Ottawa planners want broader infill rules — and for a broader area

Ottawa Citizen

Weeks after new rules to curb often controversial infill developments in Ottawa’s central neighbourhoods received a stamp of approval from the Ontario Municipal Board, the planning committee is set to consider further changes to the zoning bylaw that would apply to neighbourhoods outside the core.

The background

The Mature Neighbourhoods Bylaw, also known as Infill I, concerned itself with aspects of new residential development in established communities that are most visible from the street — things like front setbacks, parking location, balconies and other physical elements of the building itself.

The rules apply to Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods in inner-urban wards, including Rideau-Vanier (west of Rideau River), New Edinburgh, Somerset, Kitchissippi and Capital.

The bylaw was passed in 2012 and later appealed to the OMB. In 2013, the city was asked to reconsider some aspects of the bylaw. Council endorsed a revised and renamed bylaw a year later, which was approved by the OMB…

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Diane Deans and Tactical Urbanism

Steps from the Canal

It may have just been a passing comment, but Diane Deans scored some points with me at a committee meeting. In the discussion about the patio project on Elgin Street, this occurred:

You may not be familiar with the term “tactical urbanism”. Here’s a pretty good definition:

…a collection of low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment, usually in cities, intended to improve local neighbourhoods and city gathering places. Tactical Urbanism is also commonly referred to as guerilla urbanism, pop-up urbanism, city repair, or D.I.Y. urbanism.

It really is a wonderful idea. It’s an easy way to spruce up our city streets (like the Glebe BIA is doing by putting out flower boxes for the Tulip Festival), and to adapt them to changing needs, events and seasons.

And I’ll admit; I was a…

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Danger zone in the backyard

Would you let your children play here? This video was shot in an Ottawa resident’s backyard on November 6, 2014. The home is in the middle of a construction zone for a 5-story condo development. Why wasn’t overhead netting or a protective wall installed to safeguard residents and their properties?

Community warned City in 2011 about potential for damage

Multiple homes in Ottawa are still dealing with severe damage after experiencing strong vibrations and various construction processes such as sheet piling, dewatering and drilling from an adjacent condo development site. The damage includes sinking floors, gaps and cracks in the walls and in one case, a collapsed ceiling. Meeting minutes show that the Lowertown community had warned the City of Ottawa and Council in 2011, prior to construction, about potential issues that could result in damage to homes. Residents says they are seeking answers from the City and Council.

Lowertown Condo: Community warned City about potential for damage in 2011

In 2011, the Lowertown community warned the City of Ottawa and Council about potential issues, namely geotechnical, that could result in damage to homes adjacent to a prospective condo construction development site.  This condo development was subsequently approved and construction began.

In 2014, multiple homes located next to this condo construction site began experiencing damage including sinking floors, gaps and cracks in the walls and in one case, a collapsed ceiling. Numerous construction processes took place directly adjacent to the properties including sheet piling, dewatering as well as drilling.

Below is an excerpt from the 2011 minutes outlining the community’s position. Was the response appropriate? And was this issue later addressed at the Site Plan Control stage?

Comment:

GEOTECHNICAL

  • Dewatering impacts have not been fully addressed relative to the shoreline, the development’s foundation and foundations nearby. There are several concrete examples of how dewatering and blasting have impacted the foundations of this neighbourhood. In addition, due to the clay-based riverbed nature of the land in this area, several homes are already experiencing significant stress on their foundations as the clay continues to settle.
  • Micro-site blasting has not been fully assessed for the impacts it will have on stone and sand foundations. Any blasting that will occur must have area foundations assessed by an engineer, paid for by the developer but sourced by the homeowner to set baseline structural competencies.
  • The parking structure will be below the level of the Rideau River. What are the implications and where will infiltrating water be directed?
  • The consultant notes that “if there are more than two levels of parking” where the program states that there will be three levels of parking. All studies should be based on the assumption that there will be three levels of parking. Assessment of the foundation cannot be undertaken until the number of levels of parking are confirmed as geological strata and engineering properties vary with depth.
  • The Elevations show no parking details i.e. no elevation details below grade. Structures with windows are shown on the roof above the third storey level. Does this provide access to the roof? If roof decks are envisioned, they will be incongruous with the neighbourhood.

Staff Response:

The proposal intends to accommodate the required parking in an underground parking garage. The parking garage is proposed to accommodate 110 parking spaces (residential and visitor). With respect to the dewatering or blasting of the site, these are issues which would be addressed at the Site Plan Control stage. In addition, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority has been circulated the application and has provided the following comments regarding the proposal:

“This development is not within the 1:100 year floodplain of the Rideau River, however the city should ensure that protection is in place relating to the Stormwater and drainage system so that no storm sewer surcharging or flooding would occur as a result of the nearby Rideau River reaching 55.71 metres geodetic, the 1:100 flood elevation.”

The full version of the minutes from 2011 can be found here: http://ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/citycouncil/occ/2011/08-25/pec/1%20-%20ACS2011-ICS-PGM-0085%20-%20Zoning%20St%20Andrew%20Street.htm

Lowertown Condo: Community raised concerns over damage mitigation with City and Council in 2011

In 2011, the community brought concerns to the attention of the City of Ottawa and Council regarding the mitigation of construction damage to homes adjacent to a prospective condo construction development site.  This condo development was subsequently approved and construction began.

In 2014, multiple homes located next to a condo construction site in Lowertown began experiencing damage including sinking floors, gaps and cracks in the walls and in one case, a collapsed ceiling. Numerous construction processes took place directly adjacent to the properties including sheet piling, dewatering as well as drilling.

Below is an excerpt from the 2011  minutes outlining the damage concerns of the community and the response. Was this response appropriate? And was this issue later addressed in the Site Plan Control stage or the Building Permit stage?

Comment:

SITE DESIGN/SITE FUNCTIONING ISSUES

[…]

  • There is no indication of how the developer would mitigate the effects of construction on the neighbourhood. We assume that in order to construct there will be significant blasting, trucks and other equipment coming through, staying on site etc. Given the size of the development and the absence of an open space to put equipment, where will that equipment be kept? How will it be moved? What is the compensation regime for any damage caused by the construction (do we have to go through the normal civil courts with the resulting time and money, or is there some expedited process?)

Staff Response:

[…]

Construction methods are not considered through the Zoning By-law amendment process, the issues identified pertaining to construction would be addressed at the Site Plan Control stage and Building Permit process stage. If development were to proceed, the applicant would have to store the construction vehicles on-site or off-site in accordance with the City’s regulations. The Site Plan Control application is currently on hold until a decision regarding the Zoning By-law Amendment has been made by City Council. If the Zoning By-law Amendment application is approved, the Site Plan Control process would continue and at that time the issues of de-watering, blasting and construction issues would be addressed.

The full version of the minutes from 2011 can be found here: http://ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/citycouncil/occ/2011/08-25/pec/1%20-%20ACS2011-ICS-PGM-0085%20-%20Zoning%20St%20Andrew%20Street.htm