Two development applications for housing projects on opposite sides of the city failed to pass the planning commitment Thursday.
No votes are the exception, rather than the norm, for a committee that has given its go-ahead to applications collectively proposing thousands of new housing units this year alone, often to the rejection of some neighboring residents.
The 10 planning committee members present for Thursday’s vote were unanimous in their recommendation that the council reject a request by Smart Living Properties to demolish a handful of homes on Beechwood Avenue, in an area of the former Rockcliffe Park village known as Panhandle, and build a low-rise apartment complex. The pitch is for two buildings, with a total of 94 units, on each side of Carsdale Avenue.
Smart Living needs council approval because the project site is in a designated heritage conservation district. Both city staff and the built heritage subcommittee recommended denial, with staff explaining in their report on file that they have no problem with the proposed use of apartments or the addition of density to the site, but say the Proposed buildings “have not been designed to preserve the cultural heritage values, attributes and character” of the Rockcliffe Park Heritage Conservation District.
The applicant had made some changes, they said, but not enough to adequately address what they described as significant concerns, on the part of staff and the community, “with the proposed concentration, compatibility with the streetscape, lot and pattern of development of Beechwood, and the ability to preserve the important park-like setting through soft landscaping on the lots.”
Still, Smart Living chose to go ahead with its app. Speaking on your behalf, Novatech’s Kayla Blakely told the committee that they don’t think the staff is considering enough “the distinctive character of this area is a more transient and eclectic neighborhood” as well as the identity of Beechwood Avenue as a main street.
While the planning committee sided with the staff and the built heritage subcommittee, it will be up to the council to grant, or not, the permits the developer requested. If the council refuses, Smart Living can appeal to the Ontario Land Court.
It was a much closer vote on the second bill that got the committee’s official nod on Thursday, and it was largely a matter of planning. where concerns are centered, without patrimonial considerations at stake.
By a slim majority, the committee voted against the necessary rezoning for Brigil Construction to build a four-story, 258-unit apartment development in Kanata North on a site that is currently zoned for industrial/business park use.
In this case, it was a departure from the staff recommendation that the 100 Steacie Dr. proposal represented good planning and proper escalation.
It was not a view shared by residents who addressed the committee, a cohort that included former Kanata North councilwoman Marianne Wilkinson. They expressed concerns about transit and traffic challenges, impacts to the surrounding community, and access to area services. One speaker, Andrew Carran, predicted it would become a “stranded development that would cry out to the city to do things to improve it.”
Area Councilwoman Cathy Curry urged her colleagues to reject the rezoning request. “We have approved so many units in Kanata North, and we don’t argue against them for no reason.”
While other councilmembers shared their concerns about advancing infrastructure development such as roads and transit improvements that would support it, the vote ultimately went 6-5 against rezoning, with councilmembers Jean Cloutier, Laura Dudas, Allen Hubley, Catherine Kitts, Tim Tierney and Curry in the majority.
“I don’t want to say no to housing,” Kitchissippi Ward Coun said. Jeff Leiper, one of the “yes” votes. While he noted his concern about development’s possible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, “if you have a car, you can live here and it’s a pretty nice neighborhood.”
Three other planning requests for sites in Kanata North won the committee’s backing on Thursday, paving the way for a 30-story apartment to connect to the Brookstreet Hotel; a mixed-use “innovation district” development by tech giant Nokia on March Road; and a six-story, 234-unit building in the Kanata city center area.
All files are scheduled to reach the council on Wednesday.