Council temporarily halts approval for bunkhouses

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Politicians invoke rarely used interim control bylaw for six Ottawa neighbourhoods

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

At its last meeting before a six-week summer break, council unanimously approved an interim control by-law that would temporarily prohibit any new construction or renovations of a building with a large number of bedrooms. The maximum number of bedrooms depends on the size of the building, but the aim of the bylaw is to prevent the situation where a building with a few units contains as many as 20 bedrooms.

Councillor wields new power to put 'bunkhouse' developers on the spot

TC United Group's plan to tear down this single family home 70 Russell Ave. and replace it with a four-unit, 21-bedroom building, will not be part of the freeze on bunkhouses. (Google Streetview)

Sandy Hill residents sound off over crowded student houses after latest charges

The freeze on this sort of student rooming house applies only to six student-centric communities: Sandy Hill, Heron Park, Old Ottawa South, parts of Old Ottawa East, Centretown and Overbrook.

Political win for Fleury

There has been growing concern over reported problems caused by cramming so many students into a building that was not designed for so many people.

No community has been more vocal about this issue than Sandy Hill, which has seen an influx of all sorts of intensification developments, as well as high-density student housing projects.

The halt on bunkhouses is a political win for Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who has been lobbying his council colleagues for years about the need to take action against this type of housing.

"Years ago, it was a much tougher battle because it was seen as anti-development," said Fleury about his campaign to change the rules around the number of bedrooms in a single dwelling.

Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents Old Ottawa South near Carleton University, said that a single home that in the past may have housed a large family of five or six is now housing double that many people. Sometimes a residential building may have a number of smaller apartments, but each of those units may have four or five bedrooms.

"Because these people are rarely related, they didn't sign the lease together, they may not have even known each other, they're not typically working together on garbage and recycling and green bin," said Chernushenko. "So you get 18, 20 garbage bags, out on the front lawn, often on the wrong week, so they're there for a long time. Then if urban creatures get into them, that's a mess."

In addition to garbage, residents also complain about the noise and general traffic that these sorts of bunkhouses create. And those complaints must be handled by the city's by-law officers.

"Creating these bunkhouses is something I don't support at all," said Mayor Jim Watson. "I think it diminishes the quality of life in a neighbourhood. And frankly it's not a very pleasant environment for students. It may be cheap housing, but it's not good housing.

"If someone wants to build an apartment, that's one thing ... but to build these bunkhouses so that they can exploit the opportunity to get as many students in a house is not acceptable in a residentially zoned neighbhourhood."

Move came as a surprise

There are actually no zoning rules prohibiting bunkhouses. Often the buildings are constructed or renovated under the current zoning — which often allows a single-family home to be split into a few flats, or even a small, low-rise apartment building — and those units are divided into multiple bedrooms with a shared bathroom and kitchen.

But there are no rules about how many bedrooms can be in a single home.

The city is trying to come up with some restrictions and is currently reviewing the zoning for multi-unit dwellings in residential neighbourhoods. The interim bylaw buys council and city staff more time for that review.

The interim control bylaw was worked on behind the scenes for the last week. City officials didn't want word of the development freeze to get out because they didn't want builders rushing to have their building permits approved.

Some Ottawa developers say privately they are stunned by the bylaw. There are sure to be applicants who have already spent thousands of dollars developing a multi-bedroom housing complex, only to find that they cannot move ahead with their projects for a year. And when the freeze is lifted, the rules for these sorts of developments may very well have changed.

The bylaw can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, but the freeze would remain in force during the process.

70 Russell is still a go

Just this week, Fleury used another rarely used and new political power to force a site-plan application for a high-occupancy project at 70 Russell Ave. in Sandy Hill to go to planning committee.

But after about an hour of public delegations and discussion at Tuesday's planning meeting, Fleury withdrew the item and returned the authority for approving the project back to city staff. After all, the project didn't break any planning policies and would have been approved by staff under usual circumstances.

In recognition that the approval for this application was delayed because Fleury took the issue to committee — a very unusual move — the redevelopment for 70 Russell was explicitly exempted from the new bylaw by staff and council.

Mesure exceptionnelle pour freiner la prolifération de dortoirs

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Julien Paquette, Le Droit

En attendant une solution permanente au nombre croissant de bâtiments vieillissants transformés en dortoirs, la Ville d'Ottawa a décidé d'adopter une mesure exceptionnelle afin de freiner leur développement.

