NCC plan for embassy lots in Mechanicsville approved at committee

The National Capital Commission is set to have land in Ottawa's Mechanicsville area rezoned for up to five embassies, but the area's city councillor managed to again increase the size of the federal park planned for the site.

Ward councillor gets bigger park approved over worries about green space

A sign that says "trees not embassies" is posted on a tree above a metal fence.
A sign protests a plan to build embassies on a stretch of green space along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The National Capital Commission's land in Ottawa's Mechanicsville neighbourhood could soon be rezoned for up to five embassies, but Ottawa's planning committee agreed the federal park proposed for the site should be larger than previously planned.

The committee approved the application on Thursday and the file now heads to city council for final endorsement on Oct. 13. 

The area's councillor Jeff Leiper got his colleagues to support three motions including one to grow the size of the planned federal park yet again, to 0.9 hectares. The plan on the table had called for a 0.66-hectare park, which the NCC had already increased from its original proposal for 0.36 hectares. 

Leiper said the bigger park might mitigate losing open space in the neighbourhood, but by no means offsets what is there now.

"We're not making more new land," Leiper told his colleagues, before voting against the application. Councillors Shawn Menard and Riley Brockington also voted against, while the six other councillors voted for.

Several residents told councillors the importance of the current green space has grown since the pandemic began. If the City of Ottawa is serious about its climate emergency, they added, they would not allow buildings to go up in a neighbourhood already losing open space to intensification.

The NCC, however, said it never intended the parcel on Burnside Avenue to remain open space. 

Andrew Sacret, the commission's chief of long-term planning and transportation, pointed to the 220 hectares along the Ottawa River "thoughtfully" planned for recreational paths.

The Mechanicsville land, on the other hand, has long been intended for diplomatic missions, he said, and his organization maintains a land bank for the federal department of global affairs so it can meet demand from countries.

Coun. Jeff Leiper received support to change the map for the NCC's embassy proposal so the federal park, seen here as Area C, is a quarter hectare larger than proposed. (City of Ottawa)