City Council of 2018 to 2022

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In recent columns, I have focused on some of our recent decisions at City Hall and, in some instances, the controversy behind them. In two weeks, I will delve into the LRT Stage 2 contract. In that case, all of the focus is on the extension of the existing O-Train line into Riverside South and not the overall LRT east-west project. As background before I do that, though, I think it is important to spend a bit of time discussing Council themselves. This is not the same Council from the previous eight years and it is not even a Council similar to that during the Larry O’Brien years. This one is different and it is influencing much of the discussion that has been occurring outside of City Hall and on some of our biggest files.

For those of you who may not remember, one of my key commitments when I ran for Council in 2010 was teamwork and cooperation at City Hall. To be clear, that does not just mean we should agree on everything and ignore debate. What it means to me is that we work together. This is not Provincial or Federal politics. There is no “Official Opposition”. We are all in power and we all have the ability to contribute, if we choose to do so. When I look at examples of cooperation and collaboration, I think of where we ended up on the Rideau-Carleton Raceway file. On Stonebridge, I work with Jan Harder. On the climate emergency, I worked with Shawn Menard. On plastics, I worked with Catherine McKenney. On rural internet access, I worked with Jeff Leiper. On an initiative in Blackburn Hamlet, I worked with Jody Mitic and now Laura Dudas. When I hold budget consultations, I do so with George Darouze. This is how we get things done. We do not draw lines and pick sides. We work together, regardless of the issue and whom you are working with because we all represent the same people: the citizens of Ottawa.

When we look at the last few months, and the issues I have been highlighting of late, that commitment to cooperation is clearly not shared by all. Not every member of Council arrives at City Hall with the same motivations. Not every member of Council maintains the same beliefs throughout their time on Council. Factions form and divisions rise. One thing I remember Tobi Nussbaum saying to me early in the 2014-18 term of Council is that he was impressed at how we can all disagree on an item but then just move on and work together on the next item. Again, this is not that Council. How did we get here?

During every election, there is an overarching sentiment. In 2010, it was the previous Council’s dysfunction. In 2018, it was the apparent lack of debate. As a reversal of why I was elected in 2010, some campaigned in 2018 on a notion of disruption. I would call this debate for the sake of debate. Instead of reports coming through Committee for proper consultation, debate and discussion, those items are coming directly to Council. There is no opportunity for community input through the Committee structure so it turns into a free for all at Council. Some members have decided there are two distinct sides and they stick to it. That reality adds toxicity to our debates. One new member of Council was recently quoted as saying they are happy they are not on the Mayor’s “side.” Consider that the Mayor received more votes in their ward than they did. How does that desire to be an opponent make you representative of your constituents? Are we elected to represent or are we elected to pick sides? You may have different answers but mine have always been the same. We are here to represent regardless of who else is elected.

The only real result of this entire situation is that every member of Council looks bad. There are times when what happens at Council is somewhat scripted. I will not pretend one side is worse than the other is. The current climate can only be fixed by a desire to move forward and work together. On issues like the Chateau Laurier and LRT Stage 2, some Councillors have knowingly stated misleading information. I will explain that in more detail when I get into the contract situation of Stage 2 LRT.

At the end of this term of Council, those of us elected in 2010 will have been here for twelve years. That includes the Mayor. What you are seeing at Council right now is more about 2022 than it is about anything. People are jockeying for position. They are looking to the Mayoralty in 2022. They are looking to win. Unfortunately, the result is that their constituents lose. We are not elected just to get re-elected. We are not elected to simply govern in four year increments. We are not elected to put ourselves above our jobs. We are elected to represent. We are elected to see beyond four year terms. We are elected to lead, not mislead. Thankfully, we still have time to make this term more effective. We just need to have enough members of Council, the Mayor included, willing to make the effort. I know I am.

1966 Roger Stevens Drive

Broccolini has submitted an official plan amendment and zoning by-law amendment for 1966 Roger Stevens Drive. The application can be reviewed on City’s Development Application Search Tool where you will find information about the application and all of the submitted plans, reports, surveys and accompanying documents you will need to review the application. You can find this at Ottawa.ca/devapps.

