Old Ottawa South residents fight church addition

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Residents in Old Ottawa South have concerns about the proposed development of the Southminster United Church at 15 Aylmer Ave. In an effort to keep the church operational, the congregation signed an agreement with Windmill Developments to sell a portion of the property for $1 million. The proposal calls for six-storey apartment building, some residents say, is too high, and residents add, the view of the Rideau Canal, and the church itself will be lost. - Michelle Nash Baker/Metroland

Development puts the view in jeopardy, they say

Michelle Nash Baker, Ottawa East News

What’s in a view?

In Old Ottawa South, some residents feel a view should be considered just as important as any heritage building – especially when that view is of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The issue is the proposed development of the Southminster United Church at 15 Aylmer Ave.

In an effort to keep the church operational, the congregation signed an agreement with Windmill Developments to sell a portion of the property for $1 million.

The proposal is to retain the existing church building and renovate the basement to accommodate community uses. The sale is subject to re-zoning of the property to permit residential condominiums. Memorial Hall would be demolished and replaced with four three-storey townhouses and a 14-unit, six-storey apartment building.

The six-storey apartment building, some residents say, is too high and they add the view of the Rideau Canal, and the church itself will be lost.

Susan Brousseau points out the condominium will be higher than the church and higher than any building currently allowed in the neighbourhood. Brousseau is working with a group of residents aimed at reducing the height of the proposal.

“We all feel this is the gateway, the landmark in the community,” Brousseau said. “We just think this is wrong, we would ask for less, everyone would be cheering if it was less.”

Basically, Brousseau said, they are asking the developers to knock off the top of the building.

Brousseau said there is no doubt the view the future condo owners will have will be amazing – something she agrees with architect Barry Hobin about.

But Brousseau said the future condo owners aren't the only people who should matter.

“We are looking (at it from) the residents' point of view, the people skating on the canal – what will they see?” she said.

One of the biggest issues, Brousseau said, is that the developer’s proposal falsely shows what the view will be – the renderings portray the property in the height of summer, a time when the trees still have their leaves.

This will not be the case come skating season, Brousseau argued.

“It is unfortunate, as well, that the renderings do not include a winter scene, when, like most of the year, there will be no leaves. It is important that city council takes this into consideration,” Brousseau said.

Fellow resident Anna Cuylits said there is no doubt the new condo will dominate the view of the canal.

“It will take away, or replace the landmark view on the church,” Cuylits said. “It detracts from the image of the church and that concerns me. The viewscape just doesn’t fit in with the heritage character.”

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko doesn’t totally agree with the residents on the issue – he agrees the building will be too high and would like the proposal to be one-storey less -- but overall, the proposal is OK.

“It’s a challenge as a councillor when you are trying to parse out what are the real concerns and what aren’t,” he said. “This is one where as the councillor I have to say ‘Look I’m with you on a lot of things, but let's not go too far and let's just stick with what’s really substantial,’ and that is the height and the precedent setting.”

Lack of federal funding means no community centre for Heron Park

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Heron Park won't be getting federal funding to build a new community centre because the project won't be able to meet the deadline.

Heron Park won't be getting federal funding to build a new community centre because the project won't be able to meet the deadline. (Aislinn May/ CBC News)

Heron Park won't be getting long awaited community centre after federal funding was revoked

CBC News

After years of pushing for a new community centre, people in Heron Park will have to keep waiting.

Plans to build a new community centre in the area have been cancelled after federal funding fell through because the project could not be completed by the deadline. 

In September, the Heron Park Community Association was notified by their city councilor David Chernushenko that they wouldn't be getting over $500,000 in federal funding because the project could not be completed by the March 31, 2018 deadline.

The city's request for an extension had been denied by the government. 

"Well we were shocked, absolutely shocked. The wind was knocked out of our sails," said Linda Gama-Pinto, the president of the Heron Park Community Association.

Pinto said that Heron Park has been pushing for a new community centre for years and the neighbourhood has already fundraised more than $5,500 to help pay for the centre. 

