More public consultation problems at the City

While the City is undertaking a “consultation process review” another example comes to my attention where the practice is strongly at odds with the dream.

Recall that the Centretown plan went before Planning Committee last week with last-second “compromise” provisions worked out between (some of the)developers, represented by Fotenn, and the Centretown Community Assocation (CCA). Alas, there wasn’t time to circulate these before they appeared at Committee, which left some members of the public feeling left out.  And the Councillor too.

This comes on top of the  fabled managed consultation session for the Big Gambling Casino Cash Cow.

To say nothing of the surprising announcement of a new multi-million dollar film studio and office complex. Where will we put it, oh, Bayview Yards would be nice. Err, maybe not. Easy come, easy go.

In last weeks marathon Planning Committee session extraordinaire, one of the eleventh-hour (literally and figuratively) agenda items was the Richcraft proposal for the Dow Motors Site at Carling and the OTrain. While the Citizen did an admirable job covering many of the many items on the Committee agenda, I think all we got of the Richcraft proposal were some pretty pictures on Reevely’s blog. There was no coverage of the proposal itself, and the odd conclusion of Committee.

Here is the Richcraft site. It is large, about 2 acres, or 70,000 square feet. We will be looking at various bits of the proposal over the next few days. But first, the lack of public consultation.

dow motors site

The George Dark CDP plan represents the views primarily of one professional firm, with the benefit of much input / lobbying on what goes into it. I have my issues with it, see the previous post with 72 comments: (a multi-part series of posts) (For your convenience, I have pulled out the key comments related to the Dow Motors site and reprinted them at the bottom of this post).

I have also wondered out loud numerous times if the proposal to totally build-over the existing low rise Little Italy community was a sort of monstrous deke, a bullfighter’s red cape, designed to focus all the community steam about something the City and the planner weren’t really interested in at all, but served as the lightning rod to divert attention from other plan elements, like the wall of high rises along Carling, and Rochester. Certainly the proposed bulldozing and land assembly isn’t characteristic of other Dark moves (such as “sparing” the identical set of houses with the same potential on the west side of the tracks, albeit in a different Councillor’s ward,  or his comments on how much he thinks we need to preserve the similar neighbourhood of Mechanicsville in his current CDP going on there).

Indeed, the Preston-Carling CDP is so large it contains all sorts of details that are very difficult to tease out of the mass of jargon-filled documentation. Certainly the city didn’t even try to explain the content at its “public consultation” about the proposed CDP, just introducing it briefly then tossing the meat to the roaring lions of indignation.

Dark proposed not just land use zoning, but actually specified how many buildings at what heights were to be scattered through the neighbourhoods. Recall that this derived from the veritable snow-storm of Styrofoam high rise building models that swirled onto the 3D map of the ‘hood.

height maps


Dark allocated two towers to the Dow Motors site. It is a big site, and obviously large enough for three, a point I made in my submission to the City (which who knows if anyone actually read it). So Richcraft appeared late at night before Planning Committee and argued for “fexibility” in interpreting the Dark plan, particularly the with respect to the number of towers and the future of the Sydney Street extension and “mews” starting northwards along the east side of the OTrain multi-user pathway and greenspace. (I will return to the details of the proposal and merits of it in subsequent posts. Stay tuned!).

So Committee punted it, sending it back to staff for “review”, and to present their recommendations to full Council on 24 April. Note that the public cannot make comments to Council, and these posts are  the very first time any member of the public will have seen the proposal. Council will be deciding on how many towers may be built, what sort of public spaces (or lack of) will be there, whether the road / mews will be built, and possibly the design and location of the OTrain station for a key site of the neighbourhood, and the key integration opportunity for transit-oriented development. All behind closed doors. Possibly in ignorance.

Nothing to see here folks, move along.


Yeah, there will sill be a pro-forma site plan process to go through for the Dow Motors site, but all the major decisions will have be made already. And frankly, as we look at the Dark plan and the Richcraft proposal over the next few posts, there’s a lot the public should be seeing and commenting on.  


For easy reference, here are my key comments relating to the Dow Motor’s site:

18. The very tall high rise zone immediately around the Carling Station is good. There is room for more than two high rises on the Dow Motors site, especially if Sydney is shortened to cars.

