Lansdowne heritage ruling 'embarrassing' for city, group says

on .

Laura Mueller,

GLEBE - Heritage Ottawa says the city should be embarrassed about being on the losing side of a hearing about heritage conservation at Lansdowne Park.

The heritage group objected to the city's decision to move the Hortoculture building to another location on the Lansdowne site to make way for an Empire cinema and an underground parking garage. The heritage designation on the 1914-era building had to be stripped in order to make the move possible, and that's where Heritage Ottawa drew the line.

The Ontario Conservation Review Board agreed.

During a hearing at Centrepointe Theatre from April 18 to 22, the board found that the city's case for lifting and moving the Horticulture Building is built on "transient, project specific and insufficient grounds."

The hearing chair, Su Murdoch, delivered the board's recommendation that the city not repeal all or part of the bylaw designating the building as heritage.

"It's sort of heartening to read the decision of the CRB and they read back to you what you said at the hearing," said David Flemming, president of Heritage Ottawa.

"I think they should be embarrassed," he added.

But in a unique twist, the board's decision isn't binding, because the city is both the property owner and the decision-maker when it comes to heritage designation bylaws.

City council would have to discuss the decision and take action to reverse the removal of the heritage designation.

City spokeswoman Jocelyne Turner said the board decision might be included in reports going to the city's finance and economic development committee and city council in July, but couldn't confirm this before deadline.

Flemming said it's not only heritage buffs who should be appalled at this latest development in the Lansdowne saga. Taxpayers should balk that the city is planning to spend $5 million to lift and move the Horticulture Building, Flemming said.

Flemming says that the city is misguided to claim that it would be a "dealbreaker" to change the site plan and require the developer, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, to work around the Horticulture Building. Flemming says he and Heritage Ottawa have been lobbying the city to do just that since the original Lansdowne Live proposal in 2008, and if the city had heeded that advice, it would not be in this position.

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