Ottawa city council has approved a contentious project to construct a taller-than-allowed building in the Glebe, despite opposition from residents, the area's councillor and even the mayor.
In a rare move, Mayor Jim Watson spoke — and voted — against a staff-recommended rezoning for 890-900 Bank St., which would see an eight-storey building with retail space on the main level and retirement residences on the upper floors. The retail portion would include a Beer Store, replacing the one that's there now.
The rezoning application passed, but Watson joined Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko and Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney in dissenting, arguing that the building is too high for a traditional main street, especially one that's not near rapid transit.
'Not good planning'
"No one's arguing against tall buildings," Watson told reporters, reminding them that he recently voted in favour of a 22-storey building across from Westboro transit station.
"There are no transit stations in the Glebe. It's just not good planning from my perspective."
Watson also felt residents had shown good will, but didn't think the developer made an effort to compromise by offering to reduce the building's height.
"I don't know if the economics don't make sense, but really that's not our role to play. If they bought the land too expensively that's really the developer's problem, not the community's problem."
Although Watson didn't like the proposal, he didn't lobby his council colleagues to turn it down because he "didn't think the votes were there."
Appeal to OMB likely
Many in the surrounding community are against the project, and almost 600 people signed a petition protesting it.
In anticipation of council's vote in favour of the rezoning on Wednesday, the Glebe Community Association voted Tuesday night to appeal the impending decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.
"No one ever wants to go to the OMB ... especially with the roll of the dice that the OMB is, and usually feeling like you've only got ones and the developer has sixes," said Chernushenko.
The vote comes as the city has been trying to create more certainty around its planning decisions, Chernushenko noted.
"It is not certainty when the developer basically has got exactly what they asked for, and it's up to the community to dig into their pockets and try to defend their neighbourhood."