Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Parkdale/Wellington proposal to Committee of Adjustment

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There is a major development coming to the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) next week (February 3) for the corner of Parkdale and Wellington - a nine-storey seniors' residence being proposed by Taggart. Take a look at the plans for 1166 Wellington St. here.

First, let me say kudos to the City for finally getting CoA applications online - including plans. When I got into the job, we began posting summaries of the applications on the blog, but we still had to jump through hoops to get plans to residents. This is going to save my office a ton of work.

Just to clarify, this development is going to the Committee of Adjustment, not Council. They need 2.55 m over the zoning, which I don't consider a major issue, and they want the setbacks associated with a commercial building rather than residential. Given its context, that's similarly non-problematic. I and community leaders with whom I've spoken were diligent about thinking whether this is legitimately a matter of variance, or whether we should be talking about re-zoning given that the zoning is prescriptive and with a secondary plan. We concluded that no matter how you slice it, the argument is legitimately made that it's in the CoA's wheelhouse, and the City's legal folks have agreed in informal discussions.

I personally consider that could be a lost opportunity by not having retail at grade and I've had a good discussion with Taggart as well as some community leaders. What it boils down to is that working with their managed residential facility partner, Taggart needs X number of units to be feasible. Those will fit within the zoning only if there's no real retail at grade. Early indications are that there is little appetite to move ahead with a re-zoning to include an additional storey that would include retail rather than the simpler variance, with my support if that's what our residents and businesses preferred.

Once we get into site plan approval, I'll be looking for the greatest possible streetfront animation to make up for the lack of retail. I've also had the conversation with them that I'd like to get to work building out bike lanes by having them take care of this stretch in anticipation of extending bike lanes in future. No guarantees, but it's a conversation I'd like to start now.

Entry and egress from Wellington is problematic, but the problems with Parkdale just as obvious. I'm holding my nose on the two bad choices. As an active seniors' building (they need one floor of assisted living - which is why they need the extra height), I anticipate that it will generate a minimal amount of in and out. I've asked them to get drop-off/pick-up off the street. They agree, and we'll work through that at site plan.

Right now, I'll be hands-off to the CoA process, but I encourage all interested residents to participate in that if they feel strongly one way or the other about this development. I will be asking the developer as we get into site plan approval to host a public meeting for questions and concerns. At the site plan stage, I and the community have leverage to change certain features, and I'm looking forward to working with everyone to ensure this building makes a positive contribution in our community.


This is probably a good opportunity to chat a bit about the Committee of Adjustment and its role. The Planning Act gives cities the power to create Committees of Adjustment to hear cases for "minor variances". Cities, including Ottawa, appoint the committee which is made up of citizen members with some degree of planing expertise. Once appointed, it is independent of City Council. Its decisions are appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board (and frequently are). City planners do comment on applications, and the Committee takes their comments into consideration when ruling. Committee hearings are also public, and residents free to make presentations.

The Committee's role is to deal with "minor" variances. They have a four-part test that basically asks whether the variance is, in fact, minor (and not tantamount to, for example, a re-zoning), and whether it meets the spirit and intent of the Official Plan and zoning by-law.

It's a grey area for Councillors. Some municipalities advise councillors never to talk to the planners working on CoA cases, the applicants, or the CoA itself. As Kitchissippi residents know, I have from time to time written to our staff to lobby them to make certain recommendations, and to the CoA itself. I don't believe residents will absolve me of the responsibility to do advocacy on their behalf. The difficulty lies in that the process is intended to be non-political and hands-off to Council. We appoint the members, but that's the limit of our role. No one seriously advocates doing away with the Committee to make Council approve or not every variance from the zoning - we would grind to a halt. I have, though, made the case to the CoA and planners in one case that a "minor" variance was tantamount to a re-zoning and thus not propertly dealt with at the Committee, and from time to time ask planners and Committee to take into consideration things like trees, snow removal, or the integrity of our new infill rules.

Posted January 22, 2016