Back in 2015 the city applied for federal funding from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. The money was meant to support community facilities across Canada in celebration of Canada's 150 anniversary.

Last December David McGuinty, the Member of Parliament for the Ottawa South riding, was able to secure over half a million dollars to help build Heron Park's community centre.

'Stealth' bunkhouse sneaking into Old Ottawa South, says councillor

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Karen Stevens-Guille

Karen Stevens-Guille is angry the development next door to her house — seen here to her right — will be a 27-bedroom apartment building. She's wants the builder held to account for assurances made during the approval process that there would be 12 bedrooms. (Susan Burgess)

Expanded six-plex will have 27 bedrooms, instead of the 12 proposed by developer during approval

By Susan Burgess, CBC News

A builder in Old Ottawa South got approval to expand a six-unit apartment building by making assurances it would have only 12 bedrooms, but months later, the number of bedrooms suddenly ballooned to 27.

And David Chernushenko, the councillor for the area, says he's powerless to stop what he calls an "over-development by stealth."

Verbally promised 12 bedrooms

Builder Jordan Tannis wanted to enlarge the six-plex at 177 Hopewell Ave. Last October, his application appeared before the city's committee of adjustment, a council-appointed tribunal that makes decisions on minor planning issues. The project qualifies as an expansion, as opposed to a completely new project, under the city's rules despite the fact that a single wall is the only obvious remaining part of the original structure.

During the hearing, Brian Casagrande — a Fotenn planning consultant hired by the builder — repeatedly assured committee members and concerned neighbours that Tannis intended to fill the renovated building with six two-bedroom units. He said the existing building also had six units, but with eight bedrooms between them.

In an official audio recording of the meeting, he can be heard dismissing concerns of neighbours about a potential tripling of people living on the site, saying "I want the committee to understand that that is not in fact true," and that "the intention of the proposal is to have all two-bedroom units."

Later, he refers to floor plans, saying: "The intention is shown on the plans. This plan here is showing you two-bedroom units."

Moreover, Tannis's intention was to create "a higher-end version of rental units," the consultant told the committee.

"He's not going to want one unit with 10 kids slammed and sandwiched into it," said Casagrande, referring to concerns about student housing given the building's proximity to Carleton University.

Councillor feels hoodwinked

But the latest version of the plans, which came to light just a few weeks ago, paint a very different picture, according to Chernushenko.

Those plans depict five units with four bedrooms each, and another seven-bedroom unit spanning two floors, for a total of 27 bedrooms, according to staff in the councillor's office.

In other words, while the builder had explicitly proposed a 50-per-cent increase in the number of bedrooms when arguing for approval of the plans, the development is now on track for an increase greater than 300 per cent.

The builder "told a nice story, and then went about doing what they wanted to after all," said Chernushenko.

What 177 Hopewell looked like before construction began, according to "planning rationale" documents submitted by the consulting firm Fotenn.

Plan beat bunkhouse law by weeks

The plan with the extra bedrooms was submitted to the city last June, weeks before city council approved an interim control by-law to deal with the problem of so-called "bunkhouses," and which put a one-year freeze on new construction or renovations of a building with a large number of bedrooms.

Neighbours, who have kept an eagle eye on the development for more than a year, accuse the builder of pulling a fast one.

Karen Stevens-Guille, who lives next door to 177 Hopewell, attended meetings and stayed abreast of the entire process, yet discovered the plan for additional bedrooms only by chance.

"I noticed a bunch of new windows in the foundation that weren't there on the plans that I understood had been signed off on by the city," she said.

Stevens-Guille quickly contacted Chernushenko and city staff, who investigated. In late September, Chernushenko's office delivered the news that the city's Building Code Services branch had in fact approved plans for 27 bedrooms.

"I feel completely let down by the City of Ottawa. I feel really betrayed," said Stevens-Guille, adding many people in the community participated in public consultation on the project. "We don't think it's right to be able to promise one thing and build another and for that to be OK, to be allowed to proceed."

