April 12, 2018: Big Tree Culling; Cut now, pay later?

April 12, 2018: Big Tree Culling;
Cut now, pay later?

By Chris Jones.

To anyone who strolls casually through the streets of Kitchissippi, it will be clear that there is a great deal of new house construction, additions and renovations going on. Developers and investors engaged in new builds and home-flipping are altering the character of the neighborhoods that have been so welcoming for so long.

As larger, boxier dwellings, condominiums and multi-residential units get built, consuming larger portions of their respective lots, a regrettable consequence is the demise of many large or distinctive trees that once adorned our neighborhoods.

These venerable trees make up the canopy of our community, furnishing much needed shade and shelter, absorbing low level ambient pollution and providing a cherished aesthetic enhancement to the streetscape. Their branches and leaves soften the harsh geometric shapes and straight lines that make up the typical urban street form.

Trees, once regarded as things of beauty, are increasingly seen as hindrances or “dangerous” obstacles that must be removed to maximize construction footprints and other amenities for the new owner/investor.

Larger dwellings provide additional property tax revenue for the City of Ottawa, which becomes a financial disincentive for the preservation of trees.

In 2015 in Kitchissippi ward, there were 100 requests made for the removal of “distinctive” trees—defined as a tree 50 cm in diameter or larger at breast height. It should be noted that each application may have included multiple trees at the same civic address. This means we have no way of knowing just how many distinctive trees were actually removed under the 59 permits granted that year. The city’s report on this topic didn’t provide this information.

I have noticed, too, that through neglect and lack of enforcement, insufficient protection is afforded to the root systems of distinctive trees when contractors are excavating a site. The result? The tree’s vital nutrient system is compromised leading to a failure to thrive. This of course, results in the developer or owner being able to later request a removal on the basis that the tree is dangerous, dead, diseased or severely injured.

These unfortunate trends have recently led a group of concerned residents — BIG TREES of Kitchissippi — to push for changes designed to arrest the steady cull of distinctive trees that is happening in the name of development.

Some of the sensible recommendations made by the group to amend the existing Urban Tree Conservation By-Law include;

  • Requiring the applicant to post a notice of application for removal of a distinctive tree for a period of 14 days in plain sight, in plain language, and readable from the street’s curbside so that neighbors do not need to enter the property to read it;
  • Change the definitions of distinctive tree so the diameter at breast height (DBH) for a deciduous tree is 30 cm and for a coniferous tree is 20 cm;
  • Revise the rules for impacted trees on neighboring properties in order to protect the critical root zones that span adjoining properties; and
  • Increase the minimum fine for conviction of injury to or removal of a distinctive tree without a permit from $500 to $10,000.

More can and must be done to protect this unique natural heritage wisely bequeathed us by earlier residents of this community. Learn more at: https://bigtreeskitch.wixsite.com/trees .

If you are concerned about the rapid loss of Kitchissippi’s forest canopy, contact Jeff Leiper at jeff@KitchissippiWard.ca or Mayor Jim Watson at Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca and make your views known. This is an election year.

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Photo Caption: Every tree lost diminishes a community in noticeable and measureable ways with a cost that will be borne by future generations. Exposed roots on this spruce have been dealt significant damage which threatens this tree’s survival. Carelessness during construction often damages root systems, necessitating, or providing excuses for, later tree removal.

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April 12, 2018: Rosemount Library’s Future?; A book depot during renovations.

April 12, 2018: Rosemount Library’s Future?;
A book depot during renovations.

By Blaine Marchand, R.E.A.D. Group.

In the upcoming months, the Rosemount branch library will close while renovations take place.

Neither the date nor the length of time of the closure has been specified. The Rosemount Expansion and Development (READ) group contacted the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) for information on the closure and the services that will be available to users in the catchment area.

The OPL indicated that Rosemount will operate as a depot, a model used during other renovations, such as the Beaverbrook branch renovation and expansion, which saw it go from10,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet. READ was informed that there will be a small collection of books, including express material. The automated check-in and return system will be in use. And rather than having desktop computers available for use, Chromebooks will be available.

According to OPL officials, any programming would be off site. The OPL is exploring potential sites within the neighbourhood. Whether this means users will be directed to a community facility, such as the Hintonburg Community Centre or to another facility is not certain. READ hopes that programing will be available at a nearby site that is accessible to primary and secondary students, the physically challenged and the seniors who are regular users.

