The Overbrook Community Association successfully held its Annual General Meeting on November 20. At the meeting, the Community Association formally passed a motion to ask that the City of Ottawa's "Mature Communities" Bylaw apply to Overbrook. The Bylaw, which came into effect June 2015, does not apply to Overbrook. The goal of the Bylaw is to ensure that new infill projects respect the established character of the "streetscape" in a neighborhood. The Bylaw addresses three aspects: the front yard, parking, and the location of the front door.
Under the Bylaw, new infill projects must provide a front yard that is consistent with those on the street. If neighbors have a front yard, then developers must provide a front yard (not a parking spot or a driveway). Parking is permitted, but, it must be on the lot in a way that is consistent with the neighboring houses. If the neighboring doors are on the front of the house, new entrances must also be located on the front of the house.
In order to consider this issue, the Association's Planning and Development Committee hosted a meeting on September 17, during which Alain Miguelez, City of Ottawa Planning and Growth Management Department, presented information to the community and answered questions on the subject. The participants expressed enthusiasm for having the Bylaw apply to Overbrook. Subsequently, the Committee considered resident input and consulted with colleagues from another community Association. After wide consultation, the Planning and Development Committee recommended that the Community Association seek approval for asking the City to apply the Mature Neighborhoods Bylaw to Overbrook.
"We are extremely pleased to take this action in an effort to protect the unique character of our neighbourhood," stated Rawlson King, President of the Overbrook Community Association. "Overbrook has a long history and heritage which we feel can be preserved through the adoption of this Bylaw."
During the meeting, the Community Association also reiterated its support for fair and quick resolution of the Overbrook urban lane pilot project. In October, after 22 months, the City presented the Association with an estimated purchase price for the parcels of land behind the urban lane pilot block properties. The City also rejected the Association's request that the purchase costs be added to property tax bills payable over a 10 year period.
When the Association looked at the implications of the projected costs, it became evident that many homeowners on the urban lanes purchase pilot block and on the remaining blocks would be unable to meet these costs. Consequently, we continue to ask that our Councillor represent us in the strongest possible terms as we negotiate with City staff to find a way to the settle this issue.
Recently, members of the Association met with Councillor Nussbaum to explore ways to reduce the purchase costs for the 18 homeowners on the pilot block. The committee is planning a meeting with these homeowners in the near future and will be reporting back to the community with any new developments as they occur.
The Association also indicated its intention on extending its representation to the Castle Heights neighborhood during the meeting. Castle Heights is a family-friendly neighbourhood east of St. Laurent Boulevard that extends to north of MacArthur Ave. The move will extend a strong voice to the that quiet neighbourhood, defined by its mature trees, beautiful parks, schools, and shopping.
At the meeting a slate of Board members were acclaimed for our 2015-2016 term, which include: David Behn, Wendy Dennys, Marie-Anne Dion, Rawlson King, Carole-Ann Larose, Joanne Lockyer, Jo Stinson, Gabriel de Varennes and Patrick Venier. We thanked Shelia Perry, OCA Past President and current VP at the Federation of Citizen Associations of Ottawa for her continued service to our community. We also thank the retiring Board members for the 2014-2015 term: Jan Ardiel, Marie-Caroline Badjeck, Malcolm Gibb, Réal Lambert, Charlotte Masemann, Victoria McMullen and Christine Sharp.
The meeting also focused on the potential of youth in our community and featured updates from the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre, concerning a new youth strategy for our neighbourhood. We also heard from Minwaashin Lodge, Andrew Fleck Child Care Services, Ottawa Champions, AlivEducation, and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. We would like to thank Aline Abdulnour (Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre), Howard Adler (Minwaashin Lodge), Lyne Tremblay (Andrew Fleck Child Care Services), Ben Hodge (Ottawa Champions), Dr. Monjur Chowdhury (AlivEducation) and OCDSB Trustee Chris Ellis their presentations. We would especially like to thank Councillor Nussbaum, and Jesse Cressman-Dickinson from his office, for attending. The presentations from the featured speakers are available below.