Even the early proposal had residents concerned about issues such as increased traffic, a shortage of parking and the storage of garbage on the site, and the latest version of the plan has only intensified those concerns.

The proposed expansion of the six-plex on Hopewell Avenue, from planning rationale documents submitted to the city's committee of adjustment by the consulting firm Fotenn. 

City cannot stop construction

Neighbours might be angry, but the builder has done nothing illegal, according to Doug James, the city's manager of development review.

That's because in its ruling, the committee of adjustment tied its decision only to the size and location of the construction, James said in an e-mail, not to the number of bedrooms.

"No City By-laws were broken and the construction is moving forward in accordance with the plans approved by the Committee of Adjustment," James said.

Asked whether the committee could have opted to include a condition tying the approval to the number of bedrooms, James said yes, but that the plans filed by the committee of adjustment did not include floor plans.

Residents also angry with city

Stevens-Guille isn't buying that excuse, noting that even if the committee's ruling doesn't mention bedrooms, numerous other documents from the city do.

The notice of hearing to residents states: "the number of units will remain at six and the units will be expanded to two and three bedroom units." The same language appears in the pre-amble of the document that contains the committee of adjustment decision.

That language suggests a maximum of 18 bedrooms was contemplated, more than discussed by Casagrande at the meeting but a third fewer than the 27 currently planned.

Jeff Tobin, who also lives right next to 177 Hopewell, said assurances from the city about the number of bedrooms influenced his decision to buy the house last December.

His realtor reached out to the committee of adjustment, Tobin said, and quickly relayed to him exterior plans for the house next door, along with the information that it would have six units of two to three bedrooms each.

"If we had any knowledge of the bedroom count or even the knowledge that all that had been approved was the building size with no restrictions on bedrooms, we would not have purchased the home," Tobin said in an email.

'We're not doing anything sneaky': developer

The builder arrived at 177 Hopewell shortly after CBC began an interview with Stevens-Guille.

Tannis declined to have his comments filmed or recorded, but adamantly denied he had ever presented a plan for the number of bedrooms, and that in any case it's not the place of the committee of adjustment to regulate a building's interior.

"We're not doing anything sneaky or tricky," he said. "We're following the rules the city puts forward."

Tannis also told CBC that "stories like this give credence to complainers and I think it's not fair." It's also unfair to discriminate against students when building housing, he said.

The city does need to change the rules around how developments are approved, Chernushenko said, but he also took a shot at builders on the lookout for loopholes.

"Someone who has an intent to shoehorn as many people (as they can) onto a property and maximize their rental income out of it is going to keep looking for them," Chernushenko said. "The city has always got to be trying to stay ahead of it, and then closing them as quickly as we can."

Stevens-Guille warned if things don't change, other communities are at risk.

"This can happen anywhere in Ottawa," she said. "It's not just us. It has nothing to do with our precise neighbourhood."

Downtown councillors ponder possibilities of steeper tax hike

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About 100 people attended a municipal budget consultation hosted by five inner-city councillors at Ottawa city hall. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Public consultation held to ask whether residents would tolerate an extra 1% tax increase

By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News

City councillors and residents from Ottawa's five central wards spent Tuesday evening exploring the ways in which the city could spend extra tax dollars if the mayor and rest of council ever loosen their grip on the annual tax increase, currently capped at two per cent.

About 100 people attended the meeting at city hall to hear five pitches including improved winter maintenance, long-term arts funding, sustainable funding for new social services organizations, affordable housing and transitioning to cleaner energy.

Urban core councillors host budget consultation
The meeting was hosted by Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper.

They asked the crowd to consider paying one per cent more than they currently do in taxes — adding $14 million to city revenue and an expense of $35 per year for the average homeowner.

Green energy, new social enterprises

The most popular pitches were a $4 million capital investment in affordable housing, the renewable energy plan and supporting new social service organizations.

Janice Ashworth, general manager of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op, said the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce is urging council to work on the energy transition.

