Posted Mar 17, 2012, 12:56 AM
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Grete Hale urges council to vote against Beechwood condo project...
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Grete Hale urges council to vote against Beechwood condo project that would block sightlines of Parliament Hill
By Maria Cook, The Ottawa Citizen March 16, 2012 8:10 PM
OTTAWA — One of Ottawa’s most respected community leaders is urging Ottawa city councillors to vote against a zoning change to allow a 10-storey building on Beechwood Avenue, arguing that it will impede a view of Parliament Hill from Beechwood Cemetery.
Grete Hale, chair of the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation, wrote Mayor Jim Watson and city council last Monday on a proposal for 222 Beechwood Ave. in Vanier, currently Kavanaugh’s Esso station.
“One of Beechwood Cemetery’s distinguishing characteristics is its picturesque view of Ottawa, most notably an unobstructed view of the Parliament buildings,” she wrote, on behalf of the cemetery board and staff.
“We are particularly adverse to plans for exceeding current height limits at the site,” she wrote. “We urge Ottawa city council to deny any zoning change that impedes or otherwise adversely impacts the symbiotic relationship between Parliament Hill and Beechwood Cemetery.”
The cemetery, established in 1873, is a national historic site and home of the National Military Cemetery and the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery.
Among those buried there are former governor general Ray Hnatyshyn, former prime minister Sir Robert Borden, Father of Confederation William McDougall, former NDP leader Tommy Douglas, engineer Sir Sandford Fleming, poets Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott, lumber baron John R. Booth, as well as 26 former mayors of Ottawa.
Domicile Developments will present a revised set of plans at a public meeting on Monday at 6.30 p.m. Trillium Elementary School, 135 Alice St. in Vanier.
The builder is proposing a mixed-use condominium building with four and 10-storey sections containing 132 units and street-level retail. The U-shaped building with a courtyard facing Beechwood is to have a total floor area of about 11,000 square metres and a maximum height of 34 metres.
Zoning allows a maximum of 20 metres or about six storeys. Domicile has filed a rezoning application, expected to go before the city’s planning committee this summer.
Hale notes that Ottawa’s official plan speaks of “protecting the visual integrity and symbolic primacy of the Parliament Buildings and other national symbols.”
In 2008 the city adopted a zoning amendment for the protection of views of Parliament Hill from two points in Beechwood Cemetery — the Tommy Douglas Memorial and Poet’s Hill.
Roger Boult, chief operating officer of Beechwood Cemetery, said the development would “jeopardize that view and we are quite concerned.”
“222 Beechwood is very close to the cemetery. It would be front and centre in your face. It would be extremely close to your eye as you’re looking to Parliament Hill.”
However, architect Rod Lahey says that the building does not encroach on the view plane, which slices on a diagonal through the site. “Everything to do with the view plane, we were complying with totally.”
The portion of the building which falls within the sightline to Parliament Hill was originally designed to be six storeys. It is now four storeys, giving “greater protection to the view plane,” he said. Where it was 2.5 centimetres below the view plane before, is now is almost three metres below the view plane, he said.
As well, the 10-storey building height has been reduced from 37 metres to 34 metres and is about 372 square metres smaller. The changes had to do with making the building fit better on the site, he said.
The development is on the south side of Beechwood, which is Vanier. Across the street on the north side is the Rockcliffe Park heritage conservation district.
The Rockcliffe Park residents association has expressed concerns.
In a letter to the city’s planning department last month, association president Brian Dickson said the Beechwood community design plan, “envisages low-rise mixed-use buildings on the southeast side of this part of Beechwood.”
Ten storeys, almost double what the plan calls for, would set an unwelcome precedent for future buildings along Beechwood, he said.
“Any such increase would be seriously detrimental to that part of Rockcliffe, particularly to the single-family properties behind the row facing Beechwood.”
However, the Vanier community association is not concerned with the extra height requested, said vice-president Elaine Leger.
“We’re happy to have Domicile building in Vanier,” she said. “It could bring life back on Beechwood and life to the businesses. It’s all good.”
In an email, Vanier city councillor Mathieu Fleury said he was “very excited to see new development on Beechwood. I am hopeful that this will trigger other sites to redevelop.”
The site includes 222 Beechwood Ave., 9 Marquette Ave., and 8 Jolliet Ave., which form a rectangular parcel bounded by Beechwood, Marquette, and Jolliet avenues.
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