Overbrook has made tremendous strides in the past year. Our Annual Garage Sale and Clean-Up Event on May 9 had a positive impact on both the environment and the beauty of our neighbourhood. At our annual Overbrook Community Day over 500 people enjoyed a sunny day of family fun. Our community also became home to the Ottawa Champions, a new professional baseball team that nearly made it to the playoffs. The Champions, and their mascot Champ, have been an extremely supportive, charitable force in our community, providing numerous free and discounted tickets to Overbrook residents over the season.
The Association welcomed new infrastructure developments to the area. We applauded the opening of the $12-million Coventry Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge in February, which provides an important link to the VIA train station, the Trainyards, baseball stadium and the future LRT station. In July, the City broke ground on a $9.2-million multi-use pedestrian bridge connecting Overbrook to Sandy Hill. Construction is slated to be completed by 2016; we were pleased to participate in the City’s official commemorative naming process. Another community-building development was undertaken in October when the Sens Foundation, along with the Trinity Development Group and the City of Ottawa, held a breaking ground on the City’s sixth SENS RINK Project in Overbrook Park. The project is a state-of-the-art outdoor rink, ready for use this December, that will promote physical activity, recreation and social development by getting youth more active and engaged.
In terms of youth, the OCA has supported the Community Development Framework in the development of a Neighbourhood Youth Strategy. Previous crime reports have noted that “youth not attending school” has been a significant predictor of overall criminal activity. Statistics show that 65 percent of all crime in our ward is committed by youth, which is higher than the city average. Consequently, we have been working in conjunction partners including the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, Ottawa Community Housing and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, under the leadership of the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre (RRCRC), to explore new programming for at-youth risk, including the extension of the Students Will All Graduate (SWAG) program. SWAG provides students with access to mentors, academic support from teachers, peer support and recreation programs. It has been described as a “homework club on steroids” that ensures youth in middle school obtain enough credits to advance to high school. Research has determined that if enough credits are obtained early, especially if students successfully finish grades 9 and 10, then the chance of them graduating and staying out of trouble increases significantly.
OCA has been part of the response to violence by speaking to the media, asking for more police presence, supporting the development of a "post-incident neighborhood protocol," and advocating for the formation of tenant associations in our Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods. We held a special meeting on February 19 to discuss reducing crime in the area and learned that due to our continuing efforts, including reinvigorated Neighbourhood Watch initiatives over the past two years, Overbrook saw a 17 percent reduction in its number of police calls from 2013 to 2014. During that time, residential break and enters in the area also decreased by 31 percent, and thefts from vehicles went down 50 percent, according police statistics.
In the spirit of encouraging youth, we invited Jamaal Jackson Rogers, or JustJamaal The Poet to perform spoken word poetry. When asked what message he might like to convey to the young people of Overbrook, Jamaal mentioned four key ideas:
In terms of development, Overbrook continues to oppose “spot zoning” that is inconsistent with zoning by-laws and the City’s Official Plan. We believe that land use should be consistent and in conformity with existing City policy. Consequently, the OCA supports the creation of a new City-led Community Design Plan (CDP) for Overbrook. Early this year, the OCA reiterated its request to Councillor Nussbaum that the City Planning and Growth Management Department include Overbrook among communities for which a City-led CDP is created in 2015. With high levels of intensification and development occurring in Overbrook, we believe that such a plan is essential to guide future development in our community, especially since such a study has not been conducted since 1979.
In terms of social cohesion and engagement, we are working to bring all people and groups in our neighborhood under one collective “community tent.” We have a productive working relationship with the new Ward 13 Councillor Tobi Nussbaum, and his responsive staff, along with our new OCDSB trustee, Chris Ellis. We welcome the efforts of dedicated people who work to better our community every day. Examples include Dr. Monjur Chowdhury, who has established a homework club at the Overbrook Community Centre designed to improve the Math and English skills of children from low-income families. The Twice Upon a Time initiative is bringing free books to kids at the Centre every Saturday. Board members and residents are working tirelessly every day to improve the quality of life of this community, for that I commend them and their efforts.