Council approves 22-storey tower for former Trailhead site

Affordable housing initiative marks 15 years in Ottawa

Ottawa city council has approved a new 22-storey building at 1960 Scott St., the site of the old Trailhead store near the Westboro transit station.

A developer wants to build a tower with retail on the ground floor, offices on floors two through six, and residential units on the top 16 floors.

That's despite existing zoning for the location that calls for a maximum of six storeys. During public consultations, the city received two comments from people in favour of it and 57 opposed.

"It just strengthens the cynicism people feel about the integrity of our planning process," said Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper. "It's great to develop these plans but people question, 'Is there really any intention on the part of council to defend those?'"

Seven councillors reject project

Leiper appealed to his council colleagues Wednesday to reject the project, but only six others joined him: David Chernushenko, Riley Brockington, Catherine McKenney, Tobi Nussbaum, Mathieu Fleury and Diane Deans.

Mayor Jim Watson said he was disappointed that councillors who tend to advocate for a city that is friendly to pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders would dissent on a project that is right across the street from the future light rail station.

The city has been clear about its philosophy, Watson said.

"I have no hesitation, and I think you saw a fairly large number of councillors say, 'If we're not going to have density around a transit station, good luck to us trying to get density around any of the transit stations,'" said Watson.

Leiper said most residents recognized the need for building heights above the existing six-storey limit, but argued the proposed 22-storey building did not provide a reasonable transition to the adjacent residential neighbourhood.

He's looking for an updated, long-term planning blueprint for Westboro, otherwise he fears more towers will transform its streets.

Intensification should be thoughtful, said Leiper.

"Right now what we're seeing is not thoughtful. It's the wild west. It's being accomplished in ad-hoc, one-off fashion. That's not good planning," Leiper told CBC News.