Planned high rise development for western Ottawa Stittsville community stirs controversy

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Lépine Corp, has proposed a dense high rise development in Ottawa’s west end Stittsville community, until now known primarily as a quiet residential suburb. While city planners and the area’s ward councillor like the idea, neighbours are opposed, and expect to outline their objections at a city planning committee meeting on Thursday (May 13).

The proposed four-building project at 5000 Robert Grant Ave. includes an18 story tower. (The others structures are six and nine storeys, and a single-story structure to house amenities).

One reason Lépine is likely to win approval at the planning committee is that the developer has agreed to defer construction of the 18-story tower until after bus rapid transit route is built on Roger Grant, perhaps in four to five years.

The rationale for the high-rise development: It is on a future transit route, and city policy encourages intensification.

However, neighbours oppose the project, saying that the infrastructure isn’t ready to handle the traffic, and the transition from nearby townhouses will be far too jarring.

The proposed development on a two-hectare lot on the east side of Robert Grant between Abbott Street and Bobolink Ridge would have 504 rental units, with a goal of situating the tallest building away from the existing neighbourhood on Livery Street.

Current zoning allows for several nine-storey buildings, and about 550 units.

Tanya Hein, president of the Stittsville Community Association, told The Ottawa Citizen that the organization was against the extra height allowance pursued by Lépine. Opponents don’t believe the transportation network can handle the added volume of vehicles.

“The infrastructure is not in place,” Hein was quoted as saying. “Until Robert Grant extends up to the highway, it’s just going cause a lot more traffic congestion and frustration.”

“It does not fit in and it’s going to set a precedent,” Hein said.

While transit is in the vision, the proposed Stage 3 Light Transit (LRT) system expansion terminus would be at Hazledean Road, north of the site (and no timeline is set for this project). But the bus rapid transit route will be built nearby, and sooner.

Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower said he would support the application since Lépine had made concessions, including lowering the unit count and holding off on building the high-rise until Robert Grant Avenue was constructed to Hazeldean Road, the Citizen reported. He said the road extension could happen in four to five years or earlier.

“Transportation is an issue for every development application we have out here,” Gower said. “I think there’s a lot of merit to those concerns. We are so far behind for the big transportation projects for Stittsville and the west end of Ottawa.”

Gower said Lépine could have covered the land with nine-storey structures, but, instead, the company loaded up the density near Robert Grant Avenue, away from the adjacent low-rise neighbourhood.

Stittsville is changing just like the rest of Ottawa and the community, too, will need to accept some intensification near transit stations to avoid having to expand development at the edges, Gower said.

Hein said she rejected any criticism that opponents were simply NIMBYs — not in my backyard — since residents have understood that the property would have a maximum height of nine storeys.

It’s a community that still thinks of itself as a village, she said. “It’s not that we don’t want growth. Growth supports business, it supports all sorts of good things, but I don’t think it has to go this far.”

The planning committee meeting will be residents’ last chance to address decision-makers directly about the rezoning request. The matter will then proceed to City Council later in the month for a final decision.

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