The Algonquins of Ontario and a local developer are pursuing the creation of a new suburb near Ottawa’s eastern border that showcases the spirt of Algonquin principles, but they need to convince city planners and politicians to include the massive tract of land inside an expanded urban boundary.
The swath of land, located southwest of the intersection of Highway 417 and Boundary Road, would be transformed into a community of 35,000-45,000 residents called Tewin, which means “home” in the Algonquin language.
“The purchase of these lands is an investment in our future and provides for invaluable opportunities for economic development and capacity-building for the Algonquins within a major city, within our traditional territories,” said Wendy Jocko, chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, which is an Algonquins of Ontario community.
The future of the project hinges on a looming city decision establishing the lands that should be brought inside an expanded urban development boundary, satisfying population growth projections under a new official plan.
The Algonquins of Ontario selected Taggart Investments as its partner in a development vision for a new suburb.
“I’m personally passionate about this project because it’s basically what I have always dreamed of doing,” said Michelle Taggart, Taggart’s vice-president of land development. She called the partnership with the Algonquins of Ontario “much more than a land deal” because there’s an opportunity to build a sustainable community using values of the Algonquin people.
There is, however, an immediate challenge for the project.
Council in May approved adding between 1,350 and 1,650 hectares of development land inside an expanded urban boundary to accommodate 401,000 new residents over a 26-year period. Since then, city planners have been narrowing down which new properties should be brought inside the boundary, which is an extremely consequential decision for landowners with development plans.
The Tewin land is not inside the current urban boundary and would require approval to be brought into the expanded boundary.
Alain Miguelez, the city’s manager of policy planning in the planning department, said staff are targeting a date in early 2021 to bring a report on urban expansion to a joint meeting of council’s planning committee and agriculture and rural affairs committee.
The Algonquins of Ontario and Taggart believe they have a huge advantage, going as far to suggest their proposed suburb will be the best one designed and developed in all of Ottawa. The suburb would have a large mix of housing types and include employment land. The Amazon warehouse on Boundary Road is just east of the property.
The development partners believe Tewin lines up perfectly with the “five big moves” that the city has been promoting as part of the next official plan. They also think the prospect of Ottawa having two One Planet Living communities — the first one is Zibi on the Ottawa River — would give the Canada’s capital immense credibility on an international scale for encouraging sustainable urban planning.
The Tewin vision earmarks about 500 hectares for a dense, mixed-use community and another 600 hectares for a natural land trust.
There are plans to have training and procurement opportunities for Algonquins through the creation of Tewin, plus a scholarship program.
It could be hard for the city to reject the land as a candidate for urban expansion. Council in 2018 approved a reconciliation action plan aimed to strengthen the relationship between the municipal government and Indigenous communities.
“It is time for the Algonquins to be front and centre within the nation’s capital,” said Janet Stavinga, executive director of the Algonquins of Ontario. “They have thus far been precluded the opportunity due to the historical wrongs of the past and there’s a real opportunity for the City of Ottawa, for the citizens, to seize this chance for reconciliation to have the Algonquin presence recognized in the capital to be able to create a community that’s sustainable.”
At the same time, council has already approved criteria for new properties inside the urban boundary. The criteria include serviceability for sewer and water and distance to emergency services.