Ottawa councillor accuses infill developers of ‘circumventing’ planning process

These homes along Byron Avenue were originally approved with three units, but built with four. (Photo by Ryan Tumilty / Metro)

An Ottawa municipal councillor is accusing the city of allowing developers to circumvent normal approval process to add extra density to new developments.

During a city planning meeting this week, Coun. Jeff Leiper called on his council colleagues to reject an application from Peloso Construction for zoning changes that would allow the developer to add a fourth unit to two buildings at 266 and 270 Byron Ave.

Technically, those units have already been built: they were "roughed in" by the builder, and labelled as storage until the builder could go back to the city and get further approval.
Leiper was the sole nay vote against the application.

"I guess I'm not surprised," he said after the vote. "This is a continuation of something that we're seeing happen time and time again in the ward."

This is a practice that Leiper says is frustrating residents of Westboro. Leiper says that preliminary data shows that Westboro has had a preponderance of infill development compared to other urban wards, and the issue of developers seeking after-the-fact approvals has worn away at residents' trust in the city.

"I expect residents will be dismayed, as they always are, to hear that the process has been circumvented," said Leiper. "We are getting used to it, unfortunately, in the ward. This city does not seem to have our back with respect to development."

Murray Chown, who spoke on behalf of Peloso, said that the cumbersome approval process is to blame, not the developers. These types of applications are coming from small developers, he said, that "can't afford the carrying costs associated with the delays and costs of site plan approval."

He expressed frustration with Leiper's objections, calling the application before committee "the most discreet form of intensification" that they could be asked to approve.

Leiper said that the developers themselves are part of the problem.

"These are developers who are interested in getting into our community, making as much money as quickly as possible, and leaving," he said. "There's no reputation to protect. These are developers who don't have a stake in our community."

Leiper had hoped to send the file to the Ontario Municipal Board to "gum up the works," and "send a message that you're not going to have an easy rubber stamp from the city when you circumvent the process."

This article originally appeared in Metro News.