreme views" will complain.We disagree with these MPs' analysis. But at least they were willing to share their views when we asked.

The Ottawa-area's 10 Liberal MPs (Scott Reid, Lanark-Carleton's Canadian Alliance rookie, gets left out here) will gather today for their weekly regional caucus meeting. We hope that they have all, at last, found time to review the $250,000 NCC report so they can discuss it with intelligence and even suggest improvements.

Take Ottawa West-Nepean's Marlene Catterall, who told the Citizen during the recent election campaign that "no one has worked harder" than she to pry open the secrecy surrounding the NCC. Fine, then what does she think about the recommendation that the NCC establish a Planning Advisory Committee with the mayor of the new City of Ottawa and the chairman of the Outaouais Urban Community? Do the suggestions that the NCC hold an annual general meeting open to the public, as well as semi-annual public consultations with local interest groups, satisfy her?

Quite frankly, we don't know; Ms. Catterall never bothered to get back to us. Nor did Marcel Proulx (Hull-Aylmer) or Robert Bertrand (Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle). Gatineau MP Mark Assad did return our call -- to advise us that he wanted to consult with his Liberal colleagues today before giving his opinion. (Whatever happened to independent thinking?)

Ottawa-Vanier's Mauril Belanger also called back, to tell us he was still in the process of reading the 86-page report and probably wouldn't be ready to comment until the end of the week.

That's better than Government House Leader Don Boudria, the long- time MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, whose office informed us that the minister would not comment because the NCC comes within the mandate of his cabinet colleague, Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. But fellow cabinet minister John Manley (Ottawa South) doesn't share Mr. Boudria's qualms about jurisdiction. The foreign minister's office told us he was encouraged the NCC board had accepted all 11 recommendations, which suggested the NCC was "moving towards enhancing openness and the consultative process."

That view was shared by Nepean-Carleton's David Pratt, who wants to give the NCC a couple of years to see whether the recommended changes work in practice.

The NCC's impact on the Ottawa area is too important for so many local MPs to be so passive about a major report on its future. If the local Liberal caucus doesn't care about pressing NCC accountability to the public, neither will the agency itself.

The regional Liberal caucus has a history of parroting the NCC line instead of representing their constituents' concerns.

Citizen: Ottawa's passive majority [13 Dec 2000]