This is the property on the southwest corner of Highway 416 and Roger Stevens Drive. It was previously designated for industrial and commercial uses. This application is to alter the plan from multiple buildings totaling 1.4M square feet to instead build one building totaling 700,000 square feet. The proposal involves road modifications to Roger Stevens Drive including signalization and new turning lanes at the off and on ramps. The plan also includes the retention of the trees on the west side of the property forming a buffer between the building and the homes along Third Line Road that were created as part of this property’s original application approximately twenty years ago.

At this point, the tenant is not confirmed. Broccolini has built distribution centres previously for Amazon, Target, Canadian Tire, Sobey’s and IKEA, among others. As they get further in the process, they will likely be in a position to secure a tenant and disclose that. There will be a public meeting about this application and I will be sure to provide notification when it is scheduled.

Comments can be sent to Jeffrey Ostafichuk, Planner, at: Jeffrey.Ostafichuk@ottawa.ca or (613) 580-2424 X31329

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.

Chateau Laurier Update

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In September 2016, the owners of the Chateau Laurier, Larco Investments, unveiled an expansion plan for the historic hotel. The parking garage addition at the rear of the property was crumbling and their proposal was to replace it with a 12-storey addition featuring 200 new hotel rooms. This proposal was heavily criticized and the architect revised the plan and came back in November of the same year. The new design was 8% smaller but still significantly controversial. They tried to improve the sightlines but the proposed expansion still towered behind the existing hotel.

A year later, Larco returned to the community with a third design. This one was likened to a glass box using none of the architectural features of the Chateau Laurier although it was shorter and preserved the roofline of the existing hotel. May 2018 brought a fourth design and that is where we need to begin to understand how we got to where we are today.

When the fourth design came to Built Heritage Sub-Committee in June 2018, a committee that I have been a member of since 2012, we sought to create a compromise that would resolve the design issues. We also, admittedly, had the intention to allow Larco to move forward with what was felt to be a much-needed expansion with additional rooms in the downtown core, not to mention the reinstatement of their missing parking garage. In addition to all of the normal heritage guidelines and policies Larco needed to meet, we added three conditions of approval. They were all aimed to have the addition, which at this time was a box, to take more elements from the Chateau Laurier, including an increase in Indiana Limestone and the copper that is synonymous with the roof. This compromise motion was drafted by Councillors Tobi Nussbaum and Mathieu Fleury as well as Committee Vice Chair Barry Padolsky. Council then passed it unanimously. Admittedly, this is something that I helped achieve.

To summarize, we entered 2019 knowing we had approved a bar shaped building in the spirit of the buildings that surrounded Major’s Hill Park, namely the American Embassy, the Connaught Building and the National Art Gallery. What we expected was a more sympathetic design using more of the materials from the original hotel. Of note, however, is that no matter what design was before us, the interaction between the building and the park was actually an improvement to the solid wall that was the former parking garage.

The final design was unveiled in May of this year. According to the applicant, and confirmed by our Heritage Planners, Larco met all of the necessary criteria and the conditions imposed by Council a year earlier. The new design was lowered to seven storeys and the room count dropped to 147. More limestone was added and vertical bronze elements were added to the roofline on the west and east portions of the expansion. Nevertheless, Built Heritage Sub-Committee felt the conditions were not met but no longer had jurisdiction to render a decision due to the approval of their heritage permit in 2018.

Staying on the subject of design, I just want to be clear that an exact replica was and never will be an option for the Chateau Laurier. I have heard some people suggest this. An exact replica actually goes against most heritage guidelines and it certainly goes against Parks Canada’s heritage building guidelines. The only designs Council can deal with are the ones that are presented to us. We cannot dictate a design and we cannot force an applicant to get a new architect.

Fast forward to June 13 at Planning Committee. This was the final vote of substance on the Chateau Laurier. It was the Site Plan application. Site Plan does not rise to Council. While several members of the public and the heritage community came out to speak against the expansion, Planning Committee passed the site plan by a vote of 8-3. I was one of the three to vote against the application. Important to note that up until after this final vote on the Chateau Laurier, the opposition from the general public and from members of Council was not vocal.

