No shipping containers in a heritage park!

The NCC is proposing to launch a bistro in the Patterson Creek Park Pavilion, a heritage building.  

The NCC has agreed not to use shipping containers like this one used
for the Remic Rapids bistro to house the Patterson Creek Park bistro.

Update on the proposed NCC bistro at Patterson Creek

By Lois Hardy

Three determined Glebe residents have scored at least a partial victory in a dispute over a planned pop-up bistro at Patterson Creek.

Wendy Myers, Jane Bower and Magda Kubasiewicz took on the National Capital Commission (NCC) at an Ontario Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT) hearing, objecting to a liquor licence for Patterson Creek East Park. On January 26, a negotiated side settlement ended the video hearing on its ninth day.

Under the settlement, the NCC agreed to alter its plans by using the heritage Pavilion building instead of shipping containers for the bistro, thereby reducing the loss of green space and respecting other operating conditions.

It appears the NCC’s current plans are to operate a licensed outdoor bistro seven days a week from 9 a.m. until around dark from mid-May to mid-October. Two similar bistros opened in 2019 in Confederation Park and at Remic Rapids; the one at Patterson Creek would be the first in a residential area.

The dispute began almost two years ago. On June 17, 2019, neighbours around Patterson Creek quickly intervened when bulldozers started digging in the park. Without informing neighbours of its plans (other than posting notice of a liquor licence application on a fence) and with no building permit, the NCC was starting to install a 240- square-metre gravel pad to host two shipping containers and patio seating for 40.

Construction was stopped, but tax dollars continued to flow to pay for an Open House to inform the public, an NCC ombudsman’s investigation and report (responding to various complaints including the lack of consultation with the community) and then the LAT hearing.

Details on this NCC project came to light through access to information requests and from the ombudsman’s report released on March 3, 2020.

Despite the settlement at the LAT hearing, many questions remain:

In this second year of COVID restrictions, is it appropriate for a government agency to open a licensed operation competing with local restaurants?

Is the community in favour of commercialization and alcohol in a Glebe park in a residential neighbourhood? Other than the Canal Ritz, all licensed patios in the Glebe are in city-zoned “Traditional Mainstreet” and Lansdowne’s “Major Leisure Facility” areas.

When will the NCC consult the Glebe community on the suitability of this site for a bistro? The ombudsman cited the NCC’s public engagement policy: consultations should occur  “at a flexible stage whereby the final decision takes public concerns and interests into account” and “as early as possible, and at key stages in the development phase of the project.”

What would be lost with the establishment of a bistro in this environment of quiet natural beauty? How would it interfere with current use or enjoyment by individuals, families and groups?

Are there safety issues to consider, such as the absence of a proper crossing of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway for pedestrians and cyclists between the park and the canal pathway or the possibility of alcohol-related problems as bar patrons drive through the First Avenue School zone at 3:30?

Is the proposed site too close to apartment units or houses? The city zoning bylaw specifies that in the absence of a wall or screen, an “outdoor commercial patio” should be at least “75 m from a lot in a residential zone,” a standard that cannot be met in this narrow park. The city, however, is choosing to interpret the proposed licensed patio not as a “bar” but as a “canteen,” which may be included in a “park” but is a term otherwise undefined and not listed in the definition of “outdoor commercial patio.” (If there were a city project for a “canteen” in a Glebe park, neighbouring homes would likewise be unprotected by a minimum distance requirement.)

In his report, the NCC ombudsman clarifies how the NCC should operate: “The exercise of the NCC’s responsibilities are [sic] subject to the NCA [the National Capital Act], the NCC’s internal policies and procedures, and all relevant and applicable federal, provincial, and municipal statutes and regulations.”

In October 2020, the government designated Frederick Gage Todd as a person of national historic significance. Todd, recognized as Canada’s first landscape architect, recommended the purchase of land along Patterson Creek for the creation of a park in his 1903 report to the Ottawa Improvement Commission, the forerunner to the NCC. Glebe residents have been enjoying this park for a century, especially last summer when it was an extremely popular meeting place for socializing at a safe distance.

Lois Hardy, a long-time Glebe resident, was an observer of the Ontario Licence Appeal Tribunal video hearing.

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