24. the small park proposed at the west end of Adeline is nice, but best if there isn’t a mews separating it from the MUP, and the mews is not necessary since the existing land assembly (Dow motors, Richcraft) offers enough room for adequate turn around of vehicles onto Sydney and Carling using the developers site). So delete the mews from Sydney to Adeline.

part of  comment 26: Adeline should be the main commercial and pedestrian walkway between the govt towers and the Carling Station, with no commercial required along Carling. Carling is unlikely to ever be an attractive walking street

61. We do not need a public street to connect Sydney to Adeline. The Richcraft development on this site may choose to propose project entrances to his garages on Adeline, but the public need not  buy or maintain a street in perpetuity. We do need to preserve rights of way for active transportation so the site is permeable in all directions.


5 thoughts on “More public consultation problems at the City

  1. I’m appalled that they are rushing this one through like this. No wonder the city needs to do a consultation on their consultation process. I agree with you that the Dow Honda site is large enough to include any required travel zones (vehicle, bicycle or foot) through it, not on the limited green space in the area.

    1. As for green space see this is the thing even if we say no to this taller building then what happens is they build a couple smaller ones meaning less green space.

  2. I’m not sure what to think about all this.

    I’m a (albeit relatively new) resident of the neighborhood and I am enthusiastically in favor of intensification, even if it’s on my doorstep (and it is). Although there are details in the Dark proposal I would argue with (I think you pretty much covered most of what I thought in your long post on the topic), I’m generally in agreement with the broad strokes.

    So…what if the process is a gong-show? As residents, do you think we should get a veto over city planning? Honest question, and I say that as someone who thinks a lot of what the city planning department does is pretty sad. If they proposed to put a freeway over the O-train tracks, yeah, I would be chaining myself to the bulldozers. But, thinking the buildings on Rochester should be 8 stories instead of 14 (or whatever), am I going to get worked up over that? As I said before, how the buildings function on a CASE BY CASE basis is what I’m interested in.

    Is Ottawa so absolutely massive that we can’t put aside our obsession with planning every damn block to the exact square foot, 20 years out, and just consider the proposals as they come within an extremely general framework? Perhaps focus on more relevant aspects of a proposal? Perhaps focus on the the look and feel of the end-product a bit more, rather than how it fills some area of space?

    I think that some believe that once we have “the perfect plan”, we will all be on the same page and we can leave the arguments about what should go where behind us. I realize that straw-man doesn’t apply to most who post here, but I am reaching a point where I wonder if our obsession with ‘process’ needs to be examined.

  3. For now, there’s no actual proposal on the table, just this concept that Richcraft wanted to show. They’ve filed nothing with the city. Their goal was to clarify just how prescriptive the Dark work is and also get out their own ideas about how they might provide connections to the O-Train station.

    Dark’s take on the pedestrian plaza that Richcraft raised as an access route to the station was that yeah, that could work, but he’d prefer to see the land involved handed over to the city or, failing that, governed by ironclad legal guarantees, not dependent on the permanent goodwill of a couple of condo corporations that would eventually govern Richcraft’s buildings.

    The city’s in a tight spot on this stuff. They screwed up by not having a Preston-Carling CDP done in advance of all the condo proposals that have come in and their backs are against the wall of a provincial deadline for considering rezoning applications. The Dark work isn’t a proper CDP but it is the rough outline of a CDP, enough to be getting on with when it comes to the applications they have before them now.

    Point being that I don’t think anyone, including councillors and their planning staff, thinks this was the best way they could have dealt with development in the area. But not having seen the localized condo boom coming, they’re scrambling to deal with it as fast as they can, which is unfortunately still not all that fast.

  4. What are the chances that the height limits on any of the properties that are NOT currently subject to applications would actually stick anyway?

    Obviously the ones for which we have proposals and applications are likely a lost cause in terms of applying any kind of rationality, but does anyone seriously believe that the limits on all the other properties are somehow going to stick?

    After all, they haven’t in Westboro. In many instances in Westboro, it’s not the zoning per se that is being exceeded (it is, but the CDP anticipated that), but the limits set in the CDP itself. The count is up to 3 now in Westboro where projects on properties that we acquired after the CDP was passed have exceeded the limits in that CDP. A fourth was attempted at Roosevelt-Scott and might still go through anyway.

    What we’re seeing in Westboro is that the CDP simply sets a new floor upon which all the usual rationales are applied to increase heights… EVEN WHEN THOSE SAME RATIONALES WERE INCORPORATED INTO THE HEIGHTS SET BY THE CDP!

    Take a site on a mainstreet: the fact that it’s on a mainstreet meant that it was assigned a certain height in the CDP. On Preston, that means 6 storeys. A developer comes along, takes the height set in the CDP as a starting point and argues that because it’s on a mainstreet, it should get more height. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the Official Plan to prevent this kind of “double-dipping” of Official Plan principles.

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