Developers Change Their Winning Game

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Has the development industry over-played its hand in Ottawa?


The development industry and its friends on Ottawa City Council must not have played much tennis.

Had they, they would know the old tennis adage: Never change a winning game.

What do you want to do when you play tennis? Win (or if you are not competitive, at least get some exercise).

If you’re winning, why would you do anything that might change that? Except in search of a better game, people do change that winning game. Not a good idea.

The development industry has probably more influence at Ottawa City Hall than any other organization (I had one senior manager at city hall tell me the industry runs the municipality. A bit of an exaggeration but the influence is profound). With its pull on Laurier Avenue, zoning has become a suggestion … particularly on height, a big money-maker. It is very unusual when a proposal from the industry is turned down. The planning department is pliant. And many councillors are kept friendly by a long line of $750 campaign donations.

The lobbyist for many developers can open doors at city hall and in the media.

That’s a winning game. The industry is easily getting its own way.

Then it changed its winning game. The planning department proposed a concierge system whereby the top 20 developers in town would each have their own city representative to clear the track for proposals.

The development industry over-played its hand. And the concierge system got publicity … not good publicity. Now the public knows how much influence this industry has in municipal government. It’s a lot to the point that the city is appointing officials to pamper individual companies through the planning department. It’s both frightening and embarrassing.

If you believe the planning department has gone native, just wait until the concierges work with individual developers for a few months.

Through this controversy, the interested public is now aware about how much power the industry has on Laurier Avenue. In short, it’s too much.

And that’s not good for the industry. Some right-thinking people might be concerned about the level of influence with repercussions coming down the road.

Never change a winning game.


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