Despite vocal opposition from residents of the Glebe and their city councillor, Ottawa's planning committee decided Tuesday to allow extra height for a new retirement home on Bank Street.
Coun. David Chernushenko and the community had collected 580 signatures from people opposed to the proposal for a site that currently houses a Beer Store and Mister Muffler. He presented a motion to lower the height by two storeys, and set floors further back from the street.
The group opposed to the proposal couldn't understand why the zoning for the Glebe's main street called for a maximum height of 15 metres, but the city wanted to allow Amica Mature Lifestyles Inc. and Canderel to build 26 metres.
One resident, Frank Johnson, even took a LEGO model of the project to city hall to show how out of step it was with the neighbouring family homes on Monk Street.
While most residents would prefer four storeys, Carolyn Mackenzie of the Glebe Community Association urged councillors to accept Chernushenko's "reasonable" proposal of six storeys.
"At eight storeys you're going to have huge pushback so let's try to find a solution," she said.
'Best use that you're going to get on this site'
Ted Fobert, a consultant for the developers, warned that if councillors were to approve Chernushenko's request for lower heights, it would "effectively kill this project."
Amica and Canderel needed more floor space to make a retirement home viable, he said.
Back in 2014, Canderel had submitted a site plan application for a two-storey commercial building, but that was put on hold. When the project came back in 2016, Canderel had partnered with Amica and wanted a zoning change that would allow it to build eight storeys with ground floor retail and 160 retirement units above.
"A seniors' use at this location is probably the best use that you're going to get on this site. It has the least impacting in terms of traffic," said Fobert.
Plus, the new building would still house a Beer Store and street-level retail, he said.
Councillor concerned for character of 'traditional main street'
Councillors on the planning committee shot down Chernushenko's proposal and agreed with staff to give the project its total height of eight storeys, which still needs full council's approval.
Chernushenko evoked the fight residents had over the Lansdowne redevelopment several times Tuesday.
He was frustrated that tall buildings at the Lansdowne end of the Glebe appear to be used as precedent to allow the greater height on the retirement home.
"The biggest problem I have with it, and the vast majority of opponents have with it, is that it is in fact the steady march of non-traditional main street type of height and mass we feared would happen but were over and over assured wouldn't happen," said Chernushenko.
But planning committee chair Coun. Jan Harder said there will be no march of tall buildings down Bank Street.
"We will deal with any application that comes in one at a time. This is not precedent setting in any way," she said.
Harder said the city worked with residents, and she likes the overall project.
"I think it is beautiful, quite honestly," said Harder, who liked how the floors "cascade" down to the corners.