Ottawa council approves 3% property tax hike for budget 2020

Watson
Mayor Jim Watson. File photo

The average Ottawa homeowner will pay $109 more in property taxes next year after city council gave the green light Wednesday to a 2020 budget that includes millions more in spending for transit and infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks.

Council unanimously approved a three per cent property tax hike in 2020 to cover the city’s $3.76-billion operating budget for next year, up $136.8 million over 2019. 

The tax increase – in addition to levies for transit and police services – means the average urban homeowner will pay an extra $109 in property taxes next year, while the typical rural homeowner will shell out an additional $77 and the average commercial property owner will pay $209 more in taxes next year compared with 2019.

The budget allocates an extra $7.5 million for additional bus service, including the purchase of 19 new buses required after the city restored some routes that had been cancelled following the launch of the Confederation LRT Line this fall. 

The transit budget also includes $43 million to replace old buses and fund the cost of a three-month fare freeze. Transit fares went up 2.5 per cent in October when the Confederation Line was launched and were slated to rise another 2.5 per cent on Jan. 1, but the city’s transit commission decided to delay the 2020 fare hike until April after the new LRT line ran into reliability issues.

The budget also earmarks $151 million for spending on roads, sidewalks and facilities, an 18 per cent increase over 2019. That includes $51 million for road resurfacing – up from the annual average of $35.5 million in the last term of council – and upgrades at recreation facilities such as parks and outdoor rinks.

Elsewhere, the 2020 spending plan will boost spending on affordable housing by $15 million, the same increase as in the previous year’s budget. Ottawa’s winter operations budget is also slated to increase by 7.7 per cent to a total of $78.3 million. The budget also provides funding to hire an additional 30 police officers and 14 paramedics.

North Gower warehouse gets go-ahead

In other City Hall news Wednesday, council paved the way for a controversial proposed warehouse in North Gower.

Council unanimously approved official plan and zoning amendments to allow developer Broccolini to build a warehouse up to a height of 22 metres at 1966 Roger Stevens Dr., just off Highway 416.

The proposal has been controversial for many residents of the rural community of North Gower, who showed up in droves to a recent meeting of the agricultural and rural affairs committee to urge councillors to reject the project. 

Many residents said they are worried the project would cause significant traffic disruptions at the 121-acre site – currently home to cornfields and a few farm structures – and harm the environment.

Though Broccolini first sought heights of 30 metres for a 700,000-square-foot facility, the company’s director of real estate and development, James Beach, told the committee last week the company has not yet submitted any plans to build a warehouse that large, adding the rezoning process is intended to provide “flexibility” to the developer as it seeks a tenant.

Ballpark lease talks a go

Council also gave city staff the go-ahead to negotiate a lease at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park to a group led by the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club.

The Goldeyes are partnering with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the owners of the CFL’s Redblacks and the OHL’s 67’s, on the bid to keep pro baseball in the capital.

The city and the Goldeyes-OSEG partnership, known as Field of Dreams Enterprises, have signed a memorandum of understanding that would see the new owners pay a base annual rent of $125,000 at the city-owned stadium on Coventry Road for the first three years. After that, annual payments would rise at the rate of inflation. 

The initial lease would run for 10 years. There is also an option for a pair of five-year extensions to the deal, which would see the city cover most baseball-related operating and maintenance costs while the tenants would be responsible for the upkeep of administrative offices, scoreboard and parking lot.

The new owners will also be required to pay the city more than $473,000 in outstanding debts accrued by the previous tenants, the Can-Am League’s Ottawa Champions. The new team is expected to begin play in a yet-to-be-determined independent league in the 2021 season.