She sketched out a $1.5 million plan to spend on electric car charging stations, a sustainability audit office, a tower retrofit program to improve energy efficiency and net-metering for solar energy.

"Let's take advantage of this money-making opportunity, let's stop wasting taxpayer dollars literally in smokestacks or in wasted heat from inefficient light bulbs," she said.

Green Bin program's 'yuck factor' still bedevils city hall

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The city is trapped in a green bin of confusion, not knowing how to get more people to scrape the guck from their plates into a bucket instead of a trash can.

After being shamed by Waste Watch Ottawa into addressing a ho-hum diversion rate, council’s environment committee on Tuesday held a question-and-answer session with staff about recycling and green bins.

The city is still having trouble helping people conquer their fear of the “yuck factor” in separating gooey organics from dry garbage, according to Kevin Wylie, the general manager of public works and environmental services.

Allowing people to use plastic bags, instead of only paper products, has been billed as one possible solution to increase the usage rate, but the city is still duking it out with Orgaworld over the 20-year green bin contract signed in 2008.

The legal tussle between the city and Orgaworld is over leaf and yard waste, but it’s getting in the way of other potential initiatives, such as using plastic bags.

“It boggles the mind that with an arbitrator ruling that essentially said the city was in the right that we’d be still here years later,” said Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of the environment committee.

“I’ll be blunt. It sucks.”

Artist dismayed after Lansdowne Park installation taken down for Grey Cup seats

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'Moving Surfaces' was installed at Lansdowne Park in September 2014. (David Barbour)

Moving Surfaces installation removed to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup

By Sandra Abma, CBC News

An award-winning Canadian artist is wondering about the fate of a major work of public art she designed for Lansdowne Park, one she says was dismantled to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup.

Until last week, Jill Anholt's Moving Surfaces, a giant steel and light sculpture, was installed atop a hill of rolling green next to TD Place Stadium.

Now the multi-million dollar installation has been removed to make way for way for additional seats for the upcoming Grey Cup on Nov. 26.

"I wasn't consulted about the process," said Anholt from her home in Vancouver.

Anholt said she has no details of how her very complex construction of bended steel and LED lights was taken apart, and how it is being stored. She worries that a lack of expertise, combined with the speed of the removal, may have damaged her work.

"I'm really upset, terribly upset," she said.

Anholt said she was surprised to learn from the city's public art department that Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and the City of Ottawa were considering moving the art, because prior to the sculpture being installed in 2014, her team had already come up with a solution if the need arose for more stadium seating.

"We did numerous studies, 3D modelling, drawings, had multiple conversations, documentation, to prove that the artwork could co-exist with the stands, so as far as I was concerned that was put to rest years ago," said Anholt.

Anholt said when she learned about the possible move, she quickly resent those studies to the city and OSEG, with a request for more information about what they were planning.

"I got nothing. The next thing I know they were taking it out," she said.

Anholt said she only learned the art was being removed last week, when a concerned citizen from Ottawa sent her photos of her sculpture in pieces, laying uncovered on the ground.

Safety behind decision, says city manager

Dan Chenier, the city's general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, said "unfortunately the artist wasn't advised before the work got started," but added that Anholt was contacted shortly afterward.

Safety concerns were behind the decision to temporally replace the artwork with stands of seating for the upcoming crowds expected to take in the Grey Cup football game and the Heritage Winter Classic hockey match, Chenier said.

"Initially it was believed that the stands could be built over it, but because of the berm, the configuration of the site, it was found that it couldn't be done safely," said Chenier.

Chenier said the sculpture will be reinstalled in the same location in the spring, after the sporting events are done.

Bernie Ashe, the CEO of OSEG, said in a statement released Wednesday that attempts were made to design temporary stands around the artwork, but "regrettably, that was not possible."

"Great care was taken to temporarily move the sculpture from the berm at the west end of Lansdowne Park and great care will be taken to reinstall it in its permanent home in the spring. We look forward to seeing Moving Surfaces back where it belongs," Ashe said.

