Councillors reject Thai embassy proposal for Island Park Drive
Planning staff backed embassy's bid for special zoning to construct 'office building'
- The Thai embassy's proposal for Island Park was rejected by full council on Jan. 30.
City councillors on Ottawa's planning committee remained unconvinced Thursday that the Royal Thai Embassy deserves a special exemption to construct an office building on Island Park Drive.
In a rare act of dissent, the committee voted 7-2 to reject the advice of planning staff, who recommended the zoning exemption.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who represents the mostly residential neighbourhood, had urged his colleagues to reject the proposal, arguing that approving it would send the wrong message to other embassies in residential neighbourhoods.
"There are places in the city you can put embassies. It's not up to us to rezone this property in a way that is incompatible with the stated intent of our [residential] zoning," Leiper said.
Residents 'ecstatic' by vote
Local resident Heather Mitchell told councillors she felt staff were putting the needs of the embassy ahead of those of the neighbourhood.
"Why on earth would the planners allow this?" she asked.
City staff explained they felt the zoning exception was appropriate because the house the Thai Embassy occupies is at the edge of the neighbourhood and the embassy had been a good neighbour for more than 30 years.
But councillors were open to arguments that the city's zoning should be respected.
It's not a slight against the Royal Thai embassy. It's a fact that this is a residential street. It should be respected.- Mayor Jim Watson
Planning chair Jan Harder and councillors Laura Dudas, Glen Gower, Tim Tierney, Stephen Blais and Rick Chiarelli sided with Leiper.
Councillors Scott Moffatt and Allan Hubley voted for the exemption, which would have allowed the Thai embassy to construct a non-residential building on a lot where only a diplomatic residence is currently allowed.
The committee's decision still needs the final approval of city council, which appears likely.
Mayor Jim Watson said he was pleased planning committee had rejected the Thai embassy's proposal.
"It was grandfathered, but Island Park is a residential street. You shouldn't have offices there," he said.
"It's not a slight against the Royal Thai embassy. It's a fact that this is a residential street. It should be respected."