Letter to the Editor: Is City Council listening? 

Dear Editor,

IS CITY COUNCIL LISTENING? They have ears, but they hear not.

Yesterday, we went to Planning Committee to try to convince councillors to vote against city planning department’s report that would allow a temporary restaurant patio at the Wellington Diner, located far too close to all of us.

The majority of Planning Committee voted to allow the patio to run until November 2018 without restrictions. Hats off to Councillor Brockington who pointed out noise mitigation should be addressed before the patio begins operating, rather than after a year of operation.

The issue has always been about noise. The by-law requires both 30 meters separation and noise mitigation. The restaurant owner will be exempt from the 30 meter separation requirement and the noise requirement until the end of 2018.

As approved, this application permits a ‘temporary’ patio but there seems to be a reverse onus on the nearby homeowners.  First, we have to prove why an exception to the planning rules is wrong and not up to the applicant and the City, to prove why it is right.   Now, it will be up to us to complain on a case-by-case basis why the patio is not working rather than the other way around. The city has stated it will deal with all valid noise complaints, so first we will have to prove that a noise complaint is “warranted.”

The cornerstone of Ottawa planning is to “accommodate the needs of a range of people of different incomes and lifestyles.” Why can we not be accommodated? The city planners repeatedly describe the needs of Wellington Street but not Western, where we live.  They use words like “lively, vibrant, animated” but nowhere do they describe our environment: quiet, homey, tranquil, caring and considerate.  As planners for all residents of the City, they should have done better.

This patio is a nightmare my wife Carolyn and I considered settled in 2009. I bought our property in 1977. We severed our lot at 100 Western in 2010 and built a wheelchair accessible home at 102 Western. We see no clear case for allowing planning changes and too many downsides that will impact me, my wife, and my neighbours who have lived in Wellington Village for decades.

Referring to her medical needs, my wife Carolyn said “I don’t think that someone’s desire to eat eggs on a patio should override my need for quiet enjoyment of my home as protected under the by-law.”

The proposal for the addition of a one metre tall canvas screen on top of the brick patio wall is, frankly, window dressing.  Even city planners admit it is not a ‘noise wall or sound barrier.” So what is it?  Is this a sincere response to our concerns or simply a symbolic gesture? The restaurant owner says he will do whatever is necessary to deal with noise. In the application, the only mention of noise mitigation was the canvas screen. Several councillors pointed out that canvas does not seem to address the noise mitigation requirement. Planning Committee was shown a slide depicting black canvas, wood slats, and foliage.  This powerpoint slide was shown to us at a public information session on May 2 but there was no mention of any alternative noise mitigation in the application. In a later meeting facilitated by Councillor Leiper, the restaurateur asked us to come up with a design which would meet our needs. The onus is for us to design his sound mitigation. Should this not be the responsibility of the applicant since it is a requirement of the by-law?

The planning report does not want the previous rejections of this application to be considered but I think one quote from the Ontario Municipal Board is very relevant. The Board’s decision said “it would not be fair to the objecting neighbours to keep appearing to present their case against (this) use.” The immediate neighbours should be considered and not just one interested, commercial party.

This goes before full council on July 12 but since Mayor Watson tweeted his position, it seems some minds are already made up.

Geena Green,
Wellington Village

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