On 9 August 2012, the CCCA submitted an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) regarding City Council’s decision to rezone the property at 96 Nepean Street. This rezoning permitted the property developer, Claridge Homes, to proceed with its plans to build a tower that does not respect good planning principles and guidelines, especially as laid out in the draft Centretown Community Design Plan.
In particular, we felt the building was too large for the size of land on which it is located, and was not set back enough to respect its surrounding environment, such that it crowded out neighbouring buildings and overshadowed the street. Combined with other developments in the area that exhibit similarly poor design, the effect would have been a windy, dark canyon on Nepean Street.
Shortly after filing the appeal, the CCCA released a press release to ensure that the local media knew where we stood on the issue.
Following months of hard work studying design elements and considering what was most at stake, on 11 January 2013, the CCCA submitted a negotiation proposal to Claridge. Representatives of the CCCA, Claridge and the City then met on 22 January and reached a settlement. The deal, including the required bylaw amendments, was signed by all parties and accepted by the OMB on 5 February.
The key elements of the settlement focused on improving the pedestrian streetscape. The Claridge representatives agreed to move back the two town houses that make up more than half the frontage of the building so that they will be a full three meters from the property line. This will enhance the streetscape by providing considerably more open space along Nepean Street. On the eastern side of the building, Claridge will also permit general public access to a “winter garden”, which will be four meters in width and extend about 13 meters along the building. This public space and the more enjoyable streetscape are significant improvements for Centretown compared to Claridge’s original proposal. The CCCA also learned a great deal from the process, which will help us better analyse future development proposals at an early stage, ideally with the developers themselves before they submit their proposals to the City and also in discussions with City staff and in presentations to the City’s Planning Committee.
The CCCA would like to thank all who contributed their time and energy to allow us to pursue the appeal, especially Scott McAnsh, our legal counsel, and Paul Kariouk, Carleton Professor of Architecture. Their professional advice throughout the process and their participation in the negotiations were invaluable. Much of the credit for the success we had and for what we learned during the process goes to them.
To succeed at the OMB, engaging a professional planner is essential, especially if the appeal proceeds to a full hearing. The CCCA was able to engage a professional planner for a preliminary opinion at a cost of $1500, but the estimate we received for proceeding to the hearing stage was at least $10,000, which was beyond our means. Many other community associations are taking this route and spending thousands on OMB appeals. For each OMB appeal, the City also spends tens of thousands in public money. As citizens, we should all be seriously considering better ways to ensure that community concerns are heard and respected in the City’s planning process.
The work of the CCCA, whether we are involved in an OMB appeal, sponsoring public meetings on development issues, keeping citizens informed or undertaking other activities to build a better future for all Centretowners, requires not only hard work on the part of our volunteers but, increasingly, financial resources. Your contributions will help us recover the funds we spent on the appeal and also allow us to continue this important work. You can donate through the website or by contacting us.