Bronson Avenue tower, Westboro side-street apartment closer to reality

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Ottawa's planning committee approves 2nd try at developing corner of Bronson and Carling

Coun. David Chernushenko did not object to the two new buildings on Bronson and Carling avenues that were approved by the city's planning committee on Tuesday. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

By Andrew Foote, CBC News

Plans for a large building at the intersection of Bronson and Carling Avenues passed through the city's planning committee with little opposition Tuesday morning, while approving a smaller building on a Westboro side street brought a bigger backlash.

Members of the committee approved a proposal for a 12-storey off-campus residence targeted at university students on the corner where interest in a previous condo development fizzled under a different owner, according to the area's councillor David Chernushenko.

Chernushenko said it will be more like a hotel than the stereotypes of "parties, frat houses, problems, problems, problems," that some people hold about student housing.

He said he's on board with city staff who said most of its underground parking should be dedicated to bicycles, with only 38 parking spots for residents and visitors to put their vehicles.

Questions about parking spaces

"If we can't build rental housing with very minimal parking in this location, where can we?" he said during the meeting.

"It's on Bronson Avenue with the number four bus route, for mobile students it's not that far from a rail station [and] although I don't recommend cycling up Bronson all you have to do is deke out the back and [go] down onto Queen Elizabeth Drive."

Some residents have said that's not enough parking. Though they heard the city staff response that students don't own vehicles as much as the general population, some residents at the meeting wondered what would happen if the general population started moving in.

A proposal for a different 15-storey building next door was approved after being scaled down to just six stories.

Chernushenko said opposition to the proposals were "extremely minimal" because the developers worked with the community.

But he said the city will have to look into more buses because, once complete, these two buildings and another proposal there that's "likely coming very soon" could bring 800 to 1,000 new residents on the corner.

Mixed views on Eden Avenue

The longer discussion at Tuesday morning's meeting was over a proposal to turn a home on Eden Avenue in Westboro, just off Richmond Road, into a four-storey apartment that would have 13 units.

City staff recommended approving the zoning changes to make it happen, calling it a transition from a taller mixed-use building that fronts onto Richmond Road and pointing out it's downhill from the rest of Eden Avenue, which would make it appear even shorter from that perspective.

However, residents and the area's councillor Jeff Leiper were against the proposal, saying it would throw off the character of the street and, for Leiper, potentially set a dangerous precedent in a "planning Wild West."

"My concern is that we're putting apartment buildings in zones that don't currently allow apartment buildings, and I see the pressure is going to continue to do that," he said after the meeting.

"If that is the case, we should have a plan for how we're going to handle the growth; how are there going to be enough parks libraries, pools, safe cycling infrastructure, parking. It's being done on an ad hoc basis and I believe strongly that we should be proceeding according to a well-thought plan."

Leiper said he asked city staff to review the official Westboro plans when this term of council began, since it was done about a decade ago before light rail plans had really formed, but was told there were not enough resources to do that.

The plan for 404 Eden Ave. was approved, with Leiper the only member to vote no.

These proposals still have to be approved by the full city council on Feb. 8.

Planning committee next meets on Feb. 14.