A proposed high-rise development at the corner of Baseline Road and Fisher Avenue will remain in limbo until city staff can determine the impact of the shadows the towers will cast on the nearby Experimental Farm.

The project, proposed by Theberge Homes, calls for an L-shaped commercial plaza with three high-rise towers with mixed-use spaces at ground level. The committee approved the first tower but was divided on the other two.

Staff from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) said during a recent planning committee meeting that the federal department fears shadows will interfere with critical research at the Farm.

“Our concerns will always be rooted in the impact of any future development on the integrity of our research activities, which remains at the core of our work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada,” Marie-Claude Guérard, assistant deputy minister of AAFC’s corporate management branch, told the meeting.

With the current housing crisis and the federal emphasis on building affordable housing, some councillors said they were confused about why this issue would take precedence.

“The top priority from what I can see is housing. It wasn’t even a question and that put us at odds,” said Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney.

“The Experimental Farm, at one point, it makes a great Central Park. But I don’t feel they are doing as much as they should be from a farming perspective,” said Tierney, who mentioned his farming background.

Barrhaven West Coun. David Hill said he understands Agriculture Canada’s responsibility for the Farm, but he thinks housing is equally important.

“(It’s) really … in some way asking us to suck and blow at the same time,” he said.

River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington said he hopes to have clearer policies on how to mitigate the impacts on the farm.

“The ground rules should be established,” he said. “It’s not fair to the developers. It’s not fair to the community that we have this discussion over and over again.”

The debate prompted Cumberland Coun. Catherine Kitts to propose a motion to ask city staff to give their recommendations of the remaining two towers no later than the meeting on Jan. 31.

The issue of shadows on the farm was also raised as an issue when the committee approved a high-rise development on Carling Avenue.

A city staff report noted that more than 200 comments were received by the public during the review process.

“Most comments received noted their opposition to the proposed development. The
community raised concerns regarding density, built form, design, height, traffic, and
environmental impacts (i.e. Shadowing, wind, noise, light pollution).”

The development will be further considered by full city council meeting Wednesday.