Excellent Showing from ASH as Laurier-Friel OMB Hearing Concludes

The Ontario Municipal Board’s hearing into the Viner family’s proposal for a for-profit student residence on Laurier Avenue East concluded on October 9th.  The issue before the OMB is whether to allow the demolition of five buildings of historic interest to build a nine-storey complex on the one-acre site.

Action Sandy Hill, represented by its lawyer, Emma Blanchard, put in a strong showing in opposition to the proposal, saying that it would be entirely inconsistent with the Sandy Hill Secondary Plan and completely out of scale with its neighbours. “The entire heritage character of Laurier Avenue East – arguably one of the most important historical streets in Ottawa – would be permanently altered”.  This view had been supported by the Mayor and the majority of City Council in March who overruled Planning Committee’s earlier approval.  However the developer appealed the case to the OMB.

At the hearing John Smit, Director of Development Approvals for the City, appeared for Viner since the Planning Department had supported it originally.  He argued that Laurier Ave E was not a typical residential street but rather a mixed use street with diplomatic missions, offices, high- and low-rise residential and some commercial and was therefore an appropriate location for a development the size of Viner’s.  He also dismissed the Sandy Hill Secondary Plan as being out of date, vague, too focused on protection and not providing a vision for the future.

Dennis Jacobs, an urban planner acting for both the cityand ASH, observed that 95% of the buildings in the area bounded by King Edward, Stewart, Charlotte/Range and Osgoode were 4 stories or less and only 2% were as high or higher than what Viner proposed. He concluded that tall buildings, including Viner, were anomalies and not characteristic of the area.  For these and a variety of other reasons he argued the Viner proposal does not conform to City policy.

The ASH witness, François Bregha, described ASH, its history of involvement on this issue, its relationship with the University, its outreach to students, the historic character of Laurier and listed our various objections (height, mass, density, noise, commercial use, etc.).  David Dendooven of Sweetland Avenue followed as Community Witness and focused on parking, noise, traffic, the building’s mass and the loss of green space.

ASH would like to thank François Bregha for leading ASH’s OMB Committee so professionally, along with committee members: Lynn Marchildon, Judith Rinfret, Brian Murphy, Martha Scott, Sally Southey, Frank Reardon, Pat Archer, Diane Beckett, Bob Forbes and Chad Rollins.

The OMB representative’s final decision will be rendered in the next few months, perhaps as late as January.

ASH’s legal expenses were generously supported by many donors to ASH’s “Save Sandy Hill” fund, created to fight all inappropriate development in Sandy Hill.  To donate contact savesandyhill@gmail.com.