Une révision de la zone R4 (zone résidentielle - immeubles d'appartements de faible hauteur) est en cours par les services municipaux. Un rapport est d'ailleurs attendu à l'automne, indique le conseiller de Rideau-Vanier, Mathieu Fleury, dont le district est touché par la prolifération de dortoirs, notamment dans le quartier Côte-de-Sable.

La mesure bloque temporairement l'octroi de permis de construction pour certains projets de bâtiments. Les nouvelles constructions ne pourront contenir, par exemple, d'unités de plus de quatre chambres.

Le conseil municipal ne cible également que certains quartiers où le nombre de dortoirs est jugé le plus important, soit la Côte-de-Sable, Heron Park, Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East, Centretown et Overbrook.

M. Fleury précise toutefois que la décision rendue par le conseil survient un peu trop tard pour le projet controversé du 70, avenue Russell puisque la demande de permis avait été effectuée auparavant.

Le conseiller de Rideau-Vanier est conscient que cette mesure exceptionnelle pourrait venir ralentir l'octroi de permis pour des constructions qui seraient, jugées conformes, même après la révision de la zone R4. Il soutient toutefois que l'impact sur ces projets devrait être relativement mineur.

« [La mesure serait en vigueur] au maximum un an, mais ça devrait prendre moins de six mois avant qu'on ait des nouveaux règlements de zonage qui vont corriger à la source cette problématique. »

Il souligne par ailleurs que la plupart des permis de construction sont octroyés dans les premiers mois de l'année de façon à ce que les travaux débutent durant la saison estivale.

Le conseiller de Capitale, David Chernushenko, s'est prononcé vigoureusement en faveur de la proposition durant la séance du conseil municipal. Il juge essentiel pour le conseil municipal d'agir dans ce dossier afin de veiller à la qualité de vie des voisins de ces dortoirs et s'est dit heureux de voir ses collègues Mathieu Fleury et Jan Harder soumettre cette proposition.

« Je ne supporte pas ce type de résolution à la légère. Si je ne m'abuse, nous n'en avons adopté qu'une seule durant mes sept ans au conseil municipal »

À noter que dans la même motion, les élus ottaviens ont également voté afin d'étendre la révision de la zone R4 aux zones R1 (habitations isolées), R2 (habitations à deux logements) et R3 (habitations en rangée).

Fifth-Clegg footbridge to start construction in fall but we need more like it and faster

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David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

The footbridge between Fifth Avenue and Clegg Street is finally being built after 110 years on the books, with a promise of $5 million in Ontario government money delivered on Friday.

Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi has spoken fondly of the Rideau Canal bridge for his entire political career but it took this long to find all the money for a span that’s been included in federal and municipal plans since early in the last century.

“If we can start the construction in 2017, it can technically be a legacy project. So happy birthday to Canada,” Naqvi joked as he made the announcement outside the Canal Ritz restaurant, where the west end of the bridge will be.

The federal government promised $10.5 million more than a year ago; the city bet that the province would come through and put the project up for bids without all the money in hand. Construction is to begin in September and the bridge should be done in two years, Mayor Jim Watson said.

Footbridges like this one used to be things Ottawa agreed to only grudgingly; the Corktown bridge across the canal squeaked through a reluctant city council in 2005 and traffic over it massively exceeded projections. The same thing happened with the Adawé footbridge over the Rideau River.

Now, said Coun. David Chernushenko, in whose Capital ward the new bridge is to be built, the question isn’t whether we should build these things, it’s where the next one is going to go and how exactly we’ll pay for it.

Right. That’s the thing.

The city estimates this bridge is a $20.5-million project — it’s crossing a particularly wide part of the canal and it’s tricky to squeeze the approaches in at either end. This is a lot of money but a trifle in transportation budgets that include, for instance, $40 million to widen nine kilometres of Highway 17 in Clarence-Rockland, $58 million to widen just 1.7 km of Greenbank Road, or $200 million-plus to widen 11 km of Highway 417.

City hall's advisory committees are still a disaster

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Nancy Biggs poses for a photo at her home in Ottawa Ontario Tuesday June 20, 2017. Nancy has just quit as vice-chair of City Hall's advisory committee on environmental issues. Council doesn't even ask the committee's opinion on things, let alone listen to it, she says, and she'll be more use volunteering with outside groups like Ecology Ottawa. Tony Caldwell

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

Nancy Biggs regrets spending three years trying to advise city council on the environment.

