July 10, 2018
City of Ottawa Committee of Adjustment, Panel One c/o: Secretary-Treasurer
Re: 860 Colonel By Drive
File \nos. D08-01-18/B-00215 & D08-01-18/B-00216 D08-02-18/A-00215 & D08-02-18/A-00216
Dear Committee Members:
I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors and the Planning and Zoning Committee of the Old Ottawa South Community Association; whose mandates include promoting and protecting the interests of the community with respect to the planning and future development of Old Ottawa South. We object to the consent and minor variances proposed in the applications named above.
The proposed variances do not meet any of the criteria that guide the Committee in its decisions. Together, the variances would have a major impact on the heritage character of Colonel By Drive, if approved, and the resulting infill development would be inappropriate in terms of its compatibility with its surroundings. The variances in effect seek to set aside several key provisions of the zoning bylaw, rather than maintain its purpose. As a result, the intent of the Official Plan to preserve the city’s heritage resources and promote compatible infill in mature neighbourhoods is not maintained.
With these potential outcomes in mind, the consent to create two lots should not be granted separately, without a building plan that demonstrates how any future development maintains the intent and purpose of the zoning by-law and official plan.
The subject site is within a Heritage Overlay (Section 60 of the zoning bylaw), which states that, “Where a building in an area to which an heritage overlay applies is removed or destroyed it must be rebuilt with the same character and at the same scale, massing, volume, floor area and in the same location as existed prior to its removal or destruction. (By-law 2014-289) (By-law 2015-281) (By-law 2014-289)”
The overlay came into effect in February 2014, following a lengthy process with the Old Ottawa South Community Association, community residents and residents of Colonel By, developers, heritage planners and others. In the 2000s, high land values and development pressures led to the demolition of three properties along Colonel By to make way for much larger residential buildings.
Following an attempt by several community residents to secure a heritage designation for one of the three properties, the Ottawa Built Heritage Committee recommended that the collection of houses along Colonel By Drive as a whole warrants heritage protection. The committee asked staff to look at options for preserving the heritage characteristics of the area.
The Colonel By Drive Focused Zoning Study was undertaken in 20012 and 2013 with input from planning consultants, the Built Heritage Committee, and a community advisory group. A door-to-door survey of the existing houses and several public meetings led to overwhelming support for a heritage overlay in the community and unanimous approval by Ottawa City Council in 2013. The heritage overlay was particularly due to proximity to the Rideau Canal and the desire of the UNESCO/WHO to protect the visual landscape to the Canal, which forms an integral part of the heritage value of the world heritage site.
Following an appeal to the OMB that added transition provisions enabling development of properties already in the development process, the bylaw came into effect in 2014.
The materials presented to the committee of adjustment indicate the owners require multiple variances to build two three-storey semi-detached dwellings once the existing house is demolished. Variances would be needed; to reduce the rear yard setback to 10.14 m from the required 13.32 m; to permit driveway access in the front yard rather than a fully landscaped front yard; to permit a driveway in the front yard where none is permitted; to permit the principal entrances at the side rather than the front; and to reduce the rear yards to 63.4 sq m from the required 67.87 sq m.
Notably, a variance is requested to permit a much taller building (11.2 m) than allowed in the by-law (9 m) and than is found on average throughout the Heritage Overlay area (7.2 m). The height limit was established as an exception in the zoning bylaw through the Colonel By Drive Focused Zoning Study, which noted that a 9 m height maintains as-of-right development permissions for three-storey houses.
Given the nature and number of variances requested by the applicant, they cannot together be considered “minor” with respect to the permitted building height and Heritage Overlay (i.e., “the same character and at the same scale, massing, volume, floor area and in the same location”). The Official Plan says it identifies heritage overlays in the zoning bylaw to “… ensure (that) development of cultural heritage resources and the development of properties adjacent to cultural heritage resources achieve the objective of conserving our cultural heritage.” Development that significantly varies from the Heritage Overlay does not achieve this objective of the Official Plan and its implementation through the zoning by-law.
Mature Neighbourhood Overlay
Many of the variances identified in the report to the Committee of Adjustment seek relief from provisions intended to enhance the compatibility of infill development with its context. Variances related to the size of the rear yard, the location of building entrances, front yard landscaping and the location of driveways and parking on the lot—all likely arise from the Streetscape Character Analysis that must be completed for infill in the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay.
Many of the homes facing Colonel By and in the blocks behind it are more modest in scale than the proposed development and feature front doors that face the street and fully landscaped front yards. Parking in many areas is at the rear of the house, accessed by shared laneways or from a side street. Two very high semi-detached units featuring driveways in the front yard and entrances at the side of the house cannot be considered to be compatible with this context.
The City’s Official Plan in Section 2.2. says Council “…supports intensification in the General Urban Area where it will enhance and complement its desirable characteristics and long-term renewal. Generally, new development, including redevelopment, proposed within the interior of established neighbourhoods will be designed to complement the area's pattern of built form and open spaces.”
Similarly, Section 3.6.1 states, “…the City supports infill development and other intensification within the General Urban Area in a manner that enhances and complements the desirable characteristics and ensures the long-term vitality of the many existing communities that make up the city.”
The Mature Neighbourhoods Overlay in the zoning bylaw was intended to help achieve these policies. Approval of variances that, considered together, result in a building that is not compatible with its surrounding area do not support the general intent and purpose of the zoning bylaw and Official Plan.
We recognize that compatible development does not mean “the same” development and that in a heritage area, new development can adopt the same character but expressed in a different architectural style. These are not issues here. Rather, our concern is that the cultural heritage value of this portion of Colonel By Drive is under threat and that the principle of infill compatibility is proposed to be put aside.
We are also concerned that approval of these variances may have effects that reach far beyond this particular property. Approval potentially opens the door to other, similar development proposals on Colonel By Drive that further erode its historic character and makes it more difficult for Old Ottawa South to secure new homes that are truly compatible with their neighbours.
Would you please send us a notice of the committee’s decision on these applications? We look forward to hearing from you. The 7 May 2018 report to Ottawa City Council on monitoring Infill 1 and Infill II bylaws found that staff are satisfied that the Committee of Adjustment are following the intent of the Infill 1 and 2 By-laws and applying these correctly. We are hopeful this is also the case here.
President, Old Ottawa South Community Association