Numerous approvals at city council today ahead of summer break

Council met for the last time before a seven-week summer break and approved, among other things, a speed limit reduction for Holland Avenue, waiving $800,000 in interest fees for Amazon, and broadening the fireworks bylaw review.
City council met Wednesday for the last time before a seven-week summer break. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

Ottawa's city council met for the last time Wednesday before a seven-week summer break, and approved the city's tallest tower and free parking at City Hall while Elgin Street is under construction.

But it also gave the thumbs up to a slew of other items.

Holland Avenue speed limit to drop to 30 km/h

It's not a dedicated bike lane, but it's something.

When the Harmer Street Bridge that spans the Queensway — used by hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists daily — had to be replaced, travellers were going to have to use a stretch of Holland Avenue instead.
The City of Ottawa says the current Harmer Avenue Pedestrian Bridge has reached the end of its life cycle. The bridge was one of the first to cross a 400-level highway when it first opened in the 1960s. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

To help protect cyclists, city staff came up with a plan to install a cycling lane on Holland during the two years that it would take to replace the bridge. But the loss of parking spaces on Holland upset residents, and staff replaced the bike lane with painted sharrows, which are supposed to signal to drivers to share the lane with cyclists.

That, in turn, upset cyclists and some parents of the nearby middle school.

To help calm traffic in the area, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper and Mayor Jim Watson successfully moved a motion to reduce the speed limit on that stretch of Holland to 30 km/h until the bridge is replaced.​

$800K interest fee waived for Amazon warehouse

Council also approved the motion walked on at planning committee Tuesday to waive $800,000 in interest payments for the builder of the new Amazon warehouse announced this week for the east end of the city. About 600 people are expected to be hired to work at the one-million-square-foot facility, which is being constructed by Broccolini.

Council voted 19 to two to waive $800,000 in interest fees for the builder of the newly announced Amazon warehouse. (Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

City officials are citing those various benefits as the reason to forgive the company $800,000 in interest payments.

The builder wants to delay paying $8 million in development charges — that's the money developers pay the city to cover the costs of growth, like expanding transit services — for a year. It's not unusual, but Broccolini doesn't want to pay the usual 10 per cent interest on the delay.

At Tuesday's planning meeting, councillors Tobi Nussbaum and Leiper voted against the move, suggesting Amazon could well afford to pay the $800,000 in interest fees and wondering if the move would set a precedent.

On Wednesday, Coun. Tim Tierney called the councillors out on their vote, telling council he was "a little disappointed" not to get "unanimous support" for the motion, and suggesting his colleagues' votes were due to "election fever." 

Then the mayor doubled down, chiding Nussbaum and Leiper to "rethink" their decision.

When Nussbaum tried to respond, Watson ruled him out of order. Nussbaum and Leiper voted against waiving the interest fees.

99 Fifth Ave. to be 7 storeys

Coun. David Chernushenko voted against his conscience for a development he said falls short because he feels there's no way to stop it from going ahead

"The best councillors can do is try to negotiate for small changes," he said.

Council approved the redevelopment of 99 Fifth Ave., currently a two-storey complex known as Fifth Avenue Court, situated on the northeast corner of Bank and Fifth.
Coun. David Chernushenko voted in favour of a development he opposes after asking his colleagues for support on minor changes to the building. (Minto)

Minto, which owns the property, wants to replace it with a seven-storey building. The site is currently zoned for 15 metres, but Minto applied to increase the height to 23 metres.

Councillors routinely find themselves unable to protect existing plans for their areas, he said. 

"Not only have we started to wonder why we even bother, but many of our constituents, too," Chernushenko said. 

'Flora Footbridge' to span the canal

The Glebe-area bridge being constructed over the Rideau Canal will be named after Flora MacDonald, Canada's first female foreign minister.

Council unanimously approved the name Flora Footbridge, which was the preference of the committee charged with finding a name. It had more than 180 names to choose from.

Considered a trailblazer for women in politics, MacDonald was a Conservative MP for 16 years, held a number of cabinet positions, and followed her political career with years of humanitarian work.

Chernushenko said he's been asked why only her first name is being included, and that "It's how she was known affectionately to many people across this country and even internationally."

Council approved for a new building at 443 and 447 Kent St., which will replace two homes in the Centretown heritage conservation district. (City of Ottawa)

443 and 447 Kent St. move ahead

Council green-lighted a compromise between Roca Developments and the Centretown Citizens Community Association over the distance between the sidewalk and a proposed apartment building on Kent Street

The developer can now replace two homes at 443 and 447 Kent St. — within the heritage conservation district — between Gladstone Avenue and McLeod Street. 

The new low-rise building was going to be built right at the sidewalk, which was an issue for residents.

It will now be built 1.6 meters back from the sidewalk.

Refunds for donations to candidates who drop out

The city clerk's office is trying to avoid an "unintentional windfall" from residents who donate money to council candidates who then drop out.

Candidates who registered to, but then decided against, running for this fall's municipal election are not allowed to refund money their supporters contributed to them. Provincial rules say the money has to go to the city clerk's office. 

But the clerk doesn't want the money, arguing it's not in the spirit of the election act. Instead, the office proposed getting the money back to donors through the city's contribution rebate program, which gives back a small portion of donations as an incentive for folks to get involved in city politics. 

A motion passed by council Wednesday now allows the city to return 75 per cent of the contributions made to a drop-out candidate through the rebate program. There's only one catch: the candidate had to have registered for the rebate program ahead of time.

Fireworks review

A dangerous scene involving teens, a Taser, chaos and fireworks on Canada Day in Barrhaven spurred council to expand its review of its fireworks bylaw.

A 15-year-old was Tasered by police last week after allegedly setting off fireworks on the grounds of the event, according to Ottawa police.

About 100 other youths were involved as well, according to the festival's director, who described teens shooting firecrackers into the crowd. Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder asked council to approve a review of security requirements related to fireworks, age requirements for vendors, insurance requirements, and the number of fireworks allowed to be kept on site.

The work will be done as part of an ongoing review of the city's fireworks bylaw.

With files from Joanne Chianello and Laura Osman