Anholt, however, said she has "grave concerns" the intricate artwork can ever be reassembled.

Lancement officiel des travaux sur la passerelle du canal Rideau

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Le vendredi 6 octobre, à 14 h
Sentier du canal Rideau Canal à l'avenue Fifth

Joignez-vous à moi, la député d'Ottawa-Centre, Catherine McKenna, le député Yasir Naqvi et le maire Jim Watson pour une cérémonie marquant le lancement officiel des travaux sur la passerelle au-dessus du canal Rideau entre l'avenue Fifth et la rue Clegg.

Veuillez noter que la cérémonie se déroulera à 14 h, et non pas à 10 h 30 tel qu'annoncé auparavant.

La nouvelle passerelle fournira un lien sûr et pratique pour les piétons et les cyclistes qui voyagent entre le quartier Glebe et l'Ancien quartier d’Ottawa-Est / le Vieil Ottawa-Sud.

Les travaux ont déjà commencé avec la l'installation d'un sentier de déviation du côté ouest du canal le long de la promenade de la Reine-Élizabeth entre les avenues Third et Fifth. Sur le côté est, un sentier de déviation sera bientôt aménagé entre les rues Clegg et Herridge, ainsi qu'un passage pour piétons avec signalisation à la hauteur de la rue Herridge.

'I would never blind-side my colleagues on anything': Councillors bitter over plan to hike stormwater fee

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Projected increases to the newly structured stormwater fee have some rural politicians livid, with one councillor fearing the city duped residents into settling for the so-called rain tax.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who heads council’s rural affairs committee, couldn’t mask his frustration during an environment committee meeting on Tuesday as staff presented their proposed 10-year financial plan for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

The plan calls for annual increases to the stormwater fee between 10 per cent and 13 per cent through 2027.

The city went through a painful process last year to convince residents who aren’t on municipal water and sewer services that they need to pay a stormwater fee, since only those who received water and sewer bills were actually paying for the city’s stormwater infrastructure program.

Moffatt recoiled at the latest staff plan to hike the stormwater fee by substantial rates starting in 2018.

“It presents as though the stormwater fee will be increased significantly over the next 10 years and I feel that’s not what we said last year,” Moffatt said after the environment committee meeting.

It’s “disingenuous” that the city sold a new stormwater fee to residents in 2016 and then came back in 2017 with a report that recommends expanding the stormwater budget, Moffatt said.

Moffatt seemed equally disheartened that no one at city hall apparently gave him a heads up about the proposed increases, especially since he worked hard during the consultations on the highly controversial stormwater fee and rate review in 2016.

“Why would you leave someone out? I would never do that to my colleagues,” Moffatt said. “I would never blind-side my colleagues on anything.”

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, the chair of the environment committee, said residents and councillors would have known that future financial plans would impact the stormwater fee.

“I don’t believe residents were at all hoodwinked, misled, lied to. No shell games here,” Chernushenko said. “I know our staff made it very clear, and I made a point of insisting that we make it clear, that what we were talking about during the rate review was how we allocate who pays what portion.”

The amount the city needs to pay for stormwater services is something that would be considered on an annual basis through budgets and a long-range financial plan, Chernushenko said.

Council casts vote in favour of longer parking hours

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Chernushenko raises concerns about how bylaw overhaul will impact Lansdowne

Jennifer McIntosh, Ottawa Community News

If you can park for six hours in Old Ottawa South, customers may not pay for spots around Lansdowne, said Capital Coun. David Chernushenko during a vote to ratify changes to the city’s parking bylaw.

Council approved the slate of changes, which most notably include moving to six hour parking on unsigned streets during the weekend and statutory holidays, on Sept. 13.

“The plans for Lansdowne never envisioned streets in Old Ottawa South where you can park for six hours,” he said. “The parking lots in the area are already underwhelmed.”

Chernushenko, who voted in favour of the changes, said he will likely work with residents to institute parking restrictions on some streets.