Committee asks Windmill to reduce height on Southminster Church redevelopment

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Staff asked to work with developer to lower the proposed height in order to maintain scenic surroundings of the nearby Rideau Canal

Craig Lord, Ottawa Business Journal

Windmill Development Group has passed through planning committee on its path to redeveloping a portion of Bank Street’s Southminster United Church into condos, though a change in height may be necessary before council is ready to give its seal of approval.

The city’s planning committee evaluated a zoning bylaw amendment this week that would see a six-storey tower and four townhouses rise out of the church. The finished product would retain the church’s facade and main building but demolish the assembly hall at the rear, a piece that was added two decades after its initial construction.

The 85-year-old church in question sits at Bank and Aylmer streets, across from the Ottawa Library Sunnyside branch. It’s also located next to the Rideau Canal and across the bridge from Lansdowne.

Southminster says the decision to sell a portion of the church’s real estate to Windmill will see the congregation complete “long-awaited maintenance work” on the aging church.

The new condominium complex would have 18 units with underground parking. The committee’s amendment grants the project an additional four metres in height above the 15-metre standard for developments on a traditional mainstreet.

Fears of creeping height precedents are often a concern with infill, and the Southminster United Church was no different. David Chernushenko, councilor for the ward, expressed his opposition to the height extension in a report prepared by city staff.

“I cannot support the rezoning amendment, with the precedent which will be set for the traditional mainstreet character as a whole. Spot rezoning should not, and is never supposed to be used as a precedent, and yet over and over across the city, it is used successfully by project developers,” he wrote, echoing the concerns of fellow Ottawa South residents noted in the report.

Though the church is outside of the jurisdiction of the National Capital Commission, the organization tasked with preserving the Rideau Canal’s heritage value also made comments in the report.

The NCC’s chief desire was to keep the development’s height below that of the forested area that separates views of the church from the canal. As it stands, the planned height would surpass those of the surrounding trees.

Members of planning committee concurred, instructing staff to work with Windmill on attempts to lower the maximum height of 19 metres outlined in the report.

Other residents’ concerns revolved around the loss of reserved parking at the back of the church on Galt Street, as the area has struggled already with parking as of late since the Lansdowne development came online. City staff indicated in the report that they did not anticipate significant parking overflow as a result of the development.

City staff felt Windmill’s proposal “is a well-designed, sensitive and modest infill that respects and preserves the existing place of worship.” The zoning amendment decision was referred on to city council on Dec. 13.

Planning committee buys time for controversial Southminister church development

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Windmill Development Group and Southminister United Church are proposing to demolish an assembly hall and build four townhouses and a six-storey apartment building beside the church at 1040 Bank St. in Old Ottawa South. Source: Development application

Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Southminister United Church and the Windmill Development Group had a three-metre problem at council’s planning committee on Tuesday.

A single storey is preventing a community buy-in on a development, but that extra floor could protect the future of the church at 1040 Bank St. in Old Ottawa South.

Residents don’t find Windmill’s proposed design offensive.

“It just needs to be rejigged, that’s all,” resident Brian Tansey told the committee.

Easier said than done.

The application calls for the demolition of Memorial Hall, which was built in 1955, and the construction of four townhouses and a six-storey residential building with 14 units. The basement of the church would be renovated to host community events.

(The church was built in 1932 but it’s not a protected heritage building).

Windmill’s proposed six-storey building is the source of the controversy.

The National Capital Commission and Parks Canada don’t like that the building would affect the visual setting of the Rideau Canal. The six-storey building would be slightly higher than the church.

Residents aren’t crazy about that sixth storey, either.

“The dominance of the glass condo draws attention away from the church and even obscures it,” Anna Cuylits said.

However, city planning staff support the application, calling it a “well-designed, modest infill that respects and preserves the existing place of worship building.”

Nearly 400 people submitted comments on the application, with opponents decrying the proposed height of the new buildings, the density and the impact on the views around the Rideau Canal. There were about a dozen delegations at planning committee.

The church 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.

“This proposal allows us to stop the dripping,” Brewin said.

Rodney Wilts, a partner at Windmill, said if the company removed the sixth storey it would need to rethink the entire proposal on a tight development footprint.