“I had high hopes in the first year and it just became more and more evident as time passed that we weren’t really a resource to the city at all,” Biggs said Tuesday, the day after she quit as vice-chair of city hall’s environmental stewardship advisory committee. She’s the second to bail out in six months and other members are restive. “We have never really been utilized at all.”

City hall’s advisory committees have a long history of sucking up interested citizens with expertise, ignoring them and making them mad, and then spitting them out again.

Biggs has a master’s degree in environmental science and spent her career in medical research. Since she retired she’s been increasingly active in environmental causes. She thought helping craft city policies on garbage, energy and especially active transportation (like biking and walking instead of driving) would be a worthwhile project. Instead, “I just don’t feel like I’m being useful, or like I’m using my time well.”

Biggs thinks she can make more of a difference away from city hall, with groups like Ecology Ottawa and Citizens for Safe Cycling.

“I just don’t like it when you somehow imply that you’re getting really good advice and it’s somehow being acted on when it’s not,” agreed committee member Bill Eggertson, a former radio journalist who’s more recently worked in the renewable-energy sector. The committee amounts to “greenwashing,” he said, pretending the city is much keener on an environmental agenda than it really is.

The members of the committee aren’t randoms pulled in off the street or activist wackos, he points out; they applied for the volunteer positions and city council chose them.

“If there is somebody on an advisory committee who is hot on Issue X, if you’ve got that type of expertise, why not take advantage of it?” Eggertson asked.

Street fight: Rideau River Drive residents 'incensed' over name change

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'We should have been given an opportunity to be consulted,' says longtime resident

By Jennifer Chevalier, CBC News

Homeowners on Rideau River Drive are fighting a street name change imposed by the City of Ottawa, saying their street is older, longer and more historically significant than a competing nearby private laneway.

Residents were sent a letter by the city June 9 telling them their street name was changing because it was too similar to Rideau River Lane.

Since the amalgamation of the City of Ottawa in 2001, 80 streets have been forced to change names to avoid confusion in the event of an emergency.

"Quite frankly I'm incensed," said Rideau River Drive resident Doretha Murphy. "It goes along the river ... it's appropriately called Rideau River Drive."

"Rideau River Drive existed a long time before Rideau River Lane," said Subodh Anand, who has lived on the street for 48 years. "That should be an important consideration."

Slightly more addresses on laneway

According to the city's own rules, once a decision is made that there could be confusion when police or an ambulance is called to streets with a similar sounding names, a set of criteria is followed to determine which street will get the short straw.

Typically the street with more residents gets to keep its name.

CBC News counted 23 townhouses on Rideau River Lane, which the city said make up 34 separate addresses.

Rideau River Drive comes up short with 20 homes, which the city counts as 25 separate addresses.

But there are other factors considered, including how long the street has existed, if it is a major road, its historical significance and if the street has an identifiable landmark.

The city said Rideau River Drive was renamed from Main Street in 1968, but has no record for when the private laneway was given its name.

While Rideau River Drive residents are organizing to fight the change, several residents on the Rideau River Lane CBC spoke to didn't want to talk about the street name.

Escapade festival promising to keep it down with move to Glebe

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Move from Rideau-Carleton Raceway to Lansdowne Park announced just over 2 weeks from festival

By Andrew Foote, CBC News

The Escapade electronic music festival — along with the city councillor for the Glebe — is assuring residents near Lansdowne Park they won't be kept up by the event's booming bass.

On Wednesday, the festival's organizers announced they were moving the June festival from the Rideau-Carleton Raceway in rural south Ottawa to Lansdowne Park, citing "rezoning and development" issues stemming from the track's recent partnership with Hard Rock International.

The festival had been held at the raceway for the last three years. It will take place this summer on the Great Lawn, the large greenspace at Lansdowne Park.

"Basically, this system is able to contour the sound field in three dimensions so we can literally take a remote control and change the speaker angles on the spot," said Ali Shafaee, the festival's director of partnerships.

"I think that's going to be a huge improvement in terms of making sure the sound doesn't bleed out into the neighbourhood."

There will be a stage on the lawn facing TD Place stadium, another on the south side of the Aberdeen Pavilion under a specially-shaped tent to contain sound and a third for the most bass-heavy music in the TD Place arena, according to technical information from the organizers shared by the city.

