'Isolated' Sandy Hill development approved with limited parking

The city's planning committee has approved four new student-focused apartment buildings in an "isolated" portion of Sandy Hill, despite significant opposition from the community over a lack of parking.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury described the area along Robinson Avenue, cradled between Hwy. 417 and the Rideau River, as a remote single-road neighbourhood with only one street in and out.

If council approves the committee's recommendation, the small neighbourhood will see 328 new units on the street, but with fewer parking spaces than the city's rules require. 

While each of the six-storey buildings are required to have 17 parking spaces under the city's rules, the project was approved despite having only three each. The nine-storey building the developer proposed that requires 81 spaces was approved with only 53. 

Instead, the developer offered one bike parking spot per unit. 

Fleury, who represents the area, put forward a motion to hold the developer to the required 132 required parking spaces, but he was voted down seven to one, with only River ward Coun. Riley Brockington supporting him.

City of Ottawa

Petition gathered

Community members gathered 92 signatures for a petition against the proposal because of the lack of parking, while also expressing concerns about building rental units geared toward students. 

The residents were represented Thursday by lawyer Scott McAnsh, who told planning committee it's not realistic to think people will be able to do without a car in the neighbourhood.

For example, the community is a 24-minute walk to the nearest grocery store, he said.

"Being so isolated and removed from services means people who move there are likely to come with a car," McAnsh said. 

Without adequate parking, those residents will probably park on the already limited spaces on the street — an extra "pressure that's [been] dumped on the community," said McAnsh.

Close to LRT, but walkability concerns

A consultant hired by the developer, however, suggested increasing density in the area would attract more amenities, like grocery stores. 

"That synergy will come," said Kersten Nitsche with Fotenn Planning and Design.   

"We're providing that density to support those future amenities. Really, we're just looking at parking today."

The developer argued the buildings will be only about an eight-minute walk to the nearby Lees LRT station, but Fleury explained the route is not very walkable, especially in the winter. 

City of Ottawa

In 2014, the city voted to keep the established parking requirements in place, despite the proximity of the LRT line — and even as it waived the requirements on nearby streets.

Fleury said that's because city staff at the time recognized the unique nature of the Robinson Village neighbourhood.

He can't understand why they've now changed their minds and are recommending the project go ahead with less parking. 

"It's inconsistent," Fleury said. 

The building will be geared toward students, according to the city's report, and will include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. 

City council will debate the proposal next week.