Everything from that point until today has been political theatre. Councillors, especially those who are beyond their first term, understand process. We understand policy. We know what our votes mean and we know what happens to files from that point forward. What we don’t always know is how the public will react. Needless to say, the reaction in recent weeks has been boisterous.  

In an effort to sway the public to believe we could actually stop the addition, the motion was introduced to “revoke” the heritage permit. The reality is that Council has no ability to revoke the permit so what the motion really attempted to do was set up road blocks forcing Larco to either challenge us in court or redesign. We already knew they were not interested in a sixth design. I confirmed this personally before I voted against the site plan application. Therefore, the motion to halt the expansion was misleading. These are the types of votes I consider to be built on political posturing. It is about telling the public what they want to hear knowing full well they will not get what they want. It is the “well, we tried” approach. I do not operate that way so I did not support the motion.

The court option is an interesting one and it is not dissimilar from the Minto Mahogany proposal from 2008. The City’s record of defending Council opposition to Council approved policy is poor. If you are the one being taken to court, you merely use our own policies against us and we have no supporting arguments. On the other hand, when the community takes the City and the applicant to court together, it actually has a higher likelihood of success. Therefore, I believe those opposed and willing to challenge are on better footing today than they would have been if the motion to “revoke” the permit had succeeded.

This issue is not over. We will continue to hear about it in the weeks and months ahead. As convoluted as the entire process has been, I hope I have been able to adequately explain how we got from September 2016 to today. I also hope that you can understand the reasons for my vote at the most recent Council meeting. It was NOT a vote for or against the design. I will leave it at that.

In two weeks, I will dive into the Solid Waste Master Plan review.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.

ARAC is Cancelled, Chateau Laurier Expansion and Upcoming Events

The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC) meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 2nd has been cancelled due to a light agenda. The items will be moved to the next regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, April 6 at 10 am in the Chambers, at Ben Franklin Place. 

North Gower Country Kickup

The North Gower Cooperative Nursery School is holding its annual fundraising event on Saturday, February 25th at the Alfred Taylor Recreation Centre. The North Gower Country Kickup will feature the musical stylings of Brea Lawrenson with the Jordy Jackson Band as the opening act. The event starts at 8 pm and runs until 1 am. Keep in mind that I live nearby so try to keep it down! Tickets and information can be found at www.countrykickup.com.

Shrove Tuesday

On February 28th, from 5 pm to 7:30 pm at the Alfred Taylor Recreation Centre, come and enjoy a hearty supper of pancakes and syrup, ham, sausages, baked beans, fruit salad and homemade pies, with coffee, tea, juice or water. Cost is just $10 per adult, $5 for children 6-12, and children 5 and under free. This supper is hosted by Holy Trinity Anglican Church, North Gower. For more info, call 613-489-2207.

Chateau Laurier Expansion

The City has received a Site Plan Control application for the development and that information is now publicly available at ottawa.ca/chateaulaurier. Members of the public have 28 days to review the project and submit feedback, including through an online form and via email at chateaulaurier@ottawa.ca.

The proposal will be refined by City staff following their review and public feedback. Owing to the local and national importance of the Château Laurier, a special heritage working group, comprised of nationally respected heritage professionals and a representative from Heritage Ottawa, has been established to provide advice to the applicant, the City, and the National Capital Commission.

There will be additional opportunities to provide feedback before the project comes before Council, including when it considered by the Committee of Adjustment, Built Heritage Sub-Committee, which I sit on, and Planning Committee later this year. The City will also organize a community session for information and comments before these committees review the proposal.

I strongly encourage you to submit comments on this proposal. I have been very critical of the proposed expansion as I feel it completely detracts from the hotel. This is a building that has seen an expansion before and that was done tastefully. I see no reason why the same approach cannot be taken here. It will be interesting to see how this file moves forward and how impactful public input will be.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.