When READ pressed for information on the design process, the OPL responded that the Request for Proposals (RFP) to engage an architect will be done by the City. No input will be sought on the RFP.

READ was told the engaged architect will be fully aware of Rosemount’s spatial limitations and the limited budget for the project. The current building was built in 1918, expanded in 1933/4 and given a facelift (elevator, more washrooms) in 1982.

Even with these, the library with a square footage of just a shade over 6,000 square feet to serve an estimated catchment population of 40,000 simply does provide enough space. In READ’s view, this renovation, at best, will be a band aid.

In reply to READ asking whether the community will be allowed input, the OPL indicated there will be public engagement prior to the design phase but details of the time and structure of these consultations were not provided.

With regard to Rosemount, the community needs to be on the alert and follow the process attentively. For years, Rosemount was the priority for the OPL Board but somehow other branches across the municipality inexplicably superseded it.

Key questions remain. How long will Rosemount users rely on a temporary depot for their library services? How will the renovation re-configure a building with limited space? In the longer term, does the OPL Board and the City have a concrete plan for library services?

For a comparison of Rosemount library to other OPL branches, please visit http://www.READRosemount.ca .

April 12, 2018: Letters to Newswest; Community design plan needed.

April 12, 2018: Letters to Newswest;
Community design plan needed.

By Bob Huson.

Re: Gary Ludington’s article on Why Westboro, March 15th.

I attended the City meeting Feb 28th with respect to 342 Roosevelt Avenue and left thinking, “What if the owner of a house next to me applied to the City to demolish it and construct a building with 25 residential units with no parking?” I don’t think I would want to live next it.

At the other end of Roosevelt another proposal has been submitted to the City to demolish three residential homes and construct a six storey mixed use building that includes two commercial units and 35 dwelling units.

All of this begs the question, “Is there a long term plan for intensification for residential streets close to the LRT stations in Westboro?.

I asked this question at the Feb. 28th meeting. From what I understood from Councillor Leiper, apparently not. What we have now for our community is what is referred to as “spot” planning with “minor” zoning bylaw amendments.

I would suggest there is an urgent need for some sort community design plan for residential streets close to LRT stations. I understand the requirement for intensification and its link areas close to LRT stations. However, if what is happening on Roosevelt Avenue is the City’s planning vision for other residential streets close to LRT stations what can be expected for other streets in the area?

After the Feb 28th meeting, our councillor Jeff Leiper tweeted “it was the most contentious meeting we have seen this term”.

I wonder why!

March 15, 2018: Rosemount Library Renovation; Faulty Assessment Leads to Wrong Decision.

March 15, 2018: Rosemount Library Renovation;
Faulty Assessment Leads to Wrong Decision.

By Blaine Marchand, R.E.A.D.

Increasingly in Ottawa, community consultation seems to be tokenism – architectural plans are presented and comments noted. But often when push comes to shove, the finished product is a far cry from what was shown and doesn’t reflect the input received. There are many examples of this… the Lansdowne development, and closer to home the former Visitation convent. Rosemount Branch library is another case in point.

Despite community input in 2016 that recommended a new facility located close to the current site, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) board hired a consultant to evaluate possible renovation and new-build options for Rosemount. At no time was community input sought in the development of the scope of the business case. Rather, a hard financial budget was pre-set, which effectively eliminated any consideration of expansion or a new building. Was the real intent to ensure the only possible conclusion would be a superficial renovation of the branch?

In spite of the views of the community, expressed in extensive public consultations, the consultant’s report did not assess the benefits of an expanded Rosemount library. The Rosemount Expansion and Development (READ) group has stressed the need for a library that responds to 21st century needs. The READ group believes the report ignored the fact that Rosemount has the highest circulation per capita of ALL branches. READ believes the consultant’s report relied on faulty or misleading data in its analysis of Rosemount’s overuse and user needs, including allocating half the space at Carlingwood, more than 7km away, to the Rosemount catchment area.

The OPL’s proposed $2 million renovation will not expand the space at Rosemount and will result in the closure of the branch for a significant amount of time. The OPL has said that community consultation will take place prior to the closure, but no timeline has been provided. Closure could be as early as autumn 2018.

