Council briefs: 180 Metcalfe St. development deferred again

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney scored another victory at city hall Wednesday when council rejected a 27-storey hotel and condo development on Metcalfe Street.

Ms. McKenney had argued the plan for the Medical Arts Building at 180 Metcalfe St. goes against the spirit of the Centretown Secondary Plan, which is just three years old. She was particularly concerned with the proposal for more than two floors of commercial use and the planned hotel on the site. Council voted 11-11, with the deadlock meaning the motion’s defeat.

The development is not dead, however. Council approved Ms. McKenney’s motion to defer the proposal to its next meeting Sept. 9, giving her time to meet with the property owner, Toth Equity, in hopes of reaching a compromise.

Ms. McKenney said there is always some “give and take” when negotiating community plans. She said when the current community design plan was established, it was agreed that the area would be “maintained and encouraged as a residential neighbourhood,” with hotels to the north and to the south but not in that specific part of Centretown.

“I would be open to discussing a reduced amount of hotel use for them to give up the right to 12 storeys commercial,” she said. “If they were going to limit it to the existing building, that would be much less disruptive. It would mean that a much higher percentage of building would be residential.”

Ms. McKenney said she is also concerned about the lack of public facilities in the proposal.

Section 37 of the city’s planning act allows for zoning changes to accommodate increased height and density in exchange for community benefits such as parkland. Ms. McKenney said under Section 37’s calculations, the development fell just short of what is required.

“When we add people to a neighbourhood, we have to make sure that they have parks to go to, bike racks to use,” she said. “You can’t just build a building, fill it with people and hope for the best.”

This is the second time the proposal has been deferred. Ms. McKenney said she hopes the conversation with property owner Toth Equity can be more serious this time.

“I support the development, I support the height, but I want to make sure that it’s not disruptive to the existing community, that it’s mostly residential and that there is some community benefit. That’s what I’m looking for in the next two weeks,” she said, adding the longer the issue drags on, the more costly it is for everyone.

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Council did pass the planning committee’s recommendation  for a zoning bylaw amendment for properties at 538, 544, and 560 Rideau St. and 501 Besserer St.

The committee’s recommendation back in July was not unanimous as Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper and Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum both voted against it. They still opposed it Wednesday and were joined in dissension by Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier, and Rideau-Vanier Coun. Matthieu Fleury.

The proposed development, which calls for a mixed-use building with a 14-storey portion and a seven-storey portion on Rideau Street, and a three-storey building on Besserer Street, falls in Mr. Fleury’s ward. In an interview with OBJ in July, Mr. Fleury said the developer, Richcraft, has been an active member of the Uptown Rideau Community Design Plan working group, and their design incorporates many features that will likely be included in the new plan.

The problem is the plan will not be in place until the fall.

Mr. Fleury said he had hoped the development could wait until then, adding he expects the new plan to get broad council support.

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As expected, council passed a motion to alter aspects of 7 Bayview Rd, a motion that was added to the agenda in order to allow work to begin on the Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards in the very near future.