Councillor calls for 'nuclear option' to halt Westboro triplexes

Coun. Jeff Leiper is asking Ottawa city council to consider a moratorium on new triplexes in a section of Westboro, a move that would delay an application by a builder who wants to erect two multi-unit buildings on a single lot on Edison Avenue.

Jeff Leiper asking for moratorium on new multi-unit buildings in part of his ward

Triplexes like these ones on Ravenhill Avenue in Westboro are changing the face of the neighbourhood, some residents say. (Eric Milligan)

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  • Council approved the interim by-law at its meeting of Oct. 10, 2018

Coun. Jeff Leiper is asking Ottawa city council to consider a moratorium on new triplexes in a section of Westboro, a move that would delay an application by a builder who wants to erect two multi-unit buildings on a single lot on Edison Avenue.

The same builder, Falsetto Homes, is looking at a similar project on nearby Roosevelt Avenue.

I think they're pushing the envelope.- Coun . Jeff Leiper

"I think they're pushing the envelope," said Leiper, who's running for re-election in Kitchissippi ward. "I see it as overintensification."

On Wednesday, Leiper will ask council to consider a motion calling for an interim control bylaw — essentially, a temporary moratorium — on triplexes from Golden Avenue east to Tweedsmuir Avenue, and Byron Avenue south to Dovercourt Avenue.  

'Nuclear option'

"I realize this is the nuclear option," said Leiper, whose motion also asks city staff to study the impact of triplexes in Westboro.

Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the planning committee, has seconded Leiper's motion, an strong indication of support.

Leiper's proposal prompted the city's committee of adjustment —  the arms-length tribunal considering the Falsetto Homes application — to delay its decision until council votes.  

City council will vote on Coun. Jeff Leiper's motion to place a moratorium on triplexes in a section of Westboro on Oct. 10. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Neighbours upset

People living in the area under consideration applaud the move.

"It shed a strong ray of sunshine on what seemed to be a kind of hopeless situation," said Max Finkelstein, who lives next to the proposed site on Edison Avenue.

He said the development seemed to be a tipping point for the community, where many residents are concerned about the changing face of a neighbourhood where single-family homes were once the rule.

Eighty people showed up to a recent consultation held by the developer to discuss the Edison Avenue proposal.

"It's not just a couple of neighbours upset, it's a whole community that's upset," Finkelstein said.

Too intense?

The city's official plan is geared toward intensification in urban neighbourhoods, and the neighbourhood in question is zoned to allow triplexes, but Leiper said many residents feel the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

"Replacing a single family home with six units — potentially a fourth unit in each of those triplexes if the owner comes back for rezoning subsequently — that seems to be a threshold too far," he said.

But for advocates of urban intensification, triplexes make desirable downtown neighbourhoods more accessible to homebuyers currently priced out of the single-family home market. 

"This is forward-thinking," said Kate Whitfield, an urban planner and lecturer at Carleton University.

"When cities have a chance to adopt progressive policies, we have to keep moving forward to get the kind of city we want," she said.

Edison Avenue neighbours Eric Milligan, left, and Max Finkelstein, right, applaud a move by their councillor to freeze the construction of new triplexes in their neighbourhood. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)