Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
Responsive image

Updated: Future of Rochester Field

You are here

I want to thank the 60 or so residents who took the time to attend the open house last Wednesday to explore the proposed re-zoning to allow some development in Rochester Field (pictured), a part of the "100-day solution" that allows the City to put LRT under the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. I found it extremely useful in helping shape my own thinking on the subject, and there were some excellent perspectives and ideas shared.

There is a lot of context to this discussion. In short, as part of the deal struck to use the NCC's land for LRT, the City and NCC have agreed to settle an outstanding Ontario Municipal Board dispute by allowing the feds to develop 1/3 of the parcel. That agreement was part of the overall 100-day solution package that was approved by Council (including with my support) in 2015 after significant consultation and debate.

My and the community's understanding at the time was that the development would likely be tucked away behind the existing built-up area, and that the solution would see a "[g]reen corridor through Rochester Field to be re-designated to parkspace and enhanced" (see the .pdf below). Later in 2015, a first proposal was made to re-designate part of the land for development along those lines, and in the most general terms possible (a re-designation to general urban area). That proposal created some debate, but not close to the current dissatisfaction I've heard expressed.

However, since then the NCC has done further consultation on the whole of its Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway linear park concept. During those consultations, it showed several concepts for how the land might be developed. Out of those, it has developed a proposal that would see the 90m immediately north of Richmond Road developed, with a path running north-south between buildings, and the back of the site re-developed as a park. You can see more about that by watching the video of the NCC's board meeting at which it approved that concept here.

To facilitate that, it is seeking a more specific re-zoning than just general urban area, asking for those first 90m to be zoned traditional mainstreet. That zoning would allow a variety of uses including residential and commercial to a height of around 6 storeys.

I've had a couple of days to mull what I heard at that meeting, and to receive further feedback. As an update, I want to offer the following thoughts:

  • There is opposition to any development at all in the park. While I'm very sympathetic to that view, the 100-day deal has been the subject of considerable discussion and a Council vote. I am still proceeding on the basis that there will be at least some develpment in the park in keeping with that agreement;
  • That agreement, however, did not have the current level of specificity. The NCC has no immediate development plans, other than the park concept that its board has approved. While I appreciate that they will require certainty to proceed with the parkland development as to where that is allowed, and that that is time-sensitive, it is too soon to begin applying specific zoning such as Traditional Mainstreet to the developable portion. The City and Board's first approach in 2015 to designate open and general urban area spaces was the correct one;
  • The current plan is not consistent with the materials and thinking available at the time to Council when it endorsed the 100-day solution (see my 2015 post on the subject here). The "green corridor" is not, by any reasonable definition, evident in the current park concept. The clustering of development along Richmond Road, in fact, accomplishes the opposite. I appreciated the suggestions of a re-configuration of the current proposal to better accomplish that green corridor connecting our Byron park with the NCC's SJAM park;
  • If a generic Traditional Mainstreet zoning is applied, the setbacks associated with that are not appropriate to protect the green frontage currently on Richmond, nor the green buffer between homes on Fraser and the proposed new development. At the very least, the City should insist on site-specific provisions to the zoning that provide setbacks more appropriate for the context;
  • Finally, it struck me after Wednesday's open house that there are analogies between this re-zoning/Official Plan Amendment and the approach to re-zoning for the Civic Hospital. In both cases details will follow the zoning. To address that for the Civic, staff have proposed placing conditions that will need to be met before the zoning is finally in effect and development allowed. Council should insist on the same in this process. Potential conditions could include further public consultation on any designs, traffic studies and mitigation plans, or landscaping/tree preservation plans acceptable to the City and residents.

Update: I have finally gone back to the original 100-day agreement where it is stated very clearly that it is the northeast portion of the site that is to be eligible for development. To wit:

"Upon execution of this MOU, the City agrees to settle the outstanding Ontario Municipal Board appeal by the NCC as it relates to Rochester Field by designating two-thirds in the northeast section of Rochester Field as "General Urban" land use designation subject to a Concept Plan to be done by the NCC and to be commenced no earlier than January 2016. The NCC acknowledges in this settlement that the remaining one third of the land area of the site on the western side will be retained as parkland with a “Major Open Space” land use designation and may be credited towards parkland dedication requirements for the development of the eastern portion of the site."

In light of that, it is difficult to reconcile the NCC's current proposal with the spirit or letter of its written agreement with the City. The originally proposed Official Plan Amendment would have met this requirement.

I have been receiving a significant amount of feedback on what we heard Wednesday, and I want to thank Kitchissippi residents for their thoughtful engagement with this. It is far from certain in my mind that we should proceed with this re-zoning, and I'll be bringing the considerations above to the table when I meet soon with the City to discuss this process. Your feedback to me has been invaluable in crystalizing some of the considerations above in my own thinking, and I'm looking forward to your further participation.




Posted November 19, 2017