City of Ottawa, developer agree to concessions with 11 of 14 Lansdowne opponents

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By Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The city and its partner in the Lansdowne Park redevelopment — the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group — settled on Wednesday with 11 of the 14 parties appealing the project to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The concessions include giving $300,000 to the Glebe BIA and $30,000 to community groups to help them through what will surely be a disrupting construction session when the Lansdowne project gets under way. The city and OSEG will split the costs equally.

The changes also include preserving what amounts to air space for area residents.

For example, one condition of the settlement sees the total elimination of nine-storey residential buildings that were to be built behind townhouses facing Holmwood Avenue. While the walk-ups are still going ahead, the commercial buildings behind them will only be about four storeys high — the same height as the townhouses.

The condo tower going up at the intersection of Bank Street and Holmwood Avenue will be capped at 12 storeys instead of the previously planned 14, and a small public square will be installed at the corner.

The zoning for two commercial buildings on the site will be reduced, which will stop development down the road as opposed to changing any current plans. For example, the building that is to house the Whole Foods grocery store was to be zoned to allow possible upward residential development in five or 10 years — Wednesday's settlement eliminates that possibility.

Vehicular access to Lansdowne will now be restricted from Holmwood Avenue, addressing one of the major concerns of that street's residents.

The maximum number of residential units remains at 280, but may move to other buildings, such as the one planned for the base of the Bank Street Bridge, a building that was originally to be a hotel and then an office tower.

Mayor Jim Watson characterized the announcement as "a very good deal" for the city and for residents.

"I'm glad we have reached a fair settlement that allows us to move forward with the project, but also respects the legitimate concerns (the) people closest to Lansdowne are going to have to deal with," he said.

There is some concern that Frank Clair Stadium and Bank Street in the Glebe both be refurbished in time for the FIFA women's world soccer tournaments headed to Ottawa starting in 2104. But Watson said he's confident both the street and the stadium will be ready, even though a separate lawsuit against the city by the Friends of Lansdowne is still to be heard in June. It's likely that a decision in that case won't be announced until fall at the earliest.

"We do have a fair amount of buffer time built in," said Watson, but added that "at the end of the day, I can't control what will happen with the courts."

Greenberg said Wednesday's compromise approved by the city was the result of a lengthy mediation undertaken in a spirit of collaboration with a number of groups, including the Glebe and Ottawa South community associations as well as the Glebe BIA and residents on Holmwood. He said one of the problems OSEG faced was that it was never able to determine what the groups could live with and what they would not accept. The mediation, he said, allowed the groups to put forward their views on what they could live with.

"You never know when you go to the OMB. Sometimes you win, sometimes, you lose. From our perspective, certainty is always better than uncertainty," he said. "We are happy to live (with) these accommodations and, hopefully, it will see a change in attitudes for everybody to be more supportive of the whole process and move forward positively to implement this."

Not everyone was supportive, however.

The announcement was barely made when a news release from the Glebe and Old Ottawa South community associations said they "continue to harbour profound reservations" about the impact of the project on their communities, but had "reluctantly" agreed to drop their appeal in exchange for the modifications.

Christine Leadman, executive director of the Glebe BIA, said it's the nature of such a settlement process that no side ends up with exactly what they want.

"If you can get some things, that's positive," she said.

Leadman cited the accelerated timeline on the Bank Street construction, which will reduce the disruption for Glebe businesses, as an example of one of the positives.

Ideally, she said, her members would have liked to see a reduction in the total square footage of commercial element of the Lansdowne redevelopment. They've had to accept that won't happen. She is pleased that there's some language recognizing the need for appropriate commercial development that complements the sport facility use and won't compete against Glebe businesses. Yet, because city council ultimately makes the call on what's appropriate, Leadman said she won't stop worrying about the issue completely until everything is signed and sealed.

There are now only three individuals left who are continuing with their appeals of the project, but city officials do not believe the cases will take long to hear.

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