A related issue is how the city budgets for new and renovated libraries, which in READ’s view, is deeply flawed. Consider two other cities. The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) has created a library system that is responsive to the needs of both urban and suburban neighbourhoods. Edmonton has a 10-year capital plan for its libraries and budgets accordingly. The budget covers a four-year period but permits the EPL to come back twice a year to City Council for necessary adjustments. The EPL Board approves the project priorities but City Council approves any city funding for the projects.

Winnipeg’s city council approved funding of a 2013-2023 long-term Library Facility Redevelopment Strategy to rebuild, relocate, expand or significantly redevelop nine existing branches, including two 1915 Carnegie facilities. The city has three principles it considers for each library branch redevelopment – maximize investment and revenue potential of city owned lands with stand-alone library facilities; advance community benefits through mixed use development opportunities and partnership possibilities; and, recognize today’s technology necessitates contemporary library services.

Other Canadian cities develop strategies and commit to long-term funding for their library systems. Why, in Ottawa, do the OPL and city council not adopt similar approaches?
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Photo Caption: Rosemount Library, with the highest per capita circulation of all library branches in Ottawa, will undergo a renovation instead of the desired expansion requested by users. Not all users of the overcrowded Rosemount Branch are satisfied with what many deem an inadequate and inefficient assessment lacking adequate public consultation. Photo courtesy of R.E.A.D.

March 15, 2018: Rooming Houses vs Private Home; When does a “Home” become a “Bunkhouse”?

March 15, 2018: Rooming Houses vs Private Home;
When does a “Home” become a “Bunkhouse”?

By HCA Security Committee.

By-Law Services held a public consultation Feb. 21 on proposed clarifications to the definitions of a Rooming Houses, related definitions and some of the newer housing forms being seen in recent years – private home conversion which have sometimes been labelled “bunkhouses”.

This process is an attempt to align the definitions in other City departments so that there is one clear definition for Zoning and By-Law. A further review slated to begin later this year will be a comprehensive review of the licensing of residential room rentals including short-term rentals such as Airbnb and shared accommodations.

There has been a lack of clarity in defining what constitutes a rooming house and what constitutes shared accommodation – a group of friends sharing a residence.

This consultation has been prompted by conversion of houses into many bedrooms under the guise of friends sharing accommodation when they clearly operate as a Rooming House. Areas close to the universities and Algonquin College have seen many of these conversions. A house that once had a family of 4 or had 2 apartments might be converted to 10 or 20 bedrooms.

Neighbours have complained of problems with excessive and unmanaged garbage, many vehicles parking on the property and street, lots of visitors, parties and general disruption.

Another complication with the definitions was that a rooming house was defined by the number of roomers not the number of rooms – so if a room was empty at the time of inspection it might fall below the threshold.

Rooming houses began to be licensed in 2002. There are yearly inspections and there are a number of specific requirements and building code standards that must be met before a license is issued. All these strict requirements are in place for tenant protection and to ensure minimal impact on the neighbouring community.

Many of these conversions or “bunkhouses” essentially operate as rooming houses but avoid the more stringent requirements, inspections and expense. The essential difference is how the people operate together. They are deemed to be a single housekeeping unit if they have collective decision-making and responsibility for the management of the interior of the dwelling unit.

It is a rooming house if they are independent tenants with no collective decision making or responsibility for the management of the interior of the unit (ie: common areas) and there are more than 4 rooms.

This review and the one to start later this year is also being looked at in conjunction with the larger Zoning review of R4 zones.

For information and to fill in the online survey : https://ottawa.ca/en/residents/laws-licenses-and-permits/laws/rooming-house-licensing-law-review

 

March 15, 2018: Councillor’s Corner; City News.

March 15, 2018: Councillor’s Corner;
City News.

By Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward Councillor.

Happy March, Kitchissippi! Our February was very busy. We have lots of active planning files on the go, which means lots of public open houses. We also had our last community bonfire of the season, complete with s’mores and a synthetic skating pad courtesy of the Wellington West BIA.

On February 14th, council voted – including me – to approve a modified version of the Rochester Field development concept. This concept still contains two mid-rise buildings grouped together at the south end of the field, but some changes have been made to address the concerns I was hearing from residents.

