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Residents lament Roosevelt Avenue condo proposal

By Bradley Turcotte – 

Approximately 50 passionate Kitchissippi residents attended an open house hosted by Domicile Developments on February 20 to communicate their concerns regarding the intensification the company’s proposed plan for 398, 402 and 406 Roosevelt Avenue would bring.

Domicile has filed a proposal with the City of Ottawa to demolish three residential homes it owns and permit re-zoning for a six-storey mixed-use building that includes two commercial units, 35 dwelling units, underground parking and rear surface parking.  A re-zoning application is needed in order to shift the height limitation from three storeys (R3 or residential zone) to six storeys (Traditional Main Street, or TMS, zone).

Representatives, including Domicile’s Director of Business, Development and Planning, David Renfroe, presented renderings of the proposal and walked through changes to the plans since its inception. These changes include restricting the front portion of the building to two stories, down from four, which David says: “respect[s the] urban fabric with sensitive building transition.”

“We care deeply about Westboro,” David said, which was met with boos from attendees.

Kitchissippi Councilor, Jeff Leiper, who opposes the development, encouraged the audience to remain respectful.

“This is an inappropriate juncture to put a building like this in the absence of a plan that can give residents a certainty,” Jeff said. “The developers can talk a lot about the plans and policies that are in place. But from a political point of view, from a resident’s point of view, from a community point of view. This is the wrong move.”

“The placement of it is bizarre… The architect noted it’s on Richmond, but it’s not. It’s actually on Roosevelt,” says Roosevelt Avenue resident Christine Lynch.

“The placement of it is bizarre… The architect noted it’s on Richmond, but it’s not. It’s actually on Roosevelt,” says Roosevelt Avenue resident Christine Lynch. Photo by Bradley Turcotte

The height of the building ranked high on resident’s lists of concerns, alongside noise from parking garage doors, moving trucks coming and going and property values plummeting.

Domicile argues the City’s Official Plan Amendment #150, which came into effect November 8, 2017, supports a six-storey building on the site as the TMS designation is flexible and can extend up to 200 meters from the “main street.”

No one in attendance refuted the beauty of the architecture, which features “decorative, aluminum metal cladding and gooseneck lighting” but residents do not want the building in their neighbourhood.

The area is already “saturated” with traffic, community member Joe Shapiro said. “Anybody who tries to turn left from Roosevelt on to Richmond, one or two cars get through per light because there are people walking, which is what everyone wants.”

The Traffic Impact Assessment study suggests the area can handle 120 cars per hour, Joe said.

“Try turning left from Berkley onto Richmond…  We need a comprehensive TIA study. Not piecemeal before you agree to it because it’s going to cause problems. Your hope that it’s not a problem is not good enough when someone’s kid gets smoked because someone has been waiting for a light for hours.”

Roosevelt Avenue resident Christine Lynch echoes Joe’s concerns. As that end of Roosevelt is a dead end, Christine said she doesn’t let her child play in the driveway as confused motorists frequently pull onto her property at high speed to turn around.

“Try turning left from Berkley onto Richmond… We need a comprehensive TIA [Transportation Impact Assessment] study. Not piecemeal [planning] before you agree to it because it’s going to cause problems,” says resident Joe Shapiro. Photo by Bradley Turcotte

Kitchissippi Ward’s population has grown five per cent in the last five years.

With five future LRT stations in the ward, including Dominion Station near the proposed condo, “this is clearly where this City Council wants to see development,” Jeff said, adding that he receives the same $41,000 budget per year as other wards but every street in Kitchissippi needs attention in order to cope with intensification.

“The streets are crumbling because of the semis and the condos that are cutting our street time and time again,” Jeff said.

Westboro is not the “wild west,” David argues, and Domicile is doing their best to respect the official plan, and has “come forward with a very appropriate form of intensification close to public transit to support the LRT and create economic development in Ottawa.”

“Big picture planning is the job of the City,” said Christine.

The City of Ottawa estimates the population to hit 1,207,000 by 2031.

Richmond Road, Churchill Avenue North and Scott Street are prime locations for the proposal and Christine deduces the Roosevelt site is simply more affordable; adding she worries another dead retail space will occupy the ground floor.

“The placement of it is bizarre… The architect noted it’s on Richmond, but it’s not. It’s actually on Roosevelt… It’s not on the corner, which is the foundation of the concerns. My suggestion would be to hold off on it until a proper planning discussion can be held. Buy some property near by or on a commercial stretch where you can do the exact same development and everyone would welcome it,” Christine said to applause from the crowd.

Domicile appreciates the community’s concerns, David said, and was pleased by the turn out at the open house.

“There is no way a community can evolve and grow without feedback,” David adds.

Kersten Nitsche, the City’s Development Review Planner in charge of the project said the community “always plays an important role in the process.”

“Westboro is a very dedicated community,” Kersten noted. However, no groundswell of community opposition has stopped a development in Kersten’s experience.

The Domicile team will now consider the input from the community before Kersten decides if their modified proposal is approved.

If approved, the issue is heard at the City Planning Committee May 22. Community members who wish to speak will be allotted five minutes. Jeff encourages residents to send their concerns directly to himself, Kersten (Kersten.Nitsche@ottawa.ca) and City Planning committee members. (Residents can refer to the full list at ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/your-city-government/council-and-standing-committees.)

If approved by the committee, the last “Hail Mary,” Jeff said, is to convince City Council members, especially Mayor Jim Watson, to vote down the development.

“I don’t have a magic bullet for you,” Jeff responded to one resident who asked point blank how to stop the construction, “we’re losing these battles in Westboro.”

For additional background, photos, and plans, see this article in our archives.

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