A tale of 2 wards: How some houses are in 2 places at once

Vipul Patel's home is one of about a dozen in south Ottawa with a ward boundary running right through it. In his case, his living room is in Barrhaven and his front hall is in Rideau-Goulbourn.

City vows to figure out the problem by the end of March

Vipul Patel moved to Half Moon Bay with his wife, children and parents in August 2017, and he had no idea there was a ward boundary running through his new home. (CBC)

Vipul Patel, his wife, parents and children go to sleep in the same house every night, but they wake up in two different city wards.

Patel's home is one of about a dozen in south Ottawa with a ward boundary running right through it. In his case, his living room is in Barrhaven and his front hall is in Rideau-Goulbourn.

"I always thought that Jan Harder was my councillor," Patel said when he found out. "I would prefer to be in Barrhaven."

Patel has never noticed his house straddled two wards, and it isn't likely to affect his life until the next municipal election.

He just moved into the home in Half Moon Bay in August 2017, and has traffic and transit concerns he wants to bring up with candidates who hope to represent him in the next election.

But he's not even sure which ward he'll be voting in.

Check out a map of the ward boundary here.

Boundary review put off in 2015

The ward boundary between Rideau-Goulbourn and Barrhaven generally runs along existing roads until it meets the Half Moon Bay neighbourhood. The oddly shaped boundary curves through the neighbourhood before suddenly changing direction without regard to the roads that have been built there. 

That's because the neighbourhood has sprung up recently, and in 2015 city councillors opted to put off a review of the boundaries.

At the time, there were no houses in the area.

"It was just a line in a field," said Coun. Scott Moffatt, who represents Rideau-Goulbourn.
Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffat said council did not expect homes in Half Moon Bay to be built so quickly when they delayed ward boundary work in 2015. (CBC)

Changing the boundary wasn't as simple as redrawing the lines on the map. The estimated population of Barrhaven is expected to be 45.7 per cent higher than the average city ward by the next municipal election.

New housing underestimated

In order to make sure people are fairly represented, a ward boundary review could have triggered the creation of an entirely new ward.

The review was expected to take more than a year and cost $300,000 to $325,000. But city staff had their hands full with other work that needed to be finished before the end of the term.

That's why councillors agreed to delay a ward boundary overhaul until after the 2018 election. Moffatt said he didn't think so many homes would be built in the meantime.

"The market demand for housing in Barrhaven was maybe a little bit more than we expected," he said.

City seeks fix for election

Moffatt said he and Harder work closely to make sure the needs of Half Moon Bay are addressed. The tricky part will come when it's time to campaign.

"I knock on the front door and Jan knocks on the back door," he joked.

City staff plan to assign wards to the homes that are split by the boundary by March 31, according to city solicitor Rick O'Connor. The list of homes in each ward will be given to candidates so they can canvass the appropriate houses.

The city also wants to make sure everyone in the neighbourhood can use the same polling station, instead of sending Rideau-Goulbourn residents into a rural community on election day.

After that, the city will start working to change the ward boundaries so people like Patel will all live in the same part of town as everyone else in their house in time for the 2022 election.

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