Mayor tells City Planners to Stop Making Rezoning Promises

August 1, 2012 3:02 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is trying to quell some of the brewing community unrest with the recent spate of exceptions to Community Development Plans being granted to condo developers by City of Ottawa planners. Mayor Watson told City officials to stop promising developers that the City will grant developers exceptions to Community Development Plans before consultations with community groups have started.

The most recent controversy arose when the Hintonburg Community Association got its hands on a letter that the City’s Planning Department wrote to the developer of a site that is the current location of the Odawa Native Friendship Centre on Scott Street (between Parkdale and Bayview, as seen in picture above). The letter said: “…the City will support a rezoning to allow for development of a mid-rise building (maximum of nine storeys) subject to the proposed development presenting a high level of quality in its design and materials while meeting the Official Plan policies.”

The problem is the zoning for the current site only allows institutional uses – i.e., not residential condos – and a building height of less than half of what is being proposed. The Hintonburg Community Association says the letter from the City effectively proves that City planners are too cozy with developers and the fix is in on this condo development proposal before consultations with the community have been undertaken.

The Mayor appeared to side with residents when he issued a strongly worded rebuke to City officials. His letter to the Community Association stated that: “At no time in a pre-consultation meeting or in the letter provided to the applicant thereafter, is a formal position taken on an application.”

But it seems the Mayor’s closest associates may have not received that memo in advance. While the Mayor criticized his own officials, the Chair of City Council’s Planning Committee Councillor Peter Hume seemed puzzled, explaining that the meeting and correspondence between City planners and the developer was just “normal procedure”.

When making promises to developers to over-ride zoning restrictions and Community Development Plans without community input become “normal procedure”, maybe residents and Community Associations are right to be concerned that the deck appears to be stacked against them.

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This post was written by John King Team