Westboro gets to keep free parking as city rejigs plan

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By Jennifer McIntosh, Ottawa Community News

André Schad, who owns a business in the ByWard Market, called foul over free parking in Westboro.

City staff recommended Westboro keep their free parking in a report on a parking management plan for the area presented to the city's transportation committee on April 5.

"I don't know why this is even an issue," Schad said about the decision of whether or not to implement paid parking. "Westboro dwarfs ByWard in terms of non-food retail and parking capacity."

Schad said retailers in the market are leaving for the greener pastures in Westboro.

"Why is Westboro getting a free ride?" he asked.

While the report recommends the status quo in most of Westboro, staff recommended the implement of paid parking on Danforth Avenue.

Under the current parking management plan, the process to change an area to paid parking has to have the support of the area business improvement area, ward councillor and the community association.

The majority of businesses and residents were not for the change.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu took an end run at the issue by attempting to initiate parking fees through a motion, but the attempt fell flat.

Transportation committee chair Keith Egli expressed concern that approval of the motion could open the city up to legal challenges by the affected businesses. The concern was mirrored by city solicitor Rick O'Connor.

Fleury ultimately withdrew his motion.

David Chernushenko also expressed frustration with the city's policy, saying there's confusion because people get ticketed in the Glebe, but can park for free in Ottawa south.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, who represents the area, said residents and businesses have bought into the existing plan and have spent the better part of a year working within the confines of it.

Leiper said he was open to updating the city's policy on parking fees, but only with proper public consultation.

Leiper said it is important to have a fair parking policy that takes away the councillor and local BIA's opportunity to veto a fee structure.

Somerset House, with no timeline in sight

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The April 2017 concept for Somerset House by architect Richard Chmiel. The historic building is at Somerset and Bank streets.

Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The latest renovation concept for the historic Somerset House received approval from the city's heritage panel Thursday, but members walked away, again, with no indication of when the work would be done.

"Maybe our grandchildren will be here discussing this," said subcommittee member Sandy Smallwood during a built-heritage subcommittee meeting at city hall.

There's no rule forcing TKS Holdings to reconstruct the building at Somerset and Bank streets by a specific time. The company owner has said he's worried about how much the redevelopment would cost.

The city has watched the building deteriorate over the past nine years, ever since a partial collapse in October 2007. Last year, council had to approve dismantling the three easternmost bays on Somerset Street West because of the wear and tear.

The heritage subcommittee, planning committee and council have little power to make construction happen. They can only make sure the heritage attributes are respected and the building conforms to zoning.

The owner has hired a new architect, Chmiel Architects, to pick up where the last one left off.

For the most part, the subcommittee was fine with the latest drawings. The planning committee and council will also need to approve the concept.

The one hiccup was the new design doesn't replicate the demolished fourth bay on Somerset Street West, as required by council. City heritage staff forgot about that order when they supported the new design, and when they realized the mistake, they decided to forge ahead with the concept anyway.

That didn't fly with the heritage subcommittee, which asked the architect to fix it. Architect Richard Chmiel, who was hired for the project in December and didn't know about the council direction, said he would be willing to revisit the design to make sure it conforms to council's wishes.

"We all make mistakes and at this stage we really need to move forward," said Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, the chair of the subcommittee.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said she receives more calls about Somerset House than any other project in her downtown ward.

"Residents of Somerset ward and beyond are frustrated by this project," McKenney said.

McKenney repeated her idea for the city to expropriate the property, "because at some point we have to take matters into our own hands."

Heritage Ottawa president David Jeanes said he doesn't understand why the fourth-bay requirement wasn't met in the new design. He openly wondered if the heritage department is understaffed and overloaded, considering its ongoing work on the mayor's heritage task force and other projects, like the proposed Château Laurier development.

The subcommittee learned the city recently hired two additional heritage planners.

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Transportation committee to review rules for free on-street parking

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Sun

Free parking has prevailed on Westboro and Hintonburg's main drag — for now — but the transportation committee on Wednesday vowed to review criteria for introducing paid parking and consider scrapping the veto currently held by neighbourhood business and community associations.

An exhaustive two-year parking study of Somerset, Wellington West and Richmond concluded that adding parking meters along the corridor would be one way to solve parking woes along the popular shopping and dining strip.

On-street parking often exceeds practical capacity, the study found, meaning more than 85 per cent of available spots are taken. The situation causes congestion and forces drivers to hunt for spaces on residential side streets. In particular, Richmond Road west of Tweedsmuir Avenue and Wellington Street west of Parkdale Avenue are among the highest demand locations for on-street parking in Ottawa.

Relying on a "good body of literature" on how pricing can alleviate some of the pressure caused by parking demand, the ward's councillor, Jeff Leiper, was open to introducing paid on-street parking, which is already a reality on Bank Street, Preston Street and in the ByWard Market.

The committee heard the lack of paid parking in one part of the city is hurting businesses in another.

"You guys have a freebie and we don't," said Andre Schad. "It's costing us."

Schad, who owns Schad Boutique on Sussex Drive, said several businesses have moved to Westboro from the ByWard Market, where he claims enforcement of on-street parking is stiffer. He added the proliferation of bars and restaurants in the market, which has been raised as a concern by some, is due to the departure of retail shops who can no longer afford the rents.

"We're just looking for an equal playing field for all retailers in the city."

Proposed 8-storey seniors' block in Glebe draws fire

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A rendering of the building designed by Barry Hobin that Canderel hopes to build on Bank Street in the Glebe. (City of Ottawa)

Ward councillor slams plan that would double allowable height

CBC News

A proposal for an eight-storey building in the Glebe is coming under fire from the area's councillor and residents who worry the development's height is out of step with the traditional main street character of the area, and could set a precedent for more taller-than-allowed buildings on Bank Street.

The project, which already has the backing of the city's planning staff, will be discussed at next week's planning committee.

The proposal calls for a 160-unit building for seniors to replace a Beer Store and Mister Muffler. The building's main floor would be reserved for commercial tenants, including a new Beer Store.

The developer is asking for a number of changes to current rules, including permission to build to a height of 26 metres instead of the prescribed 15 metres, and to build closer to the sidewalk than planning rules allow.

"This project is not compatible with the traditional main street zoning, nor with the existing character of the street," Coun. David Chernushenko stated in his written comments submitted with the planning report.

'Massive presence'

Coun. David Chernushenko says the 8-storey building proposed for Bank Street is out of character for the Glebe's traditional mainstreet zoning. (CBC/Kate Porter)

Chernushenko's main issue is the "massive presence" resulting from the proposed height. In his written comments, he pointed out that a community-wide initiative completed in 2016 recommended preserving a 15-metre height limit.

He also wrote that council "formally acknowledged" that the "taller-than-normal" buildings at nearby Lansdowne Park were an exception, not a permanent change to the zoning rule book.

Local residents also expressed their displeasure with the project, and more than 500 people have signed an online petition opposing the project.