Egan: Infill or outcast? When old neighbourhoods grow newer, boxier via demolition

4 10 2018

Egan: Infill or outcast? When old neighbourhoods grow newer, boxier via


Of all the issues not getting much traction in the municipal election — and it was a lifeless affair even before multiple tornadoes literally sucked the air out of the city — there is an explosive sleeper: infill and intensification.

In any mature neighbourhood in Ottawa, older houses are being torn down and replaced by boxier replacements that are bigger, tend to have a hard-edged “massive” profile, eat away at green space, remove large trees, put cars right by the sidewalk, and replace small starter homes with million-dollar showcases of glass and stone.

Some of it is all to the good, of course. The housing stock improves, it helps stop urban sprawl, and it creates homes in a style that better suits modern living and a buyer’s market. It is also an owner’s unstoppable right.

But, undeniably, it creates deep division. There was a fascinating hearing in late September before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (the old OMB) that crystallizes much of the friction being writ large across the city’s core, one case of more than 8,000 units of central intensification in a five-year stretch ending in 2017.

A group of residents on Broadway Avenue in the Glebe is upset with a plan to tear down 21 Broadway — a traditional 2.5-storey brick house — and replace it with a larger, modern home with a flat roof. The main issue under the rules microscope? The house is set forward in such a way that its facade does not line up with the foundations of its neighbours, giving it a smaller yard with diminished greenery.

On paper, it hardly seems earth-shattering, but the proposal has set off an emotional debate about property rights, our attachment to the look and feel of our neighbourhoods and the unspoken — or non-existent — duty for individuals to maintain the era-look of new builds or additions.

”I don’t really understand why all this happened and it became such a hatred-filled environment,” said Hassan Moghadam, 48, an oral surgeon who bought the $1-million house with his wife, Litsa Karamanos, and plans to tear it down. “Over a house?”

Maghadam is so perplexed by the opposition, the transplanted Iranian wondered aloud if there was discrimination at play. He says he arrived in 1976 “with nothing,” stayed at the Salvation Army, wore secondhand clothes and made a life for himself by “working my butt off.”

“Basically, what I felt like is they’re telling me ‘You can’t live on this street,’ right?” (He performs surgery at The Ottawa Hospital, the Montfort, teaches at McGill and uOttawa and has volunteered at the Ottawa Mission.)

Guided by the family’s wish-list, he says he hired high-end professionals to design and site the house, leaving details such as setbacks and “non-conforming rights” to the experts, who designed within the allowable envelope.

Bernie Sander, 66, has lived at No. 25 for more than 30 years. He led a group of residents so passionate about preserving the century-old streetscape that they scraped together almost $30,000 to fight the plan. After a one-day hearing, they lost, and badly.

“We met afterwards on the street and kind of had a group hug,” he said the next day. “If anything, as neighbours, it has brought us closer.”

It is frightening how complicated these issues can get. At the LPAT hearing, each side had a lawyer and the proponent had a professional planner equipped with a binder two inches thick and at least five visual boards on easels. (We endured several minutes on what constitutes a “bay window” and definitions of “character” and “attributes.”)

This is a drawing of proposed house at 21 Broadway in the Glebe. OTTWP

Mostly, it comes down to how the city sets the infill rules. “So how has the city done?” asks Coun. David Chernushenko, whose ward includes Broadway. “Pretty badly.”

The problem, in a nutshell: The city is trying to establish a legal framework that forces infill to be in character with the existing street, something that defies easy regulation. According to its Mature Neighbourhoods Bylaw, the core message is “Your street gives you your rules.” And this is the principle that Sander and others felt was being violated by a house that has no big front porch, is set closer to the street, has a full third floor, and doesn’t blend in completely with a strip of century-old homes with mature trees.

“There is nothing about the proposed full three-storey house with its main front wall situated well forward of the houses on the adjoining lots that ‘fits into, respects, and reinforces the established character’ of the Broadway Avenue streetscape,” he wrote in his objection, quoting the bylaw itself.