The original proposal contained two six-storey buildings on Richmond, with a setback and a gap of roughly 15 meters between them. Because of concerns from myself and residents that this offered too little gateway between the Richmond and the SJAM park, I successfully secured a pause on the process to see whether any improvements could be made. My thanks to Councillor Harder, the Mayor, and the NCC’s Dr. Kristmanson for helping us get that second look.

Ultimately, the new plans resulted in a 4-meter widening to the gap between the two buildings, which is roughly the same width of the Byron Linear Park. To compensate for loss of density, the building on the east side of the site is proposed at seven stories instead of six. It was a difficult decision for me to support this, and I am grateful for all the advice I received, but I consider the addition to the gap to be meaningful. There is no actual development proposal for this property, and there likely won’t be for many years. This effort was not the last chance to effect change in the proposal, and we will continue efforts with the NCC as opportunities arise.

Recently, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) decided that the City must take steps to either officially decommission the Prince of Wales Bridge or bring it into a state of repair where it could be used for rail operations within a year. While this decision has enormous repercussions for the City, it could be good news for those advocating for a cycling/pedestrian connection between Gatineau and the Bayview Station. The City will take some time to determine how it wants to proceed, and the current deadline for the City to outline its intended actions is April 30th. I have a few outstanding questions about this; it seems to me that the City should appeal the April 30th deadline in order to gather more information about the cost of renovating the bridge. Furthermore, we need to understand what the CTA will accept as a plan to repair the bridge moving forward. I consider that the bridge should be put into operation as a rail/cycling/pedestrian connection, but the issue is complex. You can read more about my thoughts on the blog.

We look forward to welcoming spring in the Ward and all the wonderful activities that attend it! Hope to see you out there enjoying the warming weather, Kitchissippi.

March 15, 2018: Why Westboro?; Rezoning Rochester Park.

March 15, 2018: Why Westboro?;
Rezoning Rochester Park.

By Gary Ludington, Westboro Community Association.

We know most of Kitchissippi has been invaded. Yes, by the Emerald Ash Borer, but also by developers. In February City Council ruined Rochester Park by rezoning it to allow two mixed-use buildings to be built along Richmond Road from the Keg Manor, west to the lot line of the homes on Fraser Avenue.

A representative for the NCC said this was necessary because the Federal Government wasn’t providing them with enough funding to carry out their mandate.

Also in February, four meetings were scheduled to inform residents of rezoning applications in our community. On February 20th at the Churchill Seniors Centre, we were presented with a Domicile proposal for a six storey mixed-use building which would replace the first three houses on the west side of Roosevelt behind Starbucks. This is an R3 zone where single homes are zoned for a height of 8M not six storeys as proposed by Domicile.

On February 22 we met at the Superstore to hear about a six storey proposal for 403 Tweedsmuir known as the Richmond Plaza Motel. One of the things the zoning is seeking is approval for a boutique hotel.

A third meeting was scheduled for February 26th for the corner of Churchill Ave and Byron Place but was cancelled at the last moment. The fourth meeting was held at the Churchill Seniors Centre on February 28th.

This meeting is for a four storey building with 25 rental units and no parking to be located at 342 Roosevelt next to the transitway. The rational for the 25 unit building is a need for rentals. However just in Westboro on McRae there are three buildings (one already built) that provide rental units; at Tweedsmuir and Richmond is a nine storey building of rental units; there are also a large number of triplexes that have been, or are being, built on Tweedsmuir, Clare, Athlone, Tillbury and Ravenhill – all rentals. So why do we need another on a short dead end street that already has vehicle issues.

Controversy about the two developments on Roosevelt centers around the fact that this section of Roosevelt is a dead end at the transitway and has just about zero on-street parking. Also, the street up to this point consists of single family homes.

The Domicile rezoning, if successful, would be to change that part of Roosevelt to Traditional Mainstreet similar to Richmond Road. We have heard support from the private sector that our Secondary Plan needs changing but they still come forward with these proposals and the City keeps supporting them.
Why? Let us know what you think.

[Ed: For more details on the developments on Roosevelt meeting visit kitchissippi.com and look for the March 1st 2018 issue of Kitchissippi Times, pg. 3, Streets “Crumbling” Under Development, by Bradley Turcotte.]