Some neighbours of an Ottawa highrise construction site say they've been left to chase the developer over a litany of issues — the latest being when their homes and vehicles were splattered with construction material earlier this month.
They say developers and the city need to do more to mitigate the impact of construction on neighbourhoods where denser and taller buildings are being built.
The Azure Westboro highrise at 2070 Scott St. stands more than 20 storeys tall. Its construction has brought dusty excavation and chaotic traffic to quiet Winona Avenue, with last month's speckled mess proving a "breaking point," residents say.
"It kind of looked like mud on the cars, on windows of our house, on skylights and the explanation that we received was there was a sandblasting operation on the construction site," said James Hayes, who lives three doors down from the site.
Hayes and his neighbour Ken MacInnes also saw more splatter after workers had squeegeed recently-poured concrete on an upper floor during a windy day.
Winona Avenue resident James Hayes stands in front of the 2070 Scott St. highrise development construction site. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)
Hayes said he received a car wash voucher from the developer only after complaining.
The two men are concerned the developer hasn't been more proactive about these issues, and they have to complain to receive any compensation for their trouble.
"In my experience, every dealing has been difficult and done with reluctance on the part of the developer," MacInnes said.
"We have to be constantly vigilant every day to protect our homes and property. A work site that is better organized or better regulated would not be causing these sorts of problems."
Ken MacInnes stands on his front deck as the new highrise looms above. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)
Developer provides cleaning, car covers
In a statement, Azure Urban Developments said it has directed site teams to intrude as little as possible and find either practical or financial solutions whenever inconveniences arise.
"We have built carports, provided car covers and paid for cleaning services for houses, cars and yards. In the case of our recent issues with concrete splatter, we were advised by a neighbour on a Saturday and by Monday had engaged with affected residents to arrange clean-up," the statement said.
MacInnes says his windows and freshly-detailed car were splattered with construction material. (Ken MacInnes/Submitted)
The statement notes the founder of Azure, John Thomas, lives blocks away and the company's head office on Winona Avenue has an "open door policy" as a reflection of his connection to the community.
The statement also said the "necessary inconveniences" of construction are a "small price to pay" to build 300 homes in a walkable community close to a future LRT station.
Councillor proposed ombudsman
The Winona Avenue neighbours also said they've been disappointed in the response of area councillor Jeff Leiper. Hayes said he wants the city to make it easier for residents to direct issues to the appropriate authority, given the complexity of the issues.
Leiper said his office is regularly handling complaints and working to resolve issues between residents, builders and developers in his ward of Kitchissippi. Though he admits residents aren't always happy with the result.
"We don't have the powers to deal directly with some things and don't necessarily have the leverage to force the builder to do something," Leiper said.
Coun. Jeff Leiper proposed in 2017 that the city create an ombudsman that would oversee disputes between residents and developers. (Jean Delisle/CBC)
He called the splatter issue "unacceptable" and exceptionally rare. He said while his office could try to facilitate a resolution, such an issue is ultimately a civil matter. The councillor said he's glad the developer provided cleaning services.
Leiper said his office has worked with the builder, city staff and bylaw to address some traffic and parking issues, as well as sidewalk encroachment issues on Scott Street.
The councillor had raised the idea of an ombudsman to address resident-developer disputes, but he said the city doesn't have the resources or legal powers to create that role — even in areas where infill is most intense.
"Our permit office, our building service office, our bylaw office are all overwhelmed," Leiper said.
"We are having difficulties getting the response from the city that we need on the issues that are entirely within their purview today without adding a concierge function or an arbitrator function or an ombudsman function onto their responsibility."
That leaves the councillor's office trying to fill that role, he added.