The eighth edition of Escapade features headliners Tiesto, Steve Aoki, Above and Beyond and Canadians Zed's Dead.

Councillor nervous

Capital ward councillor David Chernushenko said he was first approached with the idea of holding the festival at Lansdowne Park about six weeks ago.

"Knowing the track record of concern in the community around too many events and too much noise, and the right kind of event, they were aware I would need some real convincing," he said.

Chernushenko said he did end up being convinced because he has it in writing they'll keep the noise and bass to acceptable levels and if not, they could be immediately shut down or fined by on-site bylaw officers.

Overnight closure of Colonel By Drive June 8

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Parks Canada

The repair work on the walls of the Rideau Canal National Historic Site between Bank Street and Pig Island is wrapping up. As part of the final steps, the contractor will remove the barriers along the southbound lane starting at about 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 8. This work requires the overnight closure of Colonel By Drive from Clegg St. to Leonard Ave. A signed detour will be in place.

For additional information on Parks Canada infrastructure work in the Ottawa area, please visit www.pc.gc.ca/rcOttawa, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Old Ottawa South church plans condos by Rideau Canal

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A rendering by Hobin Architecture shows Southminster United Church in Old Ottawa South after its rear annex is replaced with a condo building and townhouses.

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

A zoning quirk could let an Old Ottawa South church shore up its finances by building a six-storey condominium overlooking the Rideau Canal.

Southminster United overlooks the canal just west of the Bank Street Bridge. If you’re skating toward Dow’s Lake on a winter afternoon, you can see its stained glass glowing in the sun.

The church and the stained glass are staying. But what’s going, conditional on city council’s approval, are a two-storey addition at the back and a side yard. They’ll be replaced with a small set of townhouses and a six-storey condo building wrapping around the northwest corner of the church, with million-dollar views of the canal. The developer is Windmill, the same company that has worked with the Anglican Church on building condos around Christ Church Cathedral at the west end of Sparks Street and is redeveloping the industrial islands in the Ottawa River north of LeBreton Flats.

To let this happen, though, city council will have to rezone the parcel from “institutional” use for the church to “traditional mainstreet” like most of Bank Street, which allows four-to-six-storey residential and commercial buildings. What’s tricky about this is that the main church is what actually faces Bank; the land to be redeveloped is at the far end of the property, well away from the main street.

Furthermore, just a few years ago the city approved a heritage-protection bylaw covering the houses that face the canal there — every single one of them between Bank Street and Bronson Avenue, except for the church, whose institutional zoning made it different, less susceptible to redevelopment. Till now.

Work on Rideau Canal walls nearing completion

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Parks Canada

Work to repair the Rideau Canal walls in downtown Ottawa between Bank Street and Pig Island along the Eastern shoreline began in December 2016 and is now nearing completion.Mail Attachment

Repairs on the walls themselves are complete and new railings have been installed. Work is now underway to re-install light standards and to repair the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway. The project will conclude with site rebeautification, including laying sod and removing temporary construction trailers as well as other features of the construction site.

Beginning at around 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, the contractor will remove the safety measures along the southbound lane of Colonel By Drive. A signed detour route will be in place as this work will require the overnight closure of Colonel By Drive in this area. A further notice will be circulated closer to the closure to confirm the date and time.

Once the contractor has fully withdrawn from the site, the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway will be reopened. This could occur as early as June 9.

The rehabilitation of the Rideau Canal walls between Bank Street and Pig Island was the second phase of a multiyear project to rehabilitate the Canal walls in downtown Ottawa. Last year, the first phase of this project rehabilitated a 500 meter length of the canal wall on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway side near the Bronson Bridge. While a third phase is anticipated during the winter of 2017-18, a specific location has not yet been selected.

For up-to-date news on infrastructure work along the Rideau Canal, please visit pc.gc.ca/rcInfrastructure. If you would like receive updates on this project, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include "Rideau Canal Walls" in the subject heading.

If you don’t find the information you need on these pages, please visit ottawa.ca/newlansdowne, or to contact the City directly by email at newlansdowne@ottawa.caor by calling 3-1-1 (press 1 for English, then 5 for the Lansdowne line). If necessary, you may also contact the project manager, Marco Manconi, at 613-580-2424 ext. 43229, or by email.