Proposed 180-unit Building Nixed by Council

March 26, 2014 Updated: March 26, 2014

OTTAWA—In an unexpected move by council on Wednesday, a proposal to allow the building of a nine-storey, 180-unit building on Laurier at Friel, previously accepted by the city planning committee, was voted down 14 to 9.

One reason for the reversal was that the size of the proposed structure, which would have replaced six existing homes, was not in keeping with the neighbourhood streetscape. 

“It seems we are allowing removal of buildings that lend an ambience to the street, all being thrown away,” Councillor Diane Holmes said.

Also, the proposed building wouldn’t have provided affordable housing, which has been identified as a shortfall in the area.

Although not defined as a student residence, it was thought that the main residents in the building would be students. Mayor Jim Watson acknowledged that the Sandy Hill area was “already in distress due to traffic and noise so it is not acceptable to this neighbourhood.”

Other discussions focused on the monitoring of the noise level of residents of the proposed building that was agreed to by the developer. Councillors asked if the need for such monitoring would be maintained should the building be sold in the future. The answer was ‘yes’ as the stipulation was in the site plan and would “travel with the property.”

Holmes asked, “Why not disperse students throughout the city instead of concentrating in Sandy Hill?” 

She explained that the city provides excellent transportation services that facilitate students travelling to the schools from anywhere in the city. Watson agreed.

Council’s vote on the issue was reflective of the changes to infill and conversion bylaws discussed by the planning committee the day before. The intent of the infill bylaw is to maintain the streetscape character of mature neighbourhoods. 

Attendees at the planning committee meeting were relieved to hear that the infill bylaw contains a transition clause so that those with an application in process won’t need to conform to the new bylaw. 

This was an issue with developers who were concerned that if they need to change a current application they may have to add other changes to meet the new regulations. There was also an indication that some developers wanted to have input into the final wording of the draft changes so that they would be clear and easily understood.

Conversion of existing homes into apartments was the focus of a temporary bylaw meant to prevent the conversion of single family homes into multi-unit student housing. The areas closest to Ottawa and Carleton universities are most impacted by the noise, garbage, and extra traffic generated by such units. Residents in the affected communities feel that some landlords are maximizing profits at the expense of the character of the areas.

The interim conversion bylaw could be in effect for up to a year to give city staff time to draft a permanent set of rules to combat the number of single family homes converted to residences for students that seemingly spring up overnight. Staff expect the rules to complement the infill bylaw changes.