LRT deal leaves Westboro 'jewel' open to development

An Ottawa city councillor is calling for a halt to a deal with the National Capital Commission that would leave what he calls "the best part" of Rochester Field in Westboro open to development.

Agreement between city, NCC would allow 6-storey buildings on Richmond Road section of Rochester Field

The NCC proposal for Rochester Field would see development on two parcels of land along Richmond Road, bottom left, separated by a walkway connecting pedestrians to the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. (City of Ottawa/NCC)

An Ottawa city councillor is calling for a halt to a deal with the National Capital Commission that would leave what he calls "the best part" of Rochester Field in Westboro open to development.

Under the proposal, which is tied to an agreement with the city to extend light rail farther west, 80 per cent of the NCC-owned property would be retained as open space for public use.

But the proposal, to be heard at next week's planning committee, would rezone the remaining portion of the pistol-shaped field to allow for six-storey mixed-use buildings along Richmond Road, a change that is not sitting well with either neighbourhood groups or the ward's councillor, Jeff Leiper, who accuses planners of rushing the process.

In his written comments on the proposal, Leiper complains rapid intensification has already robbed Westboro of most of its available green space.

'A jewel in Westboro'

"For over a century, Rochester Field has been a jewel in Westboro. If a plan being rushed forward through City zoning by the National Capital Commission (NCC) proceeds, we'll lose the best parts of it forever," he wrote.

If a plan being rushed forward through City zoning by the National Capital Commission (NCC) proceeds, we'll lose the best parts of it forever.- Coun. Jeff Leiper

Leiper said the NCC's shift from an earlier proposal to develop only the northeastern section of the field is enough reason to "press pause on the process."

Rochester Field, bounded by the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to the north and Richmond Road to the south, is part of an NCC-owned piece of land that includes the historical Maplelawn property and the Keg Manor restaurant.

The city's dispute with the NCC over the land goes back to 2003, when the city's official plan designated most of the field as major open space, limiting what the federal landowner could do with the property. The NCC appealed that designation, but the appeal was never resolved.
In his written comments to the city's planning committee, Coun. Jeff Leiper calls Rochester Field 'a jewel in Westboro.' (Google Streetview)

Community associations also opposed

In 2014, the city announced it wanted to run the future western expansion of the light rail transit system above ground for 500 metres along the northern edge of Rochester Field, but the NCC opposed that plan.

The two sides eventually came to an agreement to move the trains under the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. The city agreed to pay the NCC $30 million as part of the deal, and also agreed to permit future development along Richmond Road.

The NCC's most recent plan calls for the development of two parcels along Richmond Road, divided by a pedestrian corridor connecting to the parkway.

The Westboro Community Association and the McKellar Park Community Association also wrote to register their opposition to the NCC's plan.

The city's planning committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal when it meets on Jan. 23.