Westboro zoning changes could direct 'relentless' pace of intensification

·2 min read

More than two years after ordering a freeze on new triplexes in Westboro, the city's planning committee has approved regulations to guide construction in a neighbourhood that's long been a magnet for infill development.

The new rules would allow a wider range of structures, such as apartment buildings of up to four storeys along the busy Churchill Avenue corridor, and three storeys on Byron Avenue. Six-unit, three-storey buildings would also be allowed on corner lots.

City staff said instead of getting bogged down with the number of units within each structure, the focus should instead be on their look and placement on a given site.

For example, some three-storey infills on side streets would require pitched roofs rather than the ubiquitous boxy structure, and landscaping would get priority over parking, with permeable pavement used to protect trees.

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

The staff recommendations follow months of study and consultation about the area from Golden east to Tweedsmuir avenues, and Byron south to Dovercourt avenues.

The area's councillor, Jeff Leiper, supports the changes. It was Leiper who called for a halt to new triplexes, which council approved in October 2018.

"Infill has been in Westboro for 15 to 20 years, and it is relentless," said Leiper at planning committee Thursday. "This zoning puts in place some limits that aren't currently in place."

Neighbours have often had little control over what gets built, and faced frequent conflict at the committee of adjustment, he said.

Concerns over neighbourhood character

But some residents who spoke during the virtual committee meeting said the proposed changes fail to reflect their input, and asked that the proposed changes be set aside.

"The changes proposed will destroy the character of our neighbourhood," said Gary Ludington, who sits on the board of the Westboro Community Association. "Eventually, we'll only be able to find Westboro in the local history books in the library. It will have disappeared."

City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa

But Leiper sees intensification as inevitable, given Ottawa's stated aim of accommodating more of its growing population within mature neighbourhoods.

"I expect that we will see this is a bit of a template," he said, characterizing the staff proposals as a "sensitive compromise."

Leiper said he also hoped that by encouraging a range of housing including new apartment units with no parking, Westboro might be made "accessible not just for the very richest of us."

The zoning changes go to city council for final approval on Feb. 24.