On the stand, Sander went further. “Why move to a neighbourhood when nobody likes what you’re doing?”

There is much in those words. The hearing was told Karamanos has been shouted at for seeking a minor variance that allows a portion of the front to slightly protrude (about a metre) beyond the permitted setback. And, indeed, several Broadway residents wondered aloud why the new owners want to live on a traditional Glebe street, but don’t want to live in a traditional Glebe house.

Forget the niggly rules for a moment. The dispute is intriguing for the way it exposes the emotional attachment people have to their neighbourhoods, their streets, their homes, the house across the street — the visual comfort that contributes to our deep sense of place. “This is bigger than just lower Broadway,” Sander said.

Broadway resident Andrew Milne, 46, addressed this when he referenced the big trees on many front yards and the impressive open-sided porches that allow views up and down the street. In other words, by its design, the street connects people.

The digital marketing specialist called it “super frustrating” that it has thrown well-meaning people into an adversarial situation where the spirit of the bylaw seems to have been trampled.

“How does (the house) fit? How is it embraced by the neighbourhood? How does it fit into the style of change?”

Indeed, Moghadam picked up on that theme of houses changing neighbourhoods, but from the opposite perspective.

“Now it’s just not a little neighbourhood thing,” he says, adding that opponents have consistently misrepresented the size of the house at 6,000 square feet, when it is actually about 3,400, minus the basement. “Now the entire Glebe has put a pinata on you and says ‘You’re that a–hole who wants to build a monster home.’”

2013-17 Residential intensification

The counter-argument, of course, is that the city sets out zoning and building rules that guide new construction and all Moghadam is doing is following the rules — including asking for minor variances that are perfectly within his rights. What else, really, can we expect property owners to do — survey the neighbours for their architectural taste?

(He went further, in fact, saying he spent $7,000 to have coffee and cookie sessions with the neighbours (planners, lawyers included) to explain the design, which he says respects the surroundings with its use of brick, stone and copper.)

“If you’re telling me you don’t like something, I don’t have to follow your wishes. It’s my house.” He says he isn’t going to be “bullied” by the opposition and wants set an example to his three children to stand up for their rights.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper has dealt with infill issues since the day he was elected. We spoke of Carleton Avenue in Champlain Park, a street in my neighbourhood, where at least 40 new homes have been constructed in a 500-metre strip. Most are boxy duplexes that replaced much smaller houses.

How, one wonders, would anyone assess the “character” of the street, when it has undergone a wholesale remake in the past 10 years? In other words, when the previous character was put in a dumpster and trucked away.

“I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that,” Leiper said, when asked about preserving balance between new and old.

“The size of the infills is changing the character of our neighbourhoods. Our neighbourhoods don’t look the same. They’re losing their charm.”

Little wonder that residents are frustrated: The province is encouraging intensification, the official plans are permitting it, variances are being given out like candy, and yet the city is writing bylaws with reassuring guidelines like “respect and reinforce” the character of the street. Huh?

“So what we see in Kitchissippi ward,” said Leiper, who works on infill issues every day, “is small homes, big lots, lots of demand, demand for suburban-style square footage, and developers seeking to maximize all those elements.”

Leiper laments the loss of trees, the “permeable” space, the urban forest — even the view of the sky — all given way to maximize the living space and economic value.

“Your street give you your rules,” the city says. Not really. The law does, the lawyers do.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email

Egan: Infill or outcast? When old neighbourhoods grow newer, boxier via demolition Councillor calls for ‘nuclear option’ to halt Westboro triplexes

4 10 2018

Councillor calls for ‘nuclear option’ to halt Westboro triplexes

Jeff Leiper asking for moratorium on new multi-unit buildings in part of his ward

Coun. Jeff Leiper is asking Ottawa city council to consider a moratorium on new triplexes in a section of Westboro, a move that would delay an application by a builder who wants to erect two multi-unit buildings on a single lot on Edison Avenue.

