City councillors took the unusual step of rejecting a developers’ proposal for a high-rise residential building on Tuesday, voting to turn down a request from developer Tega Homes.
By Mark Brownlee.
The local homebuilder wanted the land at the Hintonburg property, located close to the corner of Parkdale Avenue and Armstrong Street, just north of Wellington Street West near the Parkdale Market, rezoned for an 18-storey high-rise.
However councillors on the city’s planning committee, which is responsible for deciding which buildings can go where in the city, voted to turn down the request.
Tuesday’s vote is a sign to developers that councillors are unwilling to bend on the city’s community design plans, which are agreements that decide where tall buildings should go in specific neighbourhoods across the city.
They are designed to give clarity to community associations, the city and developers so that everyone knows in advance what is and isn’t permissible in a neighbourhood.
The Wellington West CDP, approved for the Hintonburg area in recent years, only allowed for eight storeys to be built at the site.
The decision means the matter is likely headed to the Ontario Municipal Board, the provincial body that has the power to overturn city planning decisions.
The chair of the committee, Coun. Peter Hume, voted against Tega’s proposal because he said it would be best if the OMB were to provide clarity on the matter – even though staff said that would cost around $50,000 in legal fees. Tega has already filed an appeal with the body.
Members of the community met the proposed development with significant opposition.
Residents of the area put significant time and effort into developing the CDP, said Jeff Leiper, the president of the Hintonburg Community Association.
“We’re asking you to draw the line today,” said Mr. Leiper, speaking to the committee. “Either CDPs are important documents … or expensive public relations failures.”
Representatives of Tega countered that the proposed building, which had a base of eight storeys and surrounding towers that went higher, fit in nicely with the neighbourhood.
Lloyd Phillips, the firm’s planning consultant, said they tried a number of designs that weren’t as tall but none of them looked very good.
“They all ended up looking like short fat buildings – dumpy buildings,” said Mr. Phillips.
Councillors’ voted six to two to support a motion, which area Coun. Katherine Hobbs introduced, to reject the request for rezoning from Tega.
It was unexpected, given that the planning committee approves the vast majority of developers’ requests.
The proposal was also, on its face, the sort of development of which the city wants to see more. Councillors have policies of intensification on the books, and this would have seen more people living on a given piece of land close to the city centre.
The issue stemmed from the fact that the city received the original request from Tega in 2011 – before the CDP was approved. That meant that the city had to follow the rules that were on the books at the time, staff told councillors.
That’s why city staff recommended councillors approve the rezoning.
Many of those on the planning committee felt uncomfortable simply ignoring the CDP that they had so recently approved. Coun. Shad Qadri, who is currently working on a similar plan for part of his ward in Stittsville, said he wouldn’t want that agreement to be turned down.
Coun. Stephen Blais didn’t want to lose lands in his ward currently zoned for employment.
“We need to demonstrate that we’re willing to stand up for the things that we supported,” said Mr. Blais.
The motion will now go to a full meeting of city council for final approval.
The request was the second councillors rejected on Tuesday. A motion to rezone a part of Meadowglen Drive in Orleans also failed to garner enough votes to pass.