Hopewell Avenue 'stealth' bunkhouse getting downsized

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Residents said they felt betrayed by the city when the expansion of this six-plex at 177 Hopewell Avenue grew from 12 bedrooms to 27. It has now been cut back to 16. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Nearby residents and city councillor fought plan for 27-bedroom apartment building

By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News

Residents of Old Ottawa South learned Monday night that a developer will scale back plans for a six-unit apartment building after neighbours raised concerns the project had ballooned from 12 to 27 bedrooms without consultation.

Coun. David Chernushenko called the growth of the project during the build "overdevelopment by stealth."

'Stealth' bunkhouse sneaking into Old Ottawa South, says councillor
Karen Stevens-Guille, who lives next door to the project at 177 Hopewell Ave., had enlisted neighbours and strangers on her street to write to the mayor, their councillor and the city against the proposal.

"At one point if I'd been told the bedroom count was going to go down this much, I would be opening up something bubbly to celebrate," she said. "But I think it's been such a long slog we're cautious about even feeling relief."

Stevens-Guille said she is grateful to all the letter-writers who helped make the change happen.

The former plan to expand the number of bedrooms was not illegal, according to city officials. The permission granted the developer by the city's committee of adjustment did not specifically limit the number of bedrooms, although at a committee hearing, a representative for the developer repeatedly told committee members that the plan was for six two-bedroom units.

Councillors put pressure on builder

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko said he, Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper and city staff met with the builder in an attempt to get the number of bedrooms reduced.

"Did we have the legal means after committee of adjustment gave him approval? Possibly not," Chernushenko said. "But there was certainly the ability to put pressure on him."

Ottawa city councillor lashes out at 'lying' developers
Coun. David Chernushenko said previously the incident had destroyed his trust in developers and consultants, and he continues to be wary.

"I'm more suspicious and cynical than I would like to be," Chernushenko said. "I'm not naive, but on the other hand, I'm not someone who goes through life expecting or assuming the worst from people. So it's disappointing I have to be far more that way now."

Further consultation wasn't required, builder says

Jordan Tannis, president of Concorde Properties, said he had followed the city's rules and blamed the dispute on miscommunication.

"Because of the way the process and the application went through, I wasn't required to seek any further community consultations and I wasn't required to seek any councillor consultations, neighbourhood consultations," Tannis said. "Once I had the approval for the envelope I was more or less allowed to go ahead."

"Any attempts to accuse me of misleading the public, misleading the councillor's office or what not, I think that's not fair because that's not what I did."

By reducing the number of bedrooms from 27 to 16, he is attempting to "right the wrong" and respond to concerns he heard from the community, Tannis said,

"Never will I hide behind the city bylaws and city officials or what not, or even the councillors. They have the hardest jobs around," Tannis said.

"Any time we can help them out and what not and make the process easier for everybody, that's something I'll work towards."

Need to restore confidence

Tannis said he doesn't think the project has damaged the reputation of developers or his company but suggested lessons could be learned from it.

He said he supports changing city policy so residents don't end up feeling "screwed."

Coun. Chernushenko said an interim control by-law to deal with the problem of so-called "bunkhouses" has reduced the risk of a builder adding bedrooms to a development, but the dispute on Hopewell Avenue shows there's still work to be done.

"It does highlight that there are still a number of things in the city's processes that have to be tightened in order to have a better planning process that residents can have some confidence in," he said.

Southminster church redevelopment approved

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

Council gave the green-light to the redevelopment of an Old Ottawa South church after the applicant, Windmill Development Group, revised its proposed development so that a six-storey condominium building to be built adjacent to the church, overlooking the Rideau Canal, would top out 0.1 metres below the parapet of the existing church.

The issue of height had stalled the application, which the planning committee considered last month. The National Capital Commission and Parks Canada were convinced the building would affect the visual setting of the canal, with the six-storey building previously envisioned to be slightly taller than the church.

Residents weren’t pleased with the height either. Nearly 400 people submitted comments on the application, with opponents decrying the proposed height of the new building, the density and the impact on the views around the canal.

Southminster United Church officials approached Windmill about a potential partnership as it faced a financial reality. They came up with a development scheme that would provide the church with critical revenue.

Andrew Brewin, chair of the church’s redevelopment committee, said the future of the church could hinge on the partnership with Windmill. The church needs money for its main building, which also acts as a community hub.

Planning department staff supported the revisions to the proposed development, but Capital Coun. David Chernushenko concluded he may face criticism from both sides over the outcome of the “imperfect” redevelopment.

Ottawa councillors' infrastructure rebellion seems doomed — but it's a noble failure

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David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Every year, Mayor Jim Watson dares city councillors to find a way to mess with his budget. This year, a record eight councillors are taking him up on it, proposing a small one-time infrastructure levy to fix crumbling roads and maybe replace a pipe or two.

Unless something truly extraordinary happens in Wednesday’s city council meeting, they will fail. Ten councillors are firmly against them, two are openly very skeptical, and 12 votes is the ballgame.

But that eight councillors signed up for a rebellion is something.

Council’s downtown lefties, whose idea of what the city government should do differs from the mayor’s, took a while but eventually realized they had that in common. Gloucester-Southgate’s Diane Deans has been at the pointy end of Watson’s barbs a lot and has had it. College’s Rick Chiarelli and Kanata North’s Marianne Wilkinson are suburban infrastructure fiends, so they’re in, too.

Other suburban and rural councillors have weighed their interest in infrastructure against their interest in keeping taxes down, plunked Watson’s disapproval on the scale as well, and made their decisions.

Ottawa has a long history of underspending on infrastructure. A year ago, the city bureaucracy told councillors we need to spend about $195 million a year just to maintain the roads and pipes and buildings and bridges we already have, but we actually spend about $125 million.

You can see it in the potholed roads, the cracked water mains, the concrete sidewalks patched and re-patched with asphalt (“Watson warts,” maybe?), the pools that close for annual scrubbing but then stay closed for months because the walls are full of mould. We do not spend enough on this stuff and the results are obvious. Watson acknowledged this in his budget speech and said there’d be more pothole-filling and sidewalk-fixing in 2018.

Proposed infrastructure levy on a bumpy road to the budget vote

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The infrastructure levy proposed by eight councillors ahead of Wednesday’s 2018 budget vote has turned up the volume on the grumbling over the mayor’s two per cent tax promise.

It’s safe to expect a pile-on by councillors who oppose adding another 0.5 per cent to the already-planned two per cent property tax increase. Many have been on social media and radio programs dumping on the infrastructure tax proposal, even accusing some of the backers of political grandstanding before the next municipal election in October 2018.

That’s what Coun. George Darouze wrote in a social media post on Monday, taking aim specifically at experienced councillors who have signed onto the infrastructure tax proposal.

“They should know better than to play such obvious political games,” Darouze wrote.

Other councillors have been even more cutting.

Coun. Jody Mitic wrote on Twitter that taxpayers in his ward won’t pay for “bully tactics.”

On 1310 News last Friday, Coun. Allan Hubley took aim squarely at Coun. Diane Deans in an interview about the proposed infrastructure tax, steering the conversation to a recent audit that revealed questionable subsidy distributions in the child care program and pointing out that Deans chairs the committee that oversees child care.

Deans fired back at Hubley on social media, dismissing him as one of “the mayor’s cronies.”

The councillors who back the infrastructure tax — David Chernushenko, Rick Chiarelli, Mathieu Fleury, Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney, Tobi Nussbaum, Marianne Wilkinson and Deans — say it would only cost urban landowners an extra $1 each month.

The extra $8 million raised could pay for repairs to roads, parks and buildings, they argue.