Letters & Opinion

Good urban planning can’t overcome bad decisions

Michael Barnes


A case in point was when the Mayor and 13 city councillors voted to approve the development of a 311-unit / 25-floor residential tower at 641 Rideau Street.

How is it that this mayor and his previous city council approved the Second Uptown Rideau Street Community Design Plan on December 9, 2015 and then opted to ignore it when the rubber hit the road? Sadly, that’s urban planning in Ottawa. All four rural councillors and several suburban councillors along with the mayor provided the 14 votes that approved this development. Mathieu Fleury, the Rideau -Vanier councillor, and nine others voted against it.

The project didn’t meet the essential requirements to build what was being sought. But that didn’t stop those 14 politicians approving it. The developer just pays a fee, under Section 37, and gets what they want. In this case it works out to about $2,500 per unit.

The City of Ottawa Report to the Planning Committee for this development proposal is seriously misleading when it says, “The proposed Official Plan Amendment to the Uptown Rideau Secondary Plan to permit a minor increase in the Floor Space Index on the subject lands are consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement and the City of Ottawa Official Plan.” Nonsense! The maximum Floor Space Index is 5.0 for the site and the developer got 6.9. That allows them to build 85 units more than the maximum on the site. Few rational people would say that an increase of 27.5% is minor.

Furthermore, the underground parking garage will enter directly onto Rideau Street with hundreds of vehicles and deliveries arriving and departing daily. It’s likely to become the most accident-prone spot on Rideau Street, with high-speed traffic a common feature on a street with 30,000 vehicles daily.

The Architectural Review Panel said the tower height should be reduced, the tower size should not exceed the maximum allowed and sunlight and views of the sky would be lost. All ignored! The public comment period ran from December 16 to January 7. Another well-designed technique used to ensure fewer public comments over the holidays.

In the next municipal election, consider candidates who commit to returning integrity to the urban planning process for Ottawa residents and aren’t financially beholden to developers to finance their election campaigns.