Christine McAllister, Bobby Galbreath, and Brian Mitchell bring updates on traffic, zoning, Lansdowne, and other community matters from the Glebe Community Association.
GCA is gearing up
By Christine McAllister
It’s hard to believe it is March already! Didn’t 2014 just start? Then again, I know for some people, the snow has made for a long winter. With spring around the corner, activity is gearing up for the GCA on a number of fronts, which I am happy to tell you about.
A few Glebe Community Association (GCA) Board members had a sneak peak “inside Lansdowne” on a tour of the site with Bernie Ashe, CEO of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), at this month’s GCA meeting with OSEG. It certainly is an impressive undertaking! The buildings throughout the site are progressing well and recently, OSEG announced a list of confirmed tenants, including Cineplex theatres (see the media section of www.oseg.ca). I think there was a sigh of relief that a tenant for the theatre building has been found. That said, we are mindful of residents’ concerns about theatre-goers parking on Holmwood or nearby streets as well as noise following the late show. A site-wide liquor license has been applied for to cover alcohol served at the stadium and the beer garden within the stadium, and we anticipate more as restaurants begin interior development. Special thanks to Bernie for the personalized tour and his willingness in sharing information and engaging with us.
The GCA, accompanied by Old Ottawa South Community Association (OSCA) and Ottawa East Community Association (OECA) also met with the mayor to discuss Lansdowne-related traffic concerns. We were impressed that the mayor met with us for one and a half hours (we were scheduled for an hour). We presented our perspective – that greater planning and ahead-of-opening changes are needed, based on the extensive consultations conducted within our collective communities (see Brian Mitchell’s article on page 15 for more information). Although we were disappointed (but not surprised) by the City’s continued commitment to “waiting-and-seeing,” which officials believe is the most prudent approach, the mayor did commit to a number of actions, including:
- If there is resident support on Holmwood, piloting a “buffer zone” by reducing parking from three hours to one hour and implementing a guest parking permit system for those residents;
- Reducing the speed limit from 50 km to 40 km on Bank Street between Riverdale and Chamberlain avenues, to make cycling over Bank Street bridge safer;
- Providing a timeline to advance Glebe cycling plan elements, to encourage cycling to the site;
- Implementing a Pedestrian Safety Evaluation Program for Bank/Sunnyside and contiguous areas, to improve pedestrian safety;
- Working with the NCC to fast-track a signalized crossing at Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Fifth Avenue.
There are other cost-free actions we believe would be prudent to implement before Lansdowne opens rather than “waiting-and-seeing.” That said, we appreciate the advancement on these items, as well as the time the mayor took to meet with us.
We are also working on a few other things. With Canada Post’s plans to eliminate door-to-door mail delivery, GCA members have early concerns related to where they plan to put the “super-mailboxes” from which we are expected to retrieve our mail. Looking around our neighbourhood, we don’t see many potential locations for Glebe households, except maybe our parks. Needless to say, we are gathering information and will be developing a community-based position on the topic. I can’t imagine anyone would be willing to give up our precious green space for mailboxes!
I was pleased to meet with Andrew Peck recently. The new executive director of the Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) sees a strong role for our local businesses in community building. We all know how important our Bank Street retailers are to our neighbourhood and so I think Andrew will be a great addition to our community team. Welcome to the Glebe!
Based on the numerous discussions I have had with residents (and the number of comments I get about my column), I know many readers are especially interested in and committed to our neighbourhood. My interest in leading the GCA is to increase its role as a community-gathering organization, a place where residents can express their concerns and find other interested people to work with in taking care of our community. We have a lot of other issues on the go, and are evaluating activities for next year (such as a Community Design Plan). Our annual membership campaign is also around the corner. If you are interested in becoming involved, we have a place for you – whether that is a small task or something bigger – and we need your help. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can chat. I’ll even buy the coffee!
Keeping track of building changes in the Glebe
By Bobby Galbreath
Ottawa is constantly changing. Its population is expected to grow by up to 30 per cent in the next 25 years. Further, the number of people in each household is expected to decline, increasing the demand for housing units, albeit more than likely smaller units. To meet the increasing need, the Ottawa Official Plan has identified “intensification” as an objective in order to guide the continuing growth. To accommodate that ever-changing need, the rules governing building and development must also undergo modifications. It should not be surprising then that our zoning bylaws are due for a substantial revision this spring.
Zoning bylaws govern the type of use permitted, the allowable building height and distances to property lines. The zoning for the residential portions of the Glebe is fundamentally categorized as R3 and R4: single, multi-unit and low-rise apartments.
When the zoning bylaws change for an existing community, owners are permitted to continue with their current use as long as it was deemed legal when it was first instituted. However, because the new laws are overlaid on an existing community, subsequent changes are likely to result in conflicts with the new regulations. To deal with those changes, mechanisms are set up at both the municipal and provincial levels of government, while locally within the Glebe neighbourhood, the responsibility of the Planning Committee of the Glebe Community Association (GCA) is to try to keep up with those changes so that a community voice can also guide the inevitable changes that occur in our neighbourhood.
12-STEP DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION REVIEW PROCESS
There is a 12-step Development Application Review Process that governs detailed building and site plan requirements, as well as the subsequent notification, assessment and approval process. Nearby residents and the community association are notified if any part of the development request falls outside of what is permissible according to the zoning bylaws.
