Yesterday, Planning Committee had an over-full agenda of contentious items. This meant huge waits for the assembled throngs. All seats were taken, and there were over 70 standees / folding chairs / sitting on the floor. For a 8+ hour meeting.
The final votes were to approve various high rise developments, leading to the predictable reaction of citizen attendees that the process was unfair, rigged, or otherwise unsatisfactory.
I agree the process is unsatisfactory and might dedicate a subsequent post to suggestions to fix it. And incidentally save us all buckets of money. But a large part of the dissatisfaction yesterday comes from residents making the wrong arguments to planning committee. Most of these mistaken arguments were in evidence at the 265 Carling (at Bronson) rezoning application from 9 to 18 stories.
One of the biggest errors is making an argument that isn’t highly specific to the project in question.
Asking council to reject a high rise “because it will increase crime in the neighbourhood” doesn’t accomplish much. The claimant presented no facts to back up that opinion. If tall buildings promote crime, how come it isn’t a major problem now, given numerous apartment buildings nearby? Are buildings nine floors and under crime free while the crime wave begins on the tenth? Fact is, some high rises are crime prone. So are some town house clusters. And so are some low rise neighbourhoods. Does that mean we should ban single family homes and townhouses?
Obviously people in higher rise buildings care about their neighbourhood and crime. They were out in force at the meeting.
If high rises promote criminality, then this would be an argument for no high rises anywhere. Any and all objectors to rezoning would cite this crime-gateway-thru-highrise-living argument and no high rises would be built anywhere… which throws out a major local industry…and huge chunk of the Official Plan… to say nothing of reversing the rules in the Provincial policy statement and thus thwarting high rises in every lot, in every municipality in Ontario.
Sorry, the crime argument won’t convince planning committee to vote down the rezoning, because it was too generic (as well as probably being wrong).
It will generate [too much] traffic. Well duh, of course it will. But the proposed condo is adjacent an arterial. And yes that arterial is busy now. It will get busier in the future too. But don’t mistake the origin point of a trip with the the problem. After all, building that same high rise six blocks or sixteen blocks or sixty blocks further away will generate the same amount of traffic on that arterial. After all, those cars are going somewhere (on average, over 8 kilometres per commuter trip). On arterials.
The main influence of the origin point is that the closer it is to the central area of the city, the less vehicular traffic it will generate. Moving the 265 Carling high rise out to Bayshore or Barrhaven will generate more traffic than at Carling and Bronson because the further out you go the more every trip has to be made by car since those places have constrained walkability. Objecting to a building in the Glebe Annex because of traffic is to invite worse traffic congestion (thru more tripmaking) when the people are housed further out.
And again, if this project is bad here, then every project is bad everywhere. There simply aren’t arterial roads sitting around with tons of spare capacity nor can we force people to only drive on those spare-space roads. They’ll end up on Carling or Bronson eventually.
Sorry, the busy arterial argument is unlikely to sway council.
Building a high rise near the intersection of Carling and Bronson will make it more dangerous for high school kids to go to school or cross the street. Really? So we shouldn’t build any new buildings near any high schools? Presumably that argument applies to grade schools too. And community centres. And routes to school too. Or parks. Or routes to parks, of which our neighbourhood always had the least amount of park space of any area in the city.
Sorry, another fail.
But more people living near Glebe HS or other established schools might reduce driving and school busing. How many student parking spaces are there at Glebe?[even one?] At Woodroofe? [a bunch] At St Mark’s in Manotick?[lots and lots]. There’s a reason people like living in the built up city (walkability) and others prefer suburbs or exurbs (driveability).
The Glebe Annex neighbourhood, claimed one speaker, is family friendly, with little kids. High rises won’t have any kids. I sympathize with this emotion, I too favour kid-friendly streets. But 70-80% of households are child-free … are we proposing to forbid them to live in the Glebe? Can we force empty nesters to sell their Glebe homes to make way for breeders? Can we force them to sell only to breeders? Even at a loss?
Again, that argument wasn’t site specific to 265 Carling; and applied pretty much equally to every apartment anywhere in the city. I vaguely hope someone somewhere is compiling data about how many more people are now having babies or raising kids in apartments, given that single family homes in the central city are out of the price range of most young families.
Sunlight and views are important for some people. They are very important for me. But I don’t have a legal right to never be in the shade. Heck, you know the tall building over at Tunney’s Pasture? I sometimes see the sun setting behind it … which means I am in its shadow … despite being two kilometers away. Sorry for the speaker at Tuesday’s Planning Committee, but the the city just ain’t gonna reject a building because it blocks your view to the west, or might reduce the brightness of light. It has standards, rules, that specify a certain distance between buildings to let in light, that’s all folks.
No one has a right to forever preserve their current view of the Gatineau Hills, or the Peace Tower, or the city scape off in the distance. Development happens. Telling council to reject this high rise because it blocks your view isn’t likely to happen, and only sets you up for rejection. Council isn’t being contemptuous when it disregards arguments it hasn’t any legal or moral right to enforce. There are only a very few protected view planes in the city, and until some politician is buried on the roof of the Fitzsimmons building, the Glebe isn’t one of them.
Planners currently are concerned with controlling, manipulating, creating .. skylines. They refer to the view of several high rises as a composition. They currently like a composition that comes together to form a peak. At a node, like a transit station or major intersection. So a cluster of apartments at Bronson and Carling that has some low rises, some mid rises, and the centre a single peak tallest building, appeals to them. Ergo, pointing out that the latest building, in the centre spot, is taller than the others is perceived by planners as a virtue, not a drawback. All the more reason to approve it. And here comes the locals pointing out the very feature that planners like while mistaking it for an argument to reject the proposal.
While each approved new building is not strictly speaking a precedent that allows subsequent applications for similarly tall buildings, we all know that the emphasis in Ottawa on compatibility means that proposals that blend in have better chances of survival. So builders cite nearby buildings to justify their project. And residents cite these same buildings to argue that the new building is out of context. Both are employing precedent, one to oppose and one to propose change.
It strikes me as ironic that today’s apartment dwellers on Carling object to a new high rise while themselves living in buildings that when proposed a generation ago were “out of context” and incompatible, according their then-neighbours. And those two storey houses built by the tract-builders of the day may have irritated those that preferred the Glebe when it was semi-rural. You know, those folks that in their turn displaced the original forest dwellers of the area.
So when I read that residents attending planning committee leave feeling that their concerns were ignored, that the process was a sham, that it was all cooked or pre-determined, or that councillors were showing contempt by checking their emails, whispering with staff, or other wise multi-tasking, I both agree that its a messy system, and feel that a big part of the problem is people bringing the wrong arguments. I would never have the patience to be a councillor listening to irrelevant arguments all day. In fact I couldn’t take being a spectator at the Tuesday’s session, and left before noon.