Posted by: HamptonIona | January 20, 2011

Community Associations meet with Councillor Hobbs over Convent Redevelopment

Representatives of Hampton Iona, Westboro and Island Park Community Associations met with Councillor Katherine Hobbs on January 14 to get an update on the Convent; in particular the City’s plans for obtaining up to 2 acres of the site for parkland. Councillor Hobbs advised us of the following:

1) The City is still determining the value of the land and expects to finalize this shortly. Ashcroft claims that the land that is being proposed for purchase is valued at approximately $8 mln. We will know shortly as to what is the City’s estimation. If agreement can’t be reached on a price, this would go to the OMB as an expropriation hearing.

2) The City has not yet determined as to where the money will come from to purchase the land. While there is over a million dollars in the Kitchissippi “Cash-in-Lieu” of parks fund, we were advised that the Civic Hospital area is proposing to build a new community centre valued at up to $8 mln. and that they will also be seeking a portion of these funds. The City also does not seem in favour of using Incremental Tax Financing (using incremental taxes to pay for the land – the method by which they have told us that Lansdowne is revenue neutral) nor borrowing from future cash flows going into the ward’s “cash-in-lieu of park” fund. There was no mention as to whether Development Funds could be used for part of the purchase.

3) Katherine is advising that she is not hearing very many positive comments ith respect to a special levy on our property taxes. While we were initially told by Councillor Hume (at the Planning Committee Meeting in November) that the levy might be as low as $4 per household for 20 years, the levy will increase if the whole ward does not agree or if the agreed upon purchase price is higher.

4) At the PEC meeting, the City decided to take approximately 0.47 acres of parkland from the site instead of Cash-in-lieu as part of the development’s statutory requirement to provide park space. As well, we were told that the treed pathway along the eastern portion of the site would be put in a holding zone so that it could not be developed. This is the path that Ashcroft has continually offered to the community as a linkway between Byron and Richmond Road. This pathway, however, would remain in private hands but would serve as a “public” pathway through the site and would allow access to Ashcroft’s the commercial spaces on the site from the south. City Planning Staff may now be proposing that the land that they will be taking as official parkland will be this pathway. The rationale for taking this land as park would be to ensure that Ashcroft could not fence off the path.

At this time, we would like to comment on Point 4 regarding the land to be taken as Parkland. At the Planning Committee in November we were told that the pathway land would be put in a holding zone and could not be developed. The Independent Design Review panel had in fact recommended that this path be widened to ensure that more trees would be saved and City staff agreed with this recommendations. Moreover, Ashcroft has always claimed that this land would serve as an open path into the site linking the Byron Park path to Richmond Road. We were told that the land that the City was going to be taken as park would be incremental to this treed path and would likely be the land on the southern portion of the site bordering the Byron Linear Park.

The boards of Hampton Iona, Wellington Village and Westboro Community assocations have had a chance to consider these latest updates and consider it totally unacceptable that the City should take land as park that was going to be open space anyways. If this were to happen, Ashcroft would neither be giving up cash for parkland or even any parkland from their site which is required from all developers. They were required to put in this pathway to act as buffer between their buildings and the backyards on Leighton Terrace. As well, they need this pathway to make their development more amenable to their residents and to provide access from the south to their commercial tenants. We do not understand how our Planning Staff could ever consider that this is fair to the community or appropriate to consider taking this land as parkland.

Moreover, if the City is ultimately not able to purchase any other parkland on the site, Ashcroft will be able to build every building on the southern portion of the site that they had originally proposed at the November planning meeting and not have to provide cash-in-lieu or parkland. This is not what the Planning Committee recommended in November.

It is important that we write our councillor (katherine.hobbs@ottawa.ca and planning staff (john.moser@ottawa.ca; douglas.james@ottawa.ca) immediately to let them know that this is not acceptable to the community. Please feel free to copy us on your emails (newsletter@hamptoniona.ca).

 

On a separate convent related matter, on January 25 there will be a hearing of the Ontario Conservation Board regarding the Ashcroft site. The hearing will be in the Festival Plaza Boardroom in City Hall at 10:00 am. Statements will be made by parties to the matter which are The City of Ottawa, Ashcroft Homes and David Jeanes of Heritage Ottawa. Only these official parties can cross examine witnesses. The public may attend and ask to speak. The board would only disallow public interventions under unusual circumstances.

A specific question has come up regarding preservation of the willow tree. Under Ashcroft’s development proposal the willow tree would be cut down. If the City is able to purchase much of the southern portion of the site as parkland, the willow tree would likely be saved. That being said, since the willow tree is part of the landscape, and the landscape heritage is under consideration, it could be mentioned by the public as worth preserving (for your information, the HICG submission in June specifically recommended the willow tree for preservation). Under certain circumstances individual trees can be named as protected attributes in a heritage designation.

As the City, Ashcroft and David Jeanes have essentially already agreed to the revised designation wording, passed by City Council with the rezoning, it is expected that the Conservation Review Board will support what has already been decided upon by the parties. That being said, however, the two Conservation Review Board members may make whatever report they feel is appropriate, based on what they have heard from the three parties and the public. They will also visit the Convent site briefly to see it for themselves. The report of the Review Board is only a recommendation to City Council and is not binding. However, it carries some moral value.

 

Hampton Iona plans on holding its AGM in late-January/early-February. In addition to typical AGM business, the convent and OMB challenge will be discussed. We will advise the community once the date is confirmed.

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