City staff recommend developer's proposal for former Bayview School

Ottawa city staff are supporting a proposal to build a retirement community on the site of the former Bayview School.

Community has long fought proposal, still has some concerns

An aerial view of the former Bayview School site. (Google Maps)

City of Ottawa staff are supporting a proposal to build a retirement community on the site of the former Bayview School.

In a report to the planning committee, staff recommended the approval of a mix of low-rise townhomes and a six-storey apartment complex for a total of 623 units.

The city's land development agency — Ottawa Community Lands Development Corporation — sold the four-hectare parcel to Canoe Bay Developments Inc. after a request for proposals was issued.

"We all recognize that progress has to move forward, so we want to be good neighbours [and] in favour of the development," said Craig Searle, president of the Riverside Park Community Association. 

"Just not some aspects of the development."

An architectural rendering of the proposed retirement community and strip mall on the former site of the Bayview School on Riverside Drive. (Canoe Bay Developments)

Searle said he is concerned about the impact the development would have on the community of Riverside, particularly the traffic and noise.

"Everybody in the community that I've spoken with are tired of the process, they're disillusioned with the process," he said.

"We feel betrayed, we feel unheard. We've been fighting this fight since 2007." 

According to the report, two public meetings were held in 2017, with over 200 residents attending each session.

One of the main sticking points has been the project's proposed density. Currently, at the city, there are no clear parameters around the issue, which Searle believes has made defining the project's sustainability difficult.

"The city does not have a definition of low, medium or high density," he said.

Concept plan was a guide

Searle noted that the project looks very different today from what was initially proposed in the concept plan.

However, the councillor for the area said the plan was simply a guide to help shape the proposals and without it, there would have been much larger project proposals brought forward.

Craig Searle, president of the Riverside Park Community Association, believes the proposed density of the project is too high for the community. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"Nothing matched the community-led concept plan by 100 per cent," said River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington.

"There were no exact matches. Every bid received deviated in one way or another. And that's to be expected," he said.

"If there was no concept plan you would probably see submissions that were much more dense and much taller. Absolutely much taller," he said.

The impact of increased density

Brockington said while he understands the project's density is problematic for many residents, he's not sure where the boundary should be. 

"I don't know what the ideal number is," he said. "The height, in my mind, is reasonable, but they have a lot of units in them and I think people are looking at the number and saying that's a lot."

Brockington believes the fact the development caters specifically to seniors alleviates many of the community's concerns about the negative impact of the project.

"They don't have wild parties," he said.

"When you look at statistics about people who live in seniors' residence, they don't drive cars, they're not going to be swamping the streets with traffic," said Brockington.

"They're going to be fairly self-contained." 

Height concerns 

The developer has also proposed a three-storey strip — one floor of commercial tenants topped with two floors of apartments — along Riverside Drive. 

Searle said heightening the building would ruin the existing view of Mooney's Bay, which is central to the community.

"That's one of the best views in the city, overlooking the river," he said.

"It'll block that view."

River ward councillor, Riley Brockington, says he's had 70 meetings with community members about the project. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Brockington agrees and said he would be advocating to remove one of the apartment floors. "I will be absolutely, without hesitation, be moving a motion to, at the very least, chop off one of those floors."

Meanwhile, Searle questions the usefulness of the commercial space given the difficulty other properties in the community have had.

"There is a commercial retail establishment maybe half a kilmometre away, to the north, and it has many unused [lots] now that they can't rent out," he said.

The idea of a commercial space with facilities like a doctor's office, pharmacy and coffee shop has garnered some community support said Brockington.

"The commercial strip on Riverside that was added would allow services that the community would need."

The report by city staff to the planning committee will be presented on February 27.