May 24, 2018: When is the best time to plant a tree?; The upside of casting shade.

May 24, 2018: When is the best time to plant a tree?;
The upside of casting shade.

By Cheryl Parrott, Hintonburg resident.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “No shade tree? Blame not the sun, but yourself.”

The once very shady Bayview Friendship Park is today less shady than it used to be. A particularly strong storm on May 4th uprooted one large tree which broke the top off of the tree next to it.

The fallen tree destroyed the steps in the pathway leading from Hilda to Bayview, as well as wiping out part of the park’s fence. At this writing, it is too early to tell if the kids’ play structure is damaged since the downed tree has completely engulfed that structure.

The April 16th ice storm resulted in another tree coming down in the park, and with it, branches of 2 other trees had split and later, had to be removed. One of the play structures was also damaged in that storm. In all, this park has suffered a great deal of storm damage over the past winter.

Over the last seven years eight trees have been lost in the Bayview Friendship Park alone. Several other parks have suffered similar set backs.

McCormick Park has suffered a similar fate and has lost a lot of trees through storms and also as a result selective cutting to reduce the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer. Several trees have been replanted in McCormick Park but it will take many years before they can provide any significant shade.

Many parents have talked about how ideal Bayview and McCormick Parks were as playgrounds precisely because of the shade on the playground structure for a good part of the day. Now, some of the best and most-used area parks will have the play structures subject to direct sunlight for most of the day.

In an era where community growth demands more intense infill, often at the expense of existing trees and foliage, it seems like this would be a good time to plant more trees so that in the future, the parks will return to providing some shade, other environmental benefits beyond cleaner air, and new nesting opportunities for birds and smaller urban wildlife.

It is worth noting that in Paris, France, every tree in the city has an individual number. A department in charge of taking care of all of Paris’ urban trees has been managing the city’s greenery for decades. This includes having added a cement support for an Acacia, the oldest tree in Paris, on the banks of the Seine, just a two minute walk from Notre Dame Cathedral.

Although Ottawa is only about one tenth the size of Paris, and has been established as an urban centre for much less time, it is still well worth our trouble to keep a watchful eye on our city’s greenery and to take steps to protect, and replace when necessary, our constantly threatened urban forest. We would do well to remember another ancient wisdom which says, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

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Photo Caption: Uprooted tree beside the wood fench it crushed. Photo by Tim Thibeault.

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Photo Caption: Bayview Friendship Park in 2012.
[ED: to see more of Bayview Friendship Park as it was 6-years ago, go to the parks page in newswest.org]

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Web-extra (May 24, 2018): Why Westboro?; Some thoughts from the Street.

Web-extra (May 24, 2018): Why Westboro?;
Some thoughts from the Street.

By Kevin Doyle, Westboro resident.

“Current zoning discussions seem cast as a battle between the future and a disappearing past and many current zoning rules may get in the way of re-defining what is in the public interest.”

Maybe our notion of zoning needs to be redefined. The current construct seems unnecessarily adversarial. Developers with a legitimate interest sometimes appear to behave in a suspicious and underhanded way. Hence Mr. Ludington’s exclaim of “why Westboro” and why is it that developers seem to receive municipal approval of all they ask even though it may not conform to zoning plans or other requirements?

But what is it that Mr. Ludington is trying to defend? What do people want in their community. What is a community? Perhaps we need a new vision of community and one that is not predicated on zones of separate, distinct community interest.

What is the public good? Communities need people and services to be viable and commercial enterprise to fuel a healthy tax base that pays for services.

Westboro of old was failing on that front. Westboro of new is getting better but there is a rub between an emerging new urban environment and its old identity. There is an aging demographic community and aging housing stock that is the shape of the current urban picture.

Is this the future? How do we reconcile transitions – because one is clearly underway. Zoning fights seem unsatisfactory – and set up a winner/loser mentality and outcome. Can we imagine beyond this construct? Do we need, for instance, to update our notion of family dwelling.

Perhaps the era of the single family home detached with large lot is the legacy of another time. Not that it is bad, but other models can co-exist on the same street. Variation is great. What is wrong with infill? What is wrong with the “two for one” regeneration of older housing stock.

Current zoning discussions seem cast as a battle between the future and a disappearing past and many current zoning rules may get in the way of re-defining what is in the public interest. Why, for example, can one side of a street sever lots and grow new housing, while the other cannot because of the invisible zoning line down the middle.

This is not to argue that developers should continue to receive without scrutiny the benefit of municipal flexibility in planning and developing. Perhaps we need to re-balance what the public interest is, and what the community interest is, and level the playing field.

Why Westboro?…well, why not. It is a great place to live and could be better.

About those missed opportunities. Well, there is the transit way and cycle paths and the linear river park very close by. When development happens, please demand that a public corridor be part of all development. That did not happen when the old Ketchum’s factory became condominiums at the corner of Richmond and Berkeley – a missed opportunity to allow the community direct access to their amenities.

