Ottawa

Piecemeal development applications like 'water torture' for residents, councillor says

Jeff Leiper says request to add extra units to Byron Avenue buildings lacks transparency

CBC News

October 06, 2017

Coun. Jeff Leiper says a rezoning application for two buildings in his ward is an example of developers asking for one thing and then asking for more later. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor says a request to add extra units to a pair of low-rise apartments in Westboro is another example of "the water torture of planning for residents," where developers ask for approvals a little at a time while residents remain in the dark.

Developers looking to avoid up-front costs and added complexity to zoning applications will often submit requests where extra units are built as "storage areas," Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper wrote in response to a request coming before the city's planning committee next week.

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Only after the initial application is approved will developers change the request, Leiper wrote, a process that erodes trust over time.

"It is a steady drip-drip-drip of applications and approvals that ultimately result in the developer getting everything they are seeking without transparency to the community on which they're imposing the buildings," he wrote.

Builders need to lay cards on table, councillor says

Leiper's comments come in response to an application to permit an extra unit each on two low-rise buildings — 266 and 270 Byron Ave. The city had approved the sites for three-unit buildings in 2015.

A half dozen residents also commented during a public consultation, with several accusing the developer of intending to build the fourth unit all along.

Leiper noted the developer applied to remove the third parking space in each building to add to the green space of the properties in the same proposal.

But he said council should send a "strong message to builders to be up-front with the community about what they are building and to lay their cards on the table at the outset of the process."

City staff noted the objections, but recommends approving the extra units, saying the proposal remains consistent with the city's official plan and intensification goals.

"While the method taken by the applicant to permit a low-rise apartment building represents a piecemeal approach, and although the Department would prefer a more transparent and comprehensive process, whereby an apartment building is requested from the outset, the Department reviews every application on its own merit for good planning and consistency with applicable policy," they wrote.

The city's planning committee will discuss the proposed zoning change on Oct. 10, and, if approved, it will go before city council on Oct. 25.

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