Friday, June 20, 2008

Orleans Residents Fight Housing Development

With both the city and province pushing for increased urban intensification, east-end residents are fighting a new housing addition being proposed for the Rothwell Heights community, calling the development too dense and unsuitable for the neighbourhood.
“It’s the whole issue of how much is enough intensification,” says Jane Brammer of the Rothwell Heights Property Owners’ Association. “Residents believe zoning is there to protect neighbourhoods.”

Located at 741 Blair Rd., the almost 3,000-square-foot property is currently home to a single uninhabited house, though zoned to accommodate up to four single dwellings. A rezoning amendment for the site – to put in five semi-detached homes, or 10 units – went before the city’s planning and environment committee on Tuesday, June 10, resulting in a motion that limited the number of units to a maximum of eight and requested that a concrete site plan be approved before council adopts any zoning changes.

The property owners’ association, meanwhile, has been protesting the proposed development due to concerns about exceptions to city planning policy being made for the project, as well as issues with the proposed density and other impacts, Brammer explains.

With the developer requesting site-specific exceptions to zoning regulations for the property and only a conceptual design currently available, she says a site plan should be in place before any firm decisions are made by the city.

The property is also largely greenspace and home to many mature trees, Brammer continues, questioning why the area isn’t being preserved and how current stormwater standards will be maintained with a dense development.

“The city isn’t living up to its own planning,” she adds. “(The plan) obliterates everything on the site.”

Though a measure of intensification is needed in the area – especially with Montreal Road as a major transit corridor – and even with the modified development plan passed at committee “arguably reasonable,” Brammer says her group still feels skeptical eight units will eventually appear on the property.

“It’s a reasonable compromise, if it can hold,” she explains.

Applicant Lloyd Phillips, meanwhile, questions the rationale behind the committee decision to curb the number of units on the site.

“We don’t really see there’s going to be much difference at the end of the day,” he says, adding that the land can easily accommodate five semi-detached dwellings instead of four.

The proposed development is “very low-scale, low-profile infill,” Phillips continues. The site itself sits 10 feet lower than the backyards of the homes nearest the back of the property, he explains, with mature vegetation acting as a natural barrier. In addition, both provincial policy and Ottawa’s Official Plan have dictated the need for more infill development and intensification, Phillips adds.

As for the next step, with the motion scheduled to go before council on Wednesday, June 25, he says the property’s owners will likely wait to see what decision is made. In the event council upholds the committee’s recommendation, the owners would also have time after such a ruling go to the Ontario Municipal Board, Phillips continues.

Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Michel Bellemare presented two unsuccessful motions during the committee meeting last week, first to reject the zoning application as a whole, and then curb the number of units on the property to six. He calls the limit of eight units passed by committee members a “compromise”.

“Eight is certainly better than 10,” he continues, suggesting the reduction in dwellings would offer a better fit for the project within the limits of the property, and would maintain current standards for issues like road width and setback.

With the site currently zoned for residential purposes, Bellemare says the expectation always existed that the property would be redeveloped.

“It’s one example of an area where intensification is anticipated, and called for,” he explains. “It is really a question of degrees. At the end of the day, intensification is a good thing, because it does curb urban sprawl, helps to rejuvenate neighbourhoods … but there are tradeoffs (that should be made).”
Residential goes commercial on Innes
In other east-end development news, the planning and environment committee also gave a thumbs up to a proposed rezoning request at 3591 Innes Rd., to modify the property from residential to “a limited number” of commercial uses. Currently, a single detached dwelling – where part of the ground floor was previously used as an insurance office – resides on the lot.

Four letters of objection related to the development and the zoning amendment were received by the city, with concerns ranging from questions about the “vague” future commercial uses of the property to the impact of stormwater run-off on residential properties to the location of parking and subsequent noise, litter and pollution issues.

City staff responded to concerns, explaining that uses of the development will be limited to a commercial, medical or dental office, or personal service business – none of which are expected to generate “large amounts of continuous vehicular traffic.” They also noted that plans are underway to ensure stormwater management and landscaping buffers – including a sight-obscuring fence – and that the placement of the property, located within the general urban area designation, calls for a “wide range of uses.”

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