Developers 'rolling the dice' to add units to Westboro triplexes
Builders using 2-step method to speed up approvals, consultant says
- City council approved the fourplexes by a tight 13-10 vote on May 8, 2019.
- Ward councillor Jeff Leiper tried to get colleagues to reject it to make a point to developers.
- Lieper believes the process breeds mistrust among residents.
Developers building triplexes in Westboro are returning to the city for approval to add a fourth unit as a way of circumventing the normal process, Ottawa's planning committee heard Thursday.
The committee approved the addition of basement units to a pair of residential buildings on Winona Avenue, turning them into fourplexes.
To build a fourplex — technically classified as a lowrise apartment building — developers must jump through some extra hoops. Specifically, they must undergo a lengthy and expensive process known as a site plan, which involves submitting detailed plans for layout, landscaping and drainage for review by city staff.
Residents have lost that trust that the city is there to defend the zoning that's in place.- Coun. Jeff Leiper
The Winona Avenue buildings were originally approved as triplexes, but residents suspected that was never the developer's end goal.
"One of the things we would like to see is staff ask a stupid question: 'Is this going to ultimately be a four-unit apartment building and not a triplex?" said Gary Ludington of the Westboro Community Association.
Coun. Jeff Leiper, whose ward includes the buildings, called the trend "problematic."
"Residents have lost that trust that the city is there to defend the zoning that's in place," he said.
'Just following the rules'
A consultant readily admitted small builders are employing the two-step method as a way of getting around the approval process for apartment buildings, which they find time-consuming and costly.
"They want to get on with the project, build a building, get tenants into the building and generate a revenue stream, and do that as quickly as they can," said Murray Chown of Novatech, who represents the Winona Avenue builder, Falsetto Homes Inc., as well as other small builders in Westboro.
Chown said after getting the OK for a triplex, small builders then "roll the dice" during construction to try to get a fourth unit added.
"They're taking advantage ... of the way the Planning Act is set up. They're just following the rules," said Doug James, a manager of development review with the city.
"It's not how the road got you there, it's what you get in the end that represents good planning."