It is when relief from the existing bylaws is requested that the proposal is forwarded and presented to the Committee of Adjustment for a ruling to determine what will be permitted for that property development. This presentation is the point in the process that provides community members with an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. Ideally, the community association should be brought into the assessment process early in the project. The GCA organizes meetings for residents to meet developers to discuss the possible impacts of the proposal and to provide an opportunity for a discussion among interested parties.
Next, the proposal proceeds to the Committee of Adjustment for assessment. Subsequently, there is an opportunity for appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board should one of the parties object to the decision rendered by the Committee of Adjustment. The appeal process is a rather lengthy one but usually takes less than a year.
So, in all of this, the GCA Planning Committee helps by facilitating communication among all the concerned parties and demystifying the complex planning rules as they affect Glebe residents. The GCA Planning Committee is about seven members strong and is dedicated to being a resource to the community related to zoning and planning issues. Every project is reviewed separately and community input is sought in a way that is appropriate to each proposal.
The committee also becomes involved in other activities that relate more generally to the issue of planning in the Glebe. Sometimes, for example, there is a need to represent the Glebe at meetings of other community associations or to provide input directly to the City of Ottawa within the context of ongoing development of planning practices and procedures.
We meet once a month at the Glebe Community Centre on the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. and all are welcome.
Join in the planning conversation at email@example.com
Bobby Galbreath is chair of the GCA Planning Committee.
Preparing for Lansdowne traffic: some progress but also setbacks
By Brian Mitchell
Traffic signals in the Glebe are a little more pedestrian-friendly. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., you no longer have to press a button to get a walk signal to cross Bank Street. After two years of asking, the City has finally restored the signals to how they worked before the Bank Street reconstruction. They now change automatically – when a car gets a green light to cross Bank Street, so do the pedestrians. Huzzah!
This is, however, only one of three priority recommendations that the City has agreed to implement before Lansdowne reopens. These recommendations, put forward by the GCA last year following extensive community consultations, are contained in the Lansdowne Traffic Monitoring Plan that the City tabled on March 5. Most of the GCA’s recommendations were placed in a “wait-and-see” category by City staff for possible implementation one to two years after Lansdowne opens, based on the results of a monitoring program. Some recommendations, such as improved cycling routes through the Glebe to access Lansdowne, will be implemented over the next few years, but not in time for the opening of Lansdowne. The Fifth-Clegg pedestrian/cycling bridge will not be constructed until 2020 at the earliest!
The frustration of Glebe residents with this wait-and-see approach was evident in a town hall meeting organized by Councillor Chernushenko in December; it was conveyed to Mayor Watson in a meeting he hosted with community representatives on March 3rd, and then to Council’s Transportation Committee on March 5th. These forums, combined with a year and a half of monthly Lansdowne Transportation Advisory Committee meetings, have provided ample opportunities for Glebe residents to be heard. And nearly 1,000 residents had a direct say in the messaging to city hall through online and door-to-door surveys and workshops conducted by the GCA last year. Despite all this “hearing,” the willingness of the City to take proactive action on transportation issues associated with Lansdowne has not budged – if anything their “wait-and-see” position has only hardened in recent weeks.
At the end of February, the City announced a change in its position regarding on-street parking restrictions in the Glebe. Initially, City staff had indicated that residents could (like residents anywhere in the city) change parking restrictions on their street through a petition process. During the GCA’s community consultations, most residents living close to Lansdowne stated a strong preference for restricting parking on their streets to just one hour and extending these restrictions into the evening (e.g. to 11 p.m.). The rationale is to discourage visitors to the new 10-screen Cineplex or the new “destination stores” from using residential streets as a Lansdowne parking lot to avoid the inconvenience and cost of the new underground paid parking garage. Parking on those streets is already near-capacity, so no monitoring is required to know that there is a problem. The reason given by City officials for this change in position is that those on-street parking spaces are needed for parking during football games! So, with the possible exception of a “pilot” initiative on Holmwood adjacent to Lansdowne, they will not allow residents to change parking restrictions on evenings or weekends.
There are some silver linings to what has otherwise been a very frustrating experience in trying to work with the City to make sure Lansdowne is a success for residents and not just its operators. Besides the restored pedestrian signals, the City has agreed to implement a no-stopping zone on the south and east sides of Holmwood and O’Connor in the vicinity of Lansdowne. And it has agreed to place signs on city streets and the 417 (pending provincial approval) to direct cars to use the QED as a preferred access route to Lansdowne (instead of Bank). And the NCC is going ahead this year with construction of a safe crossing of the QED at Fifth Avenue.
Perhaps the greatest source of hope comes from recent meetings the GCA has had with OSEG. In February, OSEG representatives participated in a GCA Traffic Committee meeting and stressed their desire to work with the community and that being a “good neighbour” was critical if Lansdowne is to be successful. It appears they will be supporting several of the recommendations put forward by the GCA, including one directly under their control: validated parking. Shoppers at Whole Foods and movie-goers at the Cineplex will not have to pay to park at Lansdowne. More is hoped for from OSEG in the lead-up to opening day on July 18th. But it’s a good start.
Brian Mitchell is chair of the Traffic Committee of the Glebe Community Association.