Rezoning application approved
Posted Jun 3, 2010
BY PHIL AMBROZIAK AND STEPH WILLEMS
EMC News - "It's a case of what we were supposed to get versus what we actually got."
Those were the words of Kitchissippi ward Coun. Christine Leadman when discussing a May 25 decision by the city's planning and environment committee to approve a rezoning application for the proposed development of 855 Carling Ave.
"I think it was a poorly designed report," Coun. Leadman said. "The report was supposed to be the tool to give our solicitor directions in dealing with an OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) appeal, which had been filed by the developer."
Arnon Corporation is seeking to construct two towers of 56 metres (15 stories) and 45 metres (12 stories) in height, connected by a two-storey link. Parking for the development, including 800 above and below-grade spaces, would be located at the north end of the property and accessed by Champagne Ave. It was expected that the OMB would address the application because the city had allowed a 120-day period for dealing with the matter to expire. The reason for this, however, had to do with the potential impact the development could have on the city's plans for the O-Train.
"The reason the application was not dealt with in the 120-day period was a result of the ongoing Carling Ave. LRT environmental assessment," Coun. Leadman continued. "This property sits right on the Carling Ave. LRT link and, when the developer first came forward with a development proposal but without an application, I said this would be a problem. The property sits right on the O-Train line and we would have to look into the possible impact this development could have on that."
An engineering consulting firm was hired to look into this concern, resulting in the delay.
"There was a valid and qualified rationale for the delay in moving the application forward," the councillor noted.
Coun. Leadman explained that the city's solicitor would have explained the reason for the delay to the OMB and that a new application, taking into account the impact to the O-Train line, could then come forward at the committee level for consideration.
"The report that came forward (on May 25) was actually a rezoning application," Coun. Leadman said. "I only learned about it a short time before the meeting through an ad in the newspaper.The rezoning application doesn't have any documentation supporting it - they basically took what should have been direction for staff and turned it into a rezoning application. It shows how poorly done the report was and is a real travesty in terms of the planning process."
The property, currently an overflow parking lot for Civic Hospital workers, was re-zoned a 'Mixed-Use Centre' following the purchase of the property by the applicant, allowing Arnon to propose its development. However, existing height limits conflicted with the applicant's vision. In order to bring the zoning in line with its proposal in time for the OMB hearing (and to be able to respond to government tender calls), Arnon then requested a zoning by-law amendment for an increase in permitted height and a reduction in the front yard setback along Carling Ave., which is what the committee was debating on May 25.
While the amount of available parking spaces (which the applicant said was right in the middle of the permitable range of spots) and the height of the development were issues that Coun. Leadman and Somerset ward Coun. Diane Holmes found contentious, the main focus of the committee centered on the small section of property that, if developed, would prevent future LRT trains from turning onto the Carling Ave corridor.
"If this development is built, that opportunity is gone," said Capital ward Coun. Clive Doucet. "If the project goes forward, how do we connect the north-south (LRT) line with the Carling line?"
Representatives of the applicant stated if the city required that piece of property for a future LRT line, it was up to them to purchase it. They also expressed their frustration with the city for the slow process (and the number) of studies undertaken on its behalf. Holding up a folder containing a stack of papers, one representative said it contained all of the studies that had been performed since 2007.
"I want to get on with life...this is a joke," he said.
In a bid to reach a compromise on the issue, Coun. Holmes introduced a motion containing five items based on the main issues raised that morning. First and foremost was the preservation of the transit corridor for future use.
"This is an appropriate site for intensification, (but) to preclude the ability for rail to make that curve is unconscionable," said Coun. Holmes.
The item, which would see the section of the property preserved from below grade to 15 metres above grade (allowing for development above that point) passed, but the subsequent items contained in the motion - including restrictions on building height and a reduction of parking spaces - didn't.
With the transit corridor protected, the staff report calling for the zoning amendment was carried, with Coun. Doucet's dissent.
Following the meeting, Coun. Leadman said the situation reinforces the negative image the public has of the city's planning process and how it does business.
"It's unfortunate how it was handled," she said. "This kind of thing should not happen - it was incompetently managed. If the city is going to be serious about developing a transit network, it needs to be serious about protecting its transit corridors."
For more information about the application, visit www.ottawa.ca/devapps