The same builder, Falsetto Homes, is looking at a similar project on nearby Roosevelt Avenue.

“I think they’re pushing the envelope,” said Leiper, who’s running for re-election in Kitchissippi ward. “I see it as overintensification.”

On Wednesday, Leiper will ask council to consider a motion calling for an interim control bylaw — essentially, a temporary moratorium — on triplexes from Golden Avenue east to Tweedsmuir Avenue, and Byron Avenue south to Dovercourt Avenue.

‘Nuclear option’

“I realize this is the nuclear option,” said Leiper, whose motion also asks city staff to study the impact of triplexes in Westboro.

Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the planning committee, has seconded Leiper’s motion, an strong indication of support.

Leiper’s proposal prompted the city’s committee of adjustment —  the arms-length tribunal considering the Falsetto Homes application — to delay its decision until council votes.

Neighbours upset

People living in the area under consideration applaud the move.

“It shed a strong ray of sunshine on what seemed to be a kind of hopeless situation,” said Max Finkelstein, who lives next to the proposed site on Edison Avenue.

He said the development seemed to be a tipping point for the community, where many residents are concerned about the changing face of a neighbourhood where single-family homes were once the rule.

Eighty people showed up to a recent consultation held by the developer to discuss the Edison Avenue proposal.

“It’s not just a couple of neighbours upset, it’s a whole community that’s upset,” Finkelstein said.

Too intense?

The city’s official plan is geared toward intensification in urban neighbourhoods, and the neighbourhood in question is zoned to allow triplexes, but Leiper said many residents feel the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

“Replacing a single family home with six units — potentially a fourth unit in each of those triplexes if the owner comes back for rezoning subsequently — that seems to be a threshold too far,” he said.

But for advocates of urban intensification, triplexes make desirable downtown neighbourhoods more accessible to homebuyers currently priced out of the single-family home market.

“This is forward-thinking,” said Kate Whitfield, an urban planner and lecturer at Carleton University.

“When cities have a chance to adopt progressive policies, we have to keep moving forward to get the kind of city we want,” she said. – Cobb: Infill builders are cutting up our roads and we’re paying for it

4 10 2018

Cobb: Infill builders are cutting up our roads and we’re paying for it


Infill development, a significant contributor to the city’s property tax coffers, is a booming business. Properly done, it can enhance an aging street and blend respectfully with the existing character of an established neighbourhood. Properly done, infill is constructed by developers who respect and communicate with neighbours and who do their best to minimize disruption and destruction.

While some developers and their sub-contractors do quality work in just such a respectful manner, infill development in parts of Ottawa is now a free-for-all.

The ongoing carve-up of public roads is a prime example and although residents and councillors in rural and suburban wards have been traditionally indifferent to the inconveniences of urban infill, they, too, are ultimately contributing to paying the road repair or replacement bill.

Kitchissippi ward, which includes Champlain Park, the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital, Mechanicsville, McKellar Park and Westboro, accounts for more infill and intensification than all other urban wards combined.

Ward councillor Jeff Leiper says high on the list of complaints he hears about infill – and he hears lots – is the routine damaging of public roads by developers who typically buy and demolish older houses, then build two, three or four replacements on the same piece of land.

The new properties need services, or service upgrades, and that’s when the public roads get carved up or, in official parlance, “cut.”

There are hundreds of examples throughout Kitchissippi – and other areas of urban Ottawa –of trenches being cut through roads and refilled in a slap-dash manner, leaving behind a crumbling bump or a dip on previously flat, well-engineered roads.

They are ugly to look at, uncomfortable to drive over and constant jolts to the body for cyclists – not to mention the danger to those on two wheels.

For a particularly egregious example, travel north along Roosevelt Avenue in Westboro, cross Byron Avenue and Richmond Road and journey to the transitway bridge. Almost the entire section of road has been reduced to potholes and rubble by a succession of sloppy road cuts. And this is, allegedly, one of Ottawa’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

Relatively new major thoroughfares aren’t immune either.

