News / Ottawa

Ottawa to insist on taxpayer protection for Lebreton Flats

Mayor gets mandate to insist city not be on hook for clean-up costs

This rendering shows what the proposed new Ottawa Senators rink at Lebreton Flats could look like.

City of Ottawa

This rendering shows what the proposed new Ottawa Senators rink at Lebreton Flats could look like.

Mayor Jim Watson and city manager Steve Kanellakos will take part in negotiations over the future of LeBreton Flats, with a goal of protecting city taxpayers and making sure whatever is planned aligns with the city's planning goals.

The city’s finance and economic development committee voted in favour of the mandate Tuesday that Watson and Kanellakos will carry into negotiations with the National Capital Commission and RendezVous LeBreton (RLG) over the future development of LeBreton Flats. 

The city has outlined a fairly cautious position, including a provision that the city’s taxpayers be protected. 

Notably, the city has asked that the federal government bear the cost of decontamination of the soil at LeBreton, since it was their decision to demolish the old LeBreton Flats community in the 1960s. 

The city also said that they would be willing to lend money to RLG to finance parts of the redevelopment. 

The degree to which local councillors will be involved was drawn into question, as the committee learned councillors will not have a chance to weigh in on the specifics of the redevelopment until after confidential negotiations between RLG, the NCC, and city officials are finished and a proposal is brought to committee. 

A number of councillors expressed an interest that, in the words of planning committee chair Jan Harder, the LeBreton Flats project “not get derailed by the interests of a particular councillor.” 

Councillor Bob Monette weighed in as well, saying “no way do I want to see another example of Lansdowne, where we start micromanaging every decision that goes through.” 

This disagreement spilled out onto Twitter as the committee met, with Coun. Catherine McKenney and Bob Monette. McKenney took issue with Monette’s suggestion that her involvement would amount to “nitpicking,” saying that it was precisely her job to do so.

“You can do your nit-picking at committee and council, not in confidential negotiations,” wrote Monette in response. “Let's not micromanage.”

The disagreement highlights the complex nature of negotiations over the land at LeBreton, which is owned by the federal government. “This is an unusual situation, and we don’t have these things popping up every day,” said Stephen Willis, head of the city’s planning department.

McKenney expressed interest in being involved in the negotions. "Once we start negotiating with developers, I expect to be there," she said, noting that she had reached out to the area MP to say as much.

For the time being, involvement in the confidential negotiations between the NCC and Rendezvous will be limited to Watson and Kanellakos, with the rationale being that they are better suited to deal with “big picture, city-wide” items.

But, said Willis, “the minute we start talking about planning issues, the minute we start talking about how it’s going to work on the ground and the order of operations, then—like Lansdowne—the local councillor will be brought in.”

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