Plan denied for 18-storey Kent Street towers

By Tonia Kelly

The city’s current 12-storey limit will prevail. It’s not the outcome Charlesfort Developments hoped for, but it’s what the Committee of Adjustment ruled on Nov. 10. The committee denied Charlesfort’s application to permit three 18-storey towers on Kent Street between Lisgar and Nepean streets.

Charlesfort’s original plan was to erect three towers – two 18-storey buildings and one 12-storey – at Kent and Lisgar Streets. However local residents opposed the 18-storey towers, citing loss of view and sunlight.

Doug Casey is the owner of Charlesfort Developments. In response to the concerns of residents in the area, he proposed three 18-storey towers further apart from one another to maximize the view and sunlight. “We want to build two tall towers,” Casey says, “and have a garden on 56 per cent of the available ground space if we fill up the site less.”

“Kent Street is a harsh, cold street because of the traffic to downtown,” Casey says. “Lyon and Kent have become extensions of the Queensway with no human edge. We’re trying to gentrify the street.”

But nearby residents are not convinced.

Barbara Feldman lives in the adjacent Everett condominium and was part of a residents’ group that mobilized opposition to the 18-storey buildings. She likes the committee’s decision.

“We never intended to stop development. It’s part of living in the downtown area. We just didn’t want 18-storey towers built,” Feldman says. “It will be 12 storeys within the zoning limit, and our sky won’t be blocked out.”

The Committee of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial tribunal independent from City of Ottawa. One of its roles is to hear applications for minor changes to zoning bylaws. The 15-member committee is divided into three five-member panels — one each for the city, the surrounding suburbs, and the rural areas.

In citing its reasons for refusing Charlesfort’s application, the committee stated that the six-storey increase in height is not a minor variation, which was the basis of Charlesfort’s application.

Louis Comerton is one of the three committee members who voted against the Charlesfort application. He says there are various height restrictions in the community because it is an area between the high towers of the downtown core and the residential community to the south of Centretown.

“In 1974 a local area planning study established the maximum height of 12 storeys north of Gloucester street. Gloucester street is the demarcation point between the two neighbourhoods,” he says.

Committee of Adjustment member David H. Chick voted in favour of the 18-storey buildings.

Chick says the actual population density would be essentially the same for three 12-storey towers or two 18-storey towers. It would be merely a redistribution for more open space.

The property in question is now the site of McEvoy-Shields Funeral Home, an Ottawa landmark for 65 years, and land that Charlesfort purchased. The multi-million dollar deal will close in August 2006.

“We’re looking at our options,” Casey says, “appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board, going for a rezoning, or working within the bylaw. With one large 12-storey, L-shaped building there’s no green space, we’ll just build a complying plan.”

Charlesfort has until Nov. 30 to appeal the committee’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.