Older properties along Churchill Avenue, one of the newer jewels in the Ottawa city road system, are in the crosshairs of developers and cuts are already slicing the road, pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths.

The Churchill reconstruction cost taxpayers $21.4 million. It was finished less than four years ago.

Here’s what the city’s bylaws say about road cutting:

“Upon completion of the temporary surfacing, or permanent reinstatement of the road cut, all excess material shall be removed from the area of the road cut and the area shall be left in a safe, neat and clean condition, similar to the condition of the highway area adjacent to the road cut, all to the satisfaction of the General Manager.”

That’s the law, not a request or a suggestion.

According to Linda Carkner, the city’s Program Manager of Right Of Way, contractors must provide a bond of $2,500 for each cut. Larger contractors with multiple projects on the go are required to deposit $25,000 to $50,000.

Road cut permits carry a three-year warranty after which the city returns the contractor’s bond – if all the work has been completed, presumably to that “general manager’s” satisfaction.

That’s the law but it isn’t being enforced, partly because the sheer numbers of cuts and refills make it physically impossible to enforce. However, street excavators – there is no shortage of them to ask – have told me that some city street inspectors are more diligent than others. It’s the diligent ones who are more inclined to call them back and get the roads returned to the state demanded by the bylaw.

When a road is cut and refinished, even on the relatively few occasions it is done perfectly, the lifespan of the entire road is shortened.

Prior to amalgamation in 2001, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton charged developers an additional, non-refundable fee based on a formula that included the age of a road. The city discontinued that cash collection but reinstating it in some form would seem like a sensible option. Either that or impose a significant increase in the deposit.

At the very least, bylaws should be toughened, and should include methods to ensure developers and their subcontractors comply fully and completely with the law.

And those who don’t should be made to pay, so the rest of us don’t have to.

Chris Cobb is an Ottawa writer.

Cobb: Infill builders are cutting up our roads and we're paying for it


OMB: Local Planning Appeal Support Centre Now Open

17 04 2018

From the provincial government:


Local Planning Appeal Support Centre Now Open

April 11, 2018 – Toronto

Last week, Ontario’s Local Planning Appeal Support Centre opened its doors to the public for the first time.  The centre’s role is to help people understand and navigate the land use planning and appeal process.

“People know that what gets built in their community affects their quality of life, but they often don’t know how to influence those decisions,” explains board chair, Anna Pace. “The Local Planning Appeal Support Centre can help bridge that gap.”

People with a question about the land use planning process or an appeal can get in touch with the centre using the contact information below. The centre is open from Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The centre is an independent agency of the Ontario government, accountable to a board of directors. It was created under the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017.

Chair Anna Pace has held senior roles at Metrolinx, the TTC and the City of Toronto. She is joined by board member Mark Leach. Mary Lee is the centre’s executive director and Mark Christie is the manager-registrar. For more information about Anna Pace and the rest of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre’s leadership team, visit the centre’s website.

Contact the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre

Emerald Ash Borer – Winter Tree Removal Planned

15 02 2013

As noted on Katherine Hobbs website.

You may soon notice some orange marks on trees in your neighbourhood.

Staff are in the process of starting to mark dead Ash trees in the ward for removal over this winter. The following streets have trees on them that need to be removed:
•Tillbury – Churchill to Cole
•Broadview – Carling to Ernest
•Woodward – Clyde to Courtwood

Staff will mark the trees and be leaving information for the homeowner on Emerald Ash Borer and the City’s program. In these areas the City has done some work already such as interplanting and tree injection.

