Creating a Park
The City owns or has acquisition rights to about 1000 acres of Canadian Shield forest land in the north end of urban Kanata, but as the surrounding properties are being developed the areas that the City owns, which should congeal into an outstanding urban natural park, are being broken into separate pieces with little attention being given to providing for the obvious need for connectivity. Some of the issues are being taken to the OMB.
Earlier reports on the Special Study Area
Photographs of the forest area
Within the Special Study Area the properties are owned or controlled by two groups. The largest area (the southern block) is controlled by the Regional Group, and the northern triangle is owned by Kanata Highlands Properties. The following map shows their respective areas, with contours to show the topography, which is important to the plans for a park. The highlands are the Canadian Shield forest area, and the low lands are for the most part cleared areas of farm land. There are two exceptions to this, one being the "compensation land", which is a treed area west of the Hydro cut (the vertical red line) in line with the wetlands that cross the middle of the map. The other is a partially overgrown area of low land within the KHP triangle that KHP wants to develop. Although that land is not a part of the highland it has been included as part of the NEA area defined by Brunton because he simply followed the tree line in defining that NEA area. In return for the right to develop that land KHP has proposed to give the City a strip of land to provide connectivity to the "compensation land" to the south, plus the highlands in the upper third of the triangle (total 20 acres), plus a further 126 acres that would provide a large highland area to the north connecting to the South March Highlands. Together with the lands to be assigned to the City in the KNL property on the east side of the Hydro cut this would create the basic elements of an integrated park. However, the various components of this park are not well connected together and the future of the large highland forest within the Regional land needs to be properly considered.
There are four possible combinations of how these two areas might be dealt with:
(1) Leave the urban boundary in its previous location, along the Hydro cut. The developers would only be able to build on large estate lots, or they could simply hold on to the land for a few more years, at which time the urban boundary will probably move out to (or beyond) Huntmar Drive. The City has already indicated its willingness to move the urban boundary to encompass all of the forest area, so there would be little reason to object to such an additional expansion at that time.
If the OMB were to rule that the boundary should remain where it is then the KHP offer would be rejected. If the City wants to develop the land in the future it would have to purchase that same land. It would be politically difficult to justify the purchase of land that had previously been offered to the City for free, and by the time the issue arises again the pressure to develop will be much stronger. Almost certainly, the consequence of this choice would be the destruction of all of the forest area, in the process destroying the hope of creating a park that links the existing City holdings of forest lands.
Since the City's Official Plan made a provision for the potential move of the boundary to encompass any all or part of the Special Study Area it is questionable whether it could be successfully argued that the boundary should not be moved on the grounds that the OP does not permit such an expansion. However, a case could be made for the need to protect valuable natural heritage land in either block.
(2) Exclude the KHP land but include the Regional land within the boundary. This was the staff recommendation, which was turned down by the Planning and Environment Committee. This would also require that the KHP offer be rejected with the same consequences as are outlined above, except that the Regional land, which contitutes most of the total SSA land, would be developed immediately. From the public's point of view, this is by far the least attractive of the four possibilities.
(3) Include the entire SSA within the boundary. This was the recommendation of the Planning Committee, and was approved by Council. Under this option the KHP offer would be accepted, thus preserving the connection between the South March Highlands and a large highland area north of the SSA. Under this option, the Regional land would be subject to immediate development, leading to the loss of the Richardson forest, the Carp River escarpment in that area (which has substantial consequences for the Carp River), and to the loss of connectivity to the forested escarpment area to the south of the Richardson Side Rd. which has not yet been subject to the planning processes.
(4) Include the KHP property but exclude the Regional property. This is the recommendation in the Appeal filed by the moderator of the Kanata Forum (Ron Tolmie), and is similar to the approach suggested by the KBCA. This choice protects the northern area and ensures that there will be a park, including the connectivity along the western front. It does not guarantee that any part of the Regional land will in the long run be preserved, but at least there will be an opportunity to make a case for preserving part or all of that forest area. In our view, the case for developing that land was extremely weak, and the reasons for protecting it are substantial.
Some of the difficulties in linking the various areas arise from the irregularity of the escarpment. In both the KHP and the Regional properties the low land protrudes right across the SSA and slightly into the KNL property to the east. That property is also subject to a number of OMB appeals. There is a need to modify the boundaries of the NEA (now UNF) areas within the KNL property to provide proper connectivity in both the north and the south (and at the eastern end of the KNL link as well). The primary reason advanced by the City for changing the NEA protection of the Richardson forest was that it would be isolated by the upcoming developments. That isolation can easily be avoided by ensuring that the existing connections are not destroyed. Note from the contours that the link provided in the KHP offer within the SSA is actually a part of the low land. The much more desirable highland link would be to the east, within the KNL property. The existing trails run along this high land.
Although option (4) creates an outlyer of urban land beyond the Hydro cut that does not imply that it would be subject to rapid development, as might the case for the Regional land. The reason is that there would be no roads, water or sewage services. Because the land is much lower it could not be connected to the gravity-fed sewer line crossing the KNL land, and the construction of Terry Fox Drive is some 15 years into the future. It is likely that this land would not be developed until such time as the boundary is moved out to Huntmar and the valley land is developed as a whole. To the south, a very large tract of land (the Kanata West development) is already committed for development, and it will extend much further west than Huntmar, making this general area a prime target for development in the near future. We need to protect what we can of the natural heritage land while we still have an opportunity to do so.