Group caves on highrise

By Martha Tropea

A community association’s two-year battle against a highrise development at the corner of McLeod and O’Connor streets is over.

Last week, the association chose not to appeal the development to the Ontario Municipal Board.

“To launch an OMB appeal would have taken more resources than we have,” said Mary Jane Lemenchick, co-ordinator of the 320 Task Force. She says an appeal would have cost anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000.

The City of Ottawa approved a nine-storey building slated for 320 McLeod St. Sept. 3.

But Lemenchick says the development isn’t compatible with the three and four-storey area.

The development will increase traffic on McLeod and O’Connor streets, reduce privacy and block sunlight, argues Lemenchick, who lives in a three-storey building beside the site.

“I think everyone should be able to look out the window and have natural sunlight come into their house,” she says.

Ashcroft Homes, the building’s developer, originally proposed a 20-storey building on the site, formerly the location of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

But after fierce public opposition, Ashcroft changed its plans, proposing first a 13-storey design before dropping to just nine.

Ashcroft owner David Choo says he doesn’t understand why residents of the community still oppose the development.

He was confident that if they appealed, the Ontario Municipal Board would favour his plan.

“It’s individuals’ right to appeal, but since the city, staff and developers support the deal, one would think that unless someone wants to delay the project, it’s going to go through,” he said. Depending on sales, Choo estimates construction will begin in February and expects it to take 14 months. The building will have 70 apartment units and some office space.

Choo says already, people have approached him about renting apartments.

“When I was putting up the banner five couples stopped to talk to me. They all supported the building and wanted more information.”

Lemenchick says she’s disappointed because the association had some “very valid legal points” against the construction. They felt the city’s decision to amend the site’s zoning bylaw from three storeys to nine wasn’t justified.

The association now plans to ensure the development follows urban planning and architecture regulations very strictly, says Lemenchick.

But the city says the association’s role in planning will be limited.

“They will be able to have a very minor input on design,” says Stuart Lazear, co-ordinator of heritage planning for the City of Ottawa.

“What can be influenced is the material used for the building, shape of the windows and the type of framing, things like that. But in terms of its foot print – that will remain the same.”