Some residents of a neighbourhood just west of downtown are opposed to a rezoning application that could lead to a half-dozen embassies being built on a patch of green space near the Ottawa River.
At issue is a 3.7-hectare parcel of land owned by the National Capital Commission (NCC) south of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway between Slidell Street and Forward Avenue in Ottawa's Mechanicsville neighbourhood.
The NCC is asking Ottawa city council to rezone the land so that it can build six embassies and accompanying parking space.
But residents say the development will block off their access to both the river and the city's light rail network, and restrict a space people use every day.
"It is a recreational area in addition to a very important access area for pedestrians, for walkers and hikers over to the river," said Reg Evans, who has lived in Mechanicsville for two-and-a-half years.
"To see it go ... is an incredible tragedy."
Lorrie Marlow, president of the Mechanicsville Community Association, said the land is very important to the community, especially given how dense development has made the neighbourhood.
She said many people live in small apartments with no access to a backyard.
"The thought that the NCC would be giving this land to foreign embassies for their exclusive use is a bit of a shock," she said.
While the conceptual plan does include a park, Marlow said it's on the eastern side of the land, and her concern is the loss of trees and wildlife on the western side.
"This green space is home to at least 66 ... migratory birds, in particular a horned owl that's very popular with the neighbourhood," she said. "It's got at least 75 large trees on there, a lot of long grass, wildflowers."
Meeting Wednesday night
Jeff Leiper, councillor for the area, is also opposed to the development and has asked the NCC to withdraw its application.
He's also hosting a community meeting Wednesday night so that residents can hear from the NCC and voice their concerns.
WATCH | Why the city councillor doesn't think it's the right fit:
The NCC said in a statement it welcomes public feedback and had done three rounds of consultation, starting in 2015, to develop that land for embassies.
The commission said it would continue to work with the community and elected officials as the application process continued.
Leiper acknowledged the fact both federal and municipal planners had anticipated embassies would be built on the land for several years.
"In the light of what we've learned about city building through the pandemic, the loss of this open space to build embassies strikes people as being certainly very distasteful," Leiper said.