Posted by: HamptonIona | February 13, 2011

A Resident’s Convent Development Correspondence with Councillor Hobbs

We have received the following exchange with Councillor Hobbs from an area resident.  The resident has asked that her name be removed from the correspondence but advises that Councillor Hobbs has given permission for this to be circulated.

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Proposed Convent Development – Hobbs Correspondence

Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 13:56:30 -0500

From: BLANK

To:

Cc: <webmaster@hamptoniona.ca>

Hello neighbours,
I’ve included my recent correspondence with Councillor Hobbs regarding the proposed development at 114 Richmond Road for your information. It occurs in chronological order, with the first message that I sent at the top and her most recent response at the bottom of this email. I thought this would make for easier reading. Apologies for the length of this message in its entirety, but I wanted to give the full picture.
Councillor Hobbs did reply to my original message. I was unsatisfied with what she wrote, so sent her a lengthy response, and she replied again. I too have been underwhelmed with her support for her community / constituents so far, as you can read in my correspondence.

As requested by the Community Association, I’d like to encourage everyone on the street to write in to our Councillor, to Councillor Hume, to the Mayor and to City planning staff.. It doesn’t have to be lengthy (again, apologies), but it does have to happen for them