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

 

CITY OF OTTAWA RESPONDS TO CONCERNED RESIDENT

Multiple homes in Ottawa are left with severe damage after experiencing strong vibrations and various construction processes including excavationsheet piling, dewatering and drilling from an adjacent condo development site.  The homes’ conditions continue to deteriorate as construction progresses. The City of Ottawa has been aware of this problem since March 2014.  Below is a sampling of the questions recently asked by a resident to the City of Ottawa’s Building Code Services/Planning and Growth Management department regarding the situation. Was the City’s response appropriate?

 Why would the City approve this development so close to our homes?

Building permits are issued based on the applicant demonstrating, through plans and specifications submitted, that there is intent to construct a building in compliance with the Building Code, ie., the minimum standards set out in the Code will be incorporated into the building and all applicable laws will be complied with once constructed. Applicable law includes the Zoning By-law.  The Zoning By-law stipulates the minimum setbacks from the lot lines and this project has met these standards.  Where intent has been established, the Chief Building Official is required to issue the permit. City Council in August 2011 approved a rezoning for the site to allow for the proposed development.  No appeals were received and the amendment came into effect in September 2011.  Considerations in determining whether or not to approve a rezoning are focused on land use planning and how the rezoning requested and the development that would be permitted respond to planning and design policy directions set out in the City’s Official Plan, which provides for consideration to be given to project fit with the pattern of development within an area.  The zoning approved allowed for the development being constructed and sets out various performance standards that the development would need to meet including setbacks, building height, provision of parking and landscaped open space.

The City has been aware of this for some time, what has been done to protect our homes and other homeowners from experiencing this?

As you have noted, Building Code Services has issued orders to the builder and will follow up where there is lack of action/response.  The Building Code Act provides limited enforcement tools, such as the issuance of orders to address non compliant construction or an unsafe condition, on a reactionary basis only.  As for all construction projects, it is the responsibility of the builder to take steps to avoid damaging adjacent properties lest the builder incur additional costs (claims, higher insurance premiums, fines, costs of repairs, etc), where structural damage occurs, receive Building Code orders requiring assessments and engineering reports, where unsafe work practices, , and receive orders from the Ministry of Labour, etc.

There are serious security concerns that need to be addressed immediately. We cannot walk around the property, deck or garden safely, for fear of construction material falling overhead. Why are you allowing this to go on?

This is a question to be directed to the builder as soon as possible, particularly if there have been incidents of objects falling from above.  This is not regulated under the Building Code Act.  The City does not regulate the use of cranes or the use of aerial space.

Furthermore, there are noise concerns. We want a sound monitor installed to measure the noise we have been constantly subjected to.

You may wish to contact the City’s 311 telephone number to register your complaint for the noise to be investigated.

Insane in the membrane?

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So this week the developer next door, you know the one who had the Rock Thrower hit our front window and air conditioner? They came back and dug up the rocks they had thrown down and decided it was OK to rip out the side of our foundation membrane without asking us first. When queried about how they were allowed to do it they simply said “don’t worry we will fix it later this fall.” This really is the Wild West.