In October 2016 a total of 12 bedrooms was promised at the Committee of Adjustment (CofA) in order to get approval to “construct an addition and interior alterations to all units of a 3 storey, 6 unit apartment building” at 177 Hopewell Ave. Acting on behalf of Jordan Tannis the hired Planner told the CofA: “Many of the comments, the committee states, the public comments that this will translate into a tripling of the site population. I want the Committee to understand that that’s not in fact true. The existing building has four 1-bedroom units and two 2-bedroom units. The intention of the proposal is to actually have all 2-bedroom units. And it/in being a higher end nature of rental the expectation is that many of those 2-bedroom units will not necessarily mean that you’re going to have an increased number of people in the unit for example those people may want to actually have the flexibility of a second bedroom for visitors and so on so I don’t think it’s fair to say that this is a tripling of the density in terms of bedroom count in fact it’s not even a doubling…”
Members of the community were outraged when it came to light that in fact 27 (!) bedrooms were on building plans which had been signed-off by the City of Ottawa Building Code Services. Many letters were written to the Mayor’s office demanding that the promise of 12 bedrooms be enforced. Mayor Watson replied to all those who wrote and announced that the building would have 16 bedrooms. A letter from the developer was attached to the email from the Mayor explaining that there had been a “misunderstanding.”
In August 2020 two of the units were inspected and found to have been altered with a bedroom added to each unit. Two separate Orders to Comply were issued requiring the units to revert back to original or obtain a revision to the issued Building Permit. The City will accept a change to the Building Plans to match the as-built structure. The only stipulation is that the unit count may not exceed 6 and the bedroom count may not exceed four per unit. For those of you tabulating – 6 units x 4 bedrooms each = 24 bedrooms.
The deadlines on both Orders to Comply have passed (Sept 11 and Sept 22). There has been no penalty regarding non-compliance at the time of this writing. In addition, the Developer has given notice to Councillor Menard’s office that he is weighing his options and might apply for a Zoning Amendment to add additional units. As a reminder – the current Zoning of this 50 x 100 foot lot is residential (R3Q).
To head off any potential argument about pandemic-related economic circumstances, I can assure you that for every unit that has moved out since the COVID-19 shutdown in March, another group has moved in by the following month. These units have not been sitting empty. Any bad business decisions that were made when tearing down all but a few boards of one wall in order to call this newly built sixplex a ‘renovation’ are on the Developer. The onus should not be on the community to bear the brunt by accepting an unreasonable increase in population density in order to improve this Developer’s bottom line.
I recently emailed Mayor Watson reminding him that he announced in writing to myself, and numerous others who wrote to him, that the bedroom count at 177 Hopewell would be capped at 16. I asked if he would follow-through on the commitment he himself announced to the community. He thanked me for my email which he referred to the City’s General Manager of Planning, Infrastructure & Economic Development, for review and consideration. I’m going to take that as a “no.”
To all those who wrote to the Mayor regarding the bait and switch at 177 Hopewell – you have my deepest gratitude. Perhaps you are among those who also received an email from the Mayor announcing the negotiated reduction in the bedroom count at 177 Hopewell in December 2017. If you feel that Jim Watson should follow-through on commitments that he made then please let him know. Words have meaning; at least they should. If words are not followed up with action then what good are they? Where is the accountability? I’m eager to find it.
Karen Stevens-Guille has enjoyed living in Old Ottawa South with her family for 14 years.
Originally featured in the November 2020 OSCAR.