Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Webb's Motel site vote expected in February

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Since last spring, residents around the former Webb’s Motel (1705 Carling Avenue) have been working in opposition to the 22-storey apartment tower and 9-storey retirement building proposed for the site.

This is the second big proposal for the site after an initial proposal was made to develop it with a nine-storey apartment building that would have fit within the zoning. Subsequent to approval of that site plan, however, Claridge acquired the site and made this new proposal that requires a re-zoning and Council vote.

Residents have been writing to me and to the Planning Department for several months in opposition to the application and asking questions about the path forward. I’m writing today to clarify the process from here, and to note that I anticipate supporting the application.

Re-zoning process

If things stay on their current course, I expect that the department will issue its final recommendation in early February to Planning Committee. That report would be published roughly a week-and-a-half before Planning Committee (on which I sit) meets to vote on the recommendation. From there it proceeds a week or two later for a final vote by Council. If any of the stakeholders then choose, they can appeal Council’s decision to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal that is for all intents and purposes the final arbiter of the matter.

The planning report will provide the planning department’s rationale for their recommendation, including how the re-zoning adheres to the various policies in place for development, including the Official Plan and its associated policies and guidelines. It will also outline the feedback they received during the process with comment on how that played (or not) into their decision.

Residents will have the opportunity to address the Planning Committee to urge that they vote one way or the other for it, and also to email committee members and all councillors to lobby them.

Planning merits

It’s important for me to say that I do not today oppose the taller development at this site. It is a large parcel on one of Ottawa’s main arterials with the opportunity to create a far larger buffer to the adjacent low-rise neighbourhood than we normally see in these intensification projects. Both the Official Plan and provincial policies direct the city’s tall, dense development to locations such as these.

The site is also prime for density on one of the City’s main transit/transportation routes and within easy cycling/walking distance to existing neighbourhood amenities. New exclusive bus lanes are not far away for Carling, and density will drive more frequent service. At some (highly uncertain) point, the City’s transportation master plan calls for surface light rail. The site is within an easy walk to major amenities.

When the city’s vacancy rate is a stubbornly low 1.8%, and 51% of our growth through the next 25 years must be accomplished through intensification in order to accomplish the minimum possible expansion of the urban boundary, I cannot in good conscience today oppose a 22-storey tower on Carling Avenue. Bluntly, I cannot fathom that some majority of City Council will either. In the face of our twin housing and climate crises, development such as this in locations such as this is necessary.

More problematic than the height, though, is the City’s insistence on two modifications to the proposal: an entry/egress leading to Tillbury E., and the taking of land for a new park.

The entry/egress to Tillbury isn’t optimal. Since the original submission, staff have evaluated the nearby Carling/Broadview and Carling/Cole/Clyde intersections that have a very high level of collisions. The newly-proposed exit from the building to Tllbury then Cole would obviate the need for U-Turns and bear a portion of the 30 or so additional AM and PM vehicle trips expected to be generated by the development. The residents of the Tillbury stub would see their street go from virtually no traffic to having some low volume of cars, which makes no one happy (although cyclists would have immediate egress to low-speed, low-volume streets that connect to the Churchill cycling tracks and pedestrians afforded a direct route to amenities such as Dovercourt).

Given the advantages in the bigger picture of intensifying this site to an appropriate level, this newly-proposed entry/egress does not lead me to oppose the project.

The City is also insisting on the development of a publicly-owned park at the site rather than giving cash-in-lieu funds. Many neighbours have been clear since the original proposal a few years ago that they do not want a park in this location; both Dovercourt and Tillbury parks are just a few blocks away. The creation of a park here (as well as the new entry/egress) would remove the very significant hedge that currently divides the property from the residential neighbourhood, and there are concerns that a park would draw more people in vehicles, exacerbating parking pressures in the neighbourhood.

I will not oppose the staff desire for a park here. Our ward is losing greenspace and we can’t have too many parks. For young parents, particularly those who will become residents of this new building, even a block or two of saved distance is important. And, we’ve all discovered through the pandemic the need for open spaces. Staff and residents across the ward have spoken to me about the need for things like new pocket parks to add to our inventory. I agree. The actual location for the proposed park is still a matter of discussion.

On balance, I believe that this development, despite some draw-backs, represents the kind of development that our Official Plan anticipates and that is necessary if we’re to reverse course on decades of unsustainable planning. While I won’t lobby my colleagues to vote in favour of this application, I do not expect that my views on the development will differ significantly from theirs.

Posted December 27, 2020