More details on Councillor’s website:

Have your say in selecting public art for Churchill Avenue

2 01 2013

Ottawa – Residents will have an opportunity to meet the four shortlisted artists/artist teams and review their proposals for public art to be installed at the intersection of Churchill and Byron avenues. The road reconstruction project, scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014, will improve the pedestrian corridors, feature separated cycling lanes and implement traffic calming and transit priority measures.
Four of the 14 local artists/artist teams that responded to the call to artists: request for proposals, have been shortlisted and an opportunity to meet the artists, view the proposals, and record your comments will take place on Monday, January 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Churchill Seniors Centre at 345 Richmond Road. Comments from the public will be provided to the Art Selection Committee as they deliberate and select the winning proposal.
Public input will ensure that residents and future visitors to the Westboro community will be able to view innovative public art integrated into the streetscape. The four finalists – Marcus Kucey Jones, Don Maynard, Jennifer Stead and artist team Oded and Pamela Ravek – will present sketches, scale models or maquettes and detailed work plans including budgets of the proposed artworks.
The City of Ottawa commissions local artists’ works for display in public spaces from a per cent of funds that is set aside for municipal development projects. Public art is found in municipal buildings, open spaces, pedestrian corridors, roadways, and transit ways. It creates a unique sense of place, a destination, focal points for activity, and meeting places.
For more information, please call 613-244-3745 or e-mail

MEDIA RELEASE – “What Happened to Due Process?”

10 03 2011

March 10, 2011

OTTAWA – The Board of Directors of the Westboro Community Association, at its regular monthly meeting, passed a resolution questioning how the entire process of maintaining greenspace in Kitchissippi got so derailed.

Councillor Hume’s motion at Planning Committee in November 2010, on the issue of greenspace on the site of the convent at 114 Richmond Road, has an expiry date of March 31, 2011. An email from Councillor Hobb’s office, dated March 4th , stated that the date Council would vote on the issue would be March 10th. Then, at a community meeting on March 6th, Councillor Hobbs announced she would be going forth with a ‘NO LEVY’ motion and that all emails and phone calls received before March 1 supporting a levy would not be counted.

Regardless of whether or not residents supported the levy, the WCA felt the decisions made by Councillor Hobbs in the past week basically undermined the entire democratic process. There were at most, 80 residents at each of the first two meetings. So if there were six meetings in total, then that means there were less than 500 people in total who attended these public meetings. That is not representative of the entire ward which has a population close to 40,000. The new information and dates did not give all the residents of Kitchissippi Ward (and the general Ottawa public who are also interested) adequate time to express their views to their elected councilors and their respective community associations.

Council’s support of this derailment does not bode well for the entire City over the next four years.

– 30 –

For questions contact
Gary Ludington, Chair

Media release: Community Associations File Appeals with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)

29 12 2010

Media Release
December 29, 2010

“Community Associations File Appeals with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)”

OTTAWA – Hampton-Iona Community Group (HICG) and Westboro Community Association (WCA) have jointly filed appeals with the OMB today against the City of Ottawa with respect to its approval of the proposed Ashcroft Homes development at the former Soeur de la Visitation Convent site at 90 and 114 Richmond Road.  ( By-law No. 2010-367 amending the City of Ottawa Zoning By-law 2008-250 for the property at 90 and 114 Richmond Road) .

More than 200 area residents attended each of several public meetings held regarding this proposed development and a record 40 plus residents signed up to speak out against the proposed development at Planning Committee in November 2010 and these residents need to have their opportunity to be heard before the OMB.

Both HICG and WCA helped to write the Community Design Plan which ultimately became the subsequent Secondary Plan for Westboro/Richmond Road.  While both Associations have always been supportive of development at the Convent site, should it be sold; as drafters of these important community planning documents, we do not believe that the City has respected the wording or intent of these documents and that the proposed development represents significant over-intensification.  We note moreover that the City of Ottawa has not properly planned as to how it will accommodate the growth resulting from this development.

For further information please contact:

Gary Ludington, Westboro Community Association, 613-725-1385 or 613-291-7400
Lorne Cutler, Hampton Iona Community Group, 613-725-9147


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