“It’s not a viable option to say keep things we love and lop one storey off that building,” Wilts said.

The church will sell part of the property to Windmill for the residential development if council approves the necessary rezoning for what the company wants to build.

The planning committee voted to put off the decision until the Dec. 13 council meeting to let Windmill, city planners and Capital Coun. David Chernushenko figure out if the height of the six-storey building can be reduced.

Glebe mixed-use building draws ire

Melito Investments is proposing to build a mixed-use building at 667 Bank St. in the Glebe. Source: Development application

The planning controversies in Capital ward aren’t ending there.

Also up for consideration is an application from Melito Investments to construct a mixed-use building at 667 Bank St. in the Glebe.

The property, which was once home to a hotel and then a gas station, is currently a parking lot at the corner of Clemow Avenue. A children’s “exploration garden” is just north of the property.

The building would be 16.7 metres at its tallest point, or five storeys. The current zoning allows a building up to 15 metres in height.

There would be no parking spots in the development.

Opponents aren’t happy with the proposed massing of the building.

The planning committee will consider the development application later in the meeting on Tuesday.

Planning budget up for consideration

The planning committee is being asked to approve $56 million in spending next year as part of the draft 2018 budget.

The building code services branch accounts for most of the spending in the planning portfolio, but the department also receives millions in permit and development fee revenue to offset the expenses.

The planning department’s net budget is only $3.4 million when the revenue offsets are taken into consideration. It’s actually a $91,000 decrease from the 2017 net budget for the portfolio.

Council will vote on the 2018 budget on Dec. 13.

Rockcliffe Park residents get another chance to critique proposed addition

The built-heritage subcommittee received an earful from opponents recently about a proposed addition to a house in Rockcliffe Park. Some of those same residents are lining up to address the planning committee on Tuesday.

Daniel Weinand, co-founder of Shopify and the prospective buyer of the Tudor Revival-style house on a bluff at 551 Fairview Ave., wants to build a two-storey addition made of stone, wood and glass.

Rockcliffe residents fear the contemporary design will ruin the heritage charm of the stately community.

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Online consultation: Heron Road Separated Cycling Facilities

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Heron cycling 2

The City of Ottawa has initiated a functional design study for separated cycling facilities in the Heron Road corridor between Data Centre Road and Bank Street.  The plans also show potential connections between Heron Road and nearby pathways and transit stops.

You are invited to review the designs and provide feedback online at

The functional design will be refined based on comments received from the public, and the detailed design will be carried out in early 2018.  The project is not currently funded for construction, and so no date for implementation can be provided at this time.

Complete the feedback questionnaire or email your questions/comments by Monday, December 4, to the project manager:

Paul Clarke, P.Eng.
Project Manager
Transportation Services Department
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.613-580-2424, ext. 29882

Critics pan city's 'inadequate' environment budget

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Bid to dedicate staff to city's GHG reduction strategy fails

After three hours of debate and a close vote on reallocating money for two staff members dedicated to the city's greenhouse gas reduction plan, the environment committee approved its portion of the the 2018 draft budget without change Tuesday.

A number of public delegations addressed the committee Tuesday morning and accused the city of underfunding its own environmental priorities.

"This budget is inadequate," said Janice Ashworth of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce's sustainability committee.

Over the past four years, the city has only spent $1 million on energy efficiency instead of the planned $2 million, for example. And its aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 2012 levels by 2050 — a plan that falls under the city's own "energy evolution" strategy — is woefully behind schedule.​

"What we see with the 2018 budget is that it continues a trend of under-investment on this specific initiative," Robb Barnes of Ecology Ottawa told the committee. 

33 projects unfunded

The city's greenhouse gas reduction strategy includes a list of 33 projects that aren't being funded, he said; things like energy efficiency projects "that would yield not only tangible benefits from a climate lens," but also save the city money in reduced energy costs in the long term.

Ecology Ottawa was looking for $1.5 million in new money for energy evolution projects, but pointed out there's only $500,000 in new funding for grants for environmental programs.

The budget renews both $1 million in "energy management investing" for upgrading city buildings, and $500,000 for greening the city's fleet, but advocates don't consider either of these funds as additional money. ​