OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s urban boundary is set to grow over the next 25 years.

After four hours of debate, Council voted 15 to six to accept the staff recommendation to expand the urban boundary by between 1,350 and 1,650 hectares between 2021 and 2046.

The six Councillors that voted against the expansion of the urban boundary are Shawn Menard, Catherine McKenney, Rawlson King, Jeff Leiper, Mathieu Fleury and Theresa Kavanagh.

Last week, a joint meeting of the Planning Committee and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee voted 10 to 1 in favour of the staff proposal called a “balanced approach” to expanding the boundary.

Council endorsed Councillor Menard’s motion to remove 69 to 369 hectares of land dedicated for employment from the boundary expansion until studies can be done.

Under the plan, staff say the majority of the growth to accommodate the growing city will be achieved through intensification. By 2045, 51 per cent of the new households will be built in existing urban areas, with the intensification target rising to 60 per cent by 2046. The remaining 49 per cent of the growth will be within the expanded boundary.

Ottawa's current urban boundary. (Image courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

City of Ottawa urban boundary

Half of residents opposed to expansion: poll

A recent survey commissioned by three Ottawa city councillors suggests more than half of Ottawa residents are opposed to expanding the boundary.

The survey by EKOS Research Associates asked, "Overall, do you support or oppose to the idea of this type of expansion of the City of Ottawa urban boundary?" The poll found 52 per cent of residents say they oppose an expansion of the urban boundary, compared to 31 per cent who support it.

Councillors Catherine McKenney, Shawn Menard and Jeff Leiper, who are opposed to the expansion, commissioned the poll of 525 residents.

Leiper was the only councillor to vote against the expansion plan at committee (McKenney and Menard are not members of either the Planning Committee or the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee) and told CTV Morning Live on Wednesday morning that he believes the city is taking an antiquated approach.

"After the [second world] war, most cities grew by building new subdivisions in farmlands and rural areas and kept sprawling," he said. "What we've learned is that sprawl is more expensive for taxpayers and creates more greenhouse gas emissions, which runs counter to our climate emergency goals."

Leiper argues the cost of building and maintaining more roads in expanded suburban regions, coupled with additional needs for new neighbourhoods like fire stations and library branches, will end up costing city taxpayers more in the long run and the extra distance residents would need to travel into the core of the city, often by car, would increase pollution levels.

Leiper says while it appears the plan is all but guaranteed to pass, he and his colleagues who are opposed to the expansion of the boundary will attempt to convince council to reverse the decision.

"We're at the cusp of applying new ways of thinking that are not yet mainstream," he said. "The amount of taxes the next generation will be paying will be decided today."

People need places to live: Mayor

Mayor Jim Watson says he is in favour of the proposal to use the "balanced approach" to expanding the urban boundary. 

Speaking to CTV Morning Live on Wednesday, Watson said not everyone wants to live in a condominium. 

"The reality is people want to move to Ottawa. It's a very popular destination and people need a place to live," Watson said. "In order to do that, we have to have a balanced approach, which allows us to have some expansion of the urban boundary but protecting prime agricultural land and it allows us to intensify more inside the urban boundary."

Watson said he finds some critics of the expanded urban boundary are often also opposed to intensification projects in their own wards.

"You can't have it both ways. You can't say 'I'm for intensification but not in my back yard.'"

Watson said there is a need for a variety of homes in the city.

"Not everyone wants to live in a condo. People want to live in a semi-detached or single-family home and I think we have to provide those options," he said.

Watson says he is confident the plan being voted on is sound.

"We have some of the best urban planners in Canada. They wouldn't put their signatures on a document that they had any doubt or reservation about. I think it's great to have a healthy debate but we also need to be pragmatic. We project hundreds of thousands of people are going to be moving to Ottawa and we need places for them to live and raise their families."

How big is 1,650 hectares?

A hecatre is 10,000 square meters in size. To put it in practical terms, the typical downtown Ottawa block is about 1.2 to 1.5 hectares.

Due to Ottawa's nature of having a mix of urban and rural wards following amalgamation, the 1,650 hectares staff recommend adding to the urban boundary can seem like a lot or a little, depending on which part of the city it is compared.

Kitchissippi Ward, for example, is approximately 1,510 hectares in size. Capital ward is 990 hectares.

On the other hand, Rideau Goulbourn ward is approximately 74,400 hectares in size. West Carleton-March ward is 76,300 hectares.