Councillor’s Corner: Avoiding ‘Wild West’ planning with new infill rules for Westboro

Submitted by Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward Councillor

In the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of discussion about the new infill rules for a part of Westboro. I think it’s important to understand what those are, and why I’m supporting them.

The city is in the process of creating a new Official Plan. To mitigate the climate and taxpayer implications of urban sprawl, we’ve said that 51 per cent of Ottawa’s growth in the next 25 years should be through intensification. I know from your emails that mitigating climate change is a priority for Kitchissippi residents. 

In a couple of years, a comprehensive zoning review is going to drive greater intensification in every neighbourhood in Ottawa, especially near transit and in communities that qualify as “15-minutes.”

The zoning in this specific part of Westboro has for decades allowed singles, semis and triplexes. Two years ago, a developer brought a proposal to split a lot into two and build two three-storey triplex boxes, and we froze that application with a temporary ban to study the appropriateness of that. At the same time, staff took the opportunity to propose a more wholesale re-examination of infill rules to finally set some clear boundaries around it given the even bigger changes coming down the pipe. 

The new rules moving forward basically say that in the interior of neighbourhoods, we’ll still allow singles, semis and triplexes, adding towns, and recognize the established pattern that those can be built on smaller lots. We’ll require that those be smaller and shorter than they have been especially if they have a flat roof, with more landscaping. The triplexes that triggered the ban will not be allowed to be two three-storey flat-roofed boxes under these rules. On the edges of the area under study and at corners, we’ll allow slightly denser three-storey multi-unit dwellings. Those will prohibit parking so that the whole lot isn’t paved over. 

The rules recognize that infill will continue. They set out a clear regime that we haven’t had in decades, with clear instructions to the Committee of Adjustment about variances. When the Official Plan drives even more intensification in a couple of years, this specific part of Westboro will already have rules in place that define what that means. 

I expect that these new rules for the R3R portion of Westboro will become a template for similar neighbourhoods in Ottawa. It remains to be seen what the new Official Plan will mean for R1 and R2 neighbourhoods. 

I absolutely support the ability to build more rental housing in Westboro, and more housing generally, but subject to rules that minimize the impact of those. All of our neighbourhoods will continue to change; I’m pleased that in this corner of the city, though, we at least now understand what that will mean and have taken steps to put reasonable limits on it. Westboro, and our whole ward, has been subject to Wild West planning for far too long.

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