If Rochester field is developed along Richmond Road, demand a public corridor so that people can access the park, the river, the bicycle paths.

When the Highland Park Bowling Club is no longer able to operate, what public good will the city demand as part of its development? How will the community of Westboro be made better through the development of this small corner lot.

A kid’s playground maybe a nice idea because as Westboro regenerates so does its population. Golden Ave is full of little ones again. Give them a safe place to play Then maybe we can call ourselves a “village.” I can always dream.

Kevin Doyle,
Golden Ave.

Web-extra (April 26, 2018): How High Can You Go?; Developer aspirations soar to new heights.

Web-extra (April 26, 2018): How High Can You Go?;
Developer aspirations soar to new heights.

By Cheryl Parrott, Hintonburg resident.

How high can you go? Want to be the tallest building in Ottawa? 30 storeys no longer cuts it, nor 50 storeys, nor 59 storeys. Let’s get this race going and try 65 storeys.

This is the newest proposal for a tiny, tiny piece of land across from the new LRT Bayview Station at 900 Albert Street. It is situated between the City Centre buildings to the south, Albert Street to the north, the O-train station to the west and City Centre Avenue to the east.

Workers have been busy moving piles of earth around all winter as they relocate a major sewer line that went through the middle of the property.

This work is in anticipation that the City will approve their request to build a major development on this tiny piece of land. The sewer relocation is being done by developer Trinity Developments at their expense.

On April 13, 2018, a notice was sent out from the Planning Department that Trinity has changed their proposal again and they are now proposing greater height.

The changes are numerous, so the main points are copied from the City’s communique: Summary of Revisions.

Building heights: Tower 1 has increased in height from 55 to 65 storeys; Tower 2 has increased in height from 50 to 52 storeys; Tower 3 has decreased in height from 59 to 32 storeys with a larger floorplate for offices on the first 15 storeys;

A hotel component has been added, with 150 guest rooms;
The number of residential units has decreased from 1,632 to 1,232 units.
The amount of retail GFA has increased from 10,864 square metres to 11,926 square metres; The amount of office GFA has increased from 17,442 square metres to 18,332 square metres;

The parking layout has been revised. Previously five (5) levels of above-grade parking were proposed within the podium, and four (4) levels were proposed underground. The revised plans include seven (7) levels of underground parking and no parking within the podium.

The proposal also states 1,153 parking spaces and 749 bike parking spots.
This newest application can be seen at https://app01.ottawa.ca/postingplans/home.jsf?lang=en where the address to enter is 900 Albert.

How things change over a few years. Fifteen years ago the proposal was for 24 townhouses and 32 condo apartments. Thirteen years ago the proposal for this site was for a new Ottawa library on the first 6-10 storeys with a tower above with 140 residential condominiums and a restaurant, the total height was to be 24 or 25 storeys.

The plan then changed to office and residential use with two 30 storey buildings plus a third 8 storey building.

In 2016 a new owner of the property, Trinity Developments came forward with a new plan that again included a new Ottawa library on the main floor, retail space larger than at Landsdowne Park, some office space and three towers of residential that were 55 storeys high and would contain about 1,500 rental residential units. They also wanted to build overtop of the O-Train line and connect to Albert Street at the edge of Tom Brown Arena. The proposal then changed to three towers that were 59, 55 and 50 storeys.

Will it stop here? 75 storeys anyone?

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Photo Caption: Tall buildings in tiny spaces reflect multiple changes in developer plans as the site at City Centre reaches for new, record heights for Ottawa highrises. This image from the City Hall web site gives a view from the northeast.

Web-extra (April 26, 2018): Development Plans to Be Made Clear; City plans information presentation.

Web-extra (April 26, 2018): Development Plans to Be Made Clear;
City plans information presentation.

~Public Service Announcement from HEDC.

Thursday April 26, 2018,
6:00p.m. – 8:00p.m.,
Good Companion Centre,
670 Albert Street.

Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development staff will provide a brief presentation on City of Ottawa planning framework including relevant policies and transportation goals. The date is Thursday April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Active Development Applications in the area will have display boards with project details and team members available to take comments and questions, including;

  • 900 Albert: Proposed mixed-use development with three high-rise towers reaching 32, 52 and 65 storeys offering a range of commercial/retails uses and a mix of residential dwelling units (approx.. 1,200 units).
  • 557-587 Wellington: Proposal including the new Central Library and a mixed-use development concept with building heights up to 25 storeys.
  • 301, 324 Lett and 133 Booth: Proposal known as Claridge East Flats for a development concept of five high-rise mixed-use buildings ranging in height from 25 to 45 storeys, with approximately 1950 residential dwelling units.

Details are also available at: http://catherinemckenney.ca/en/planning-applications/ and at: http://catherinemckenney.ca/event/public-open-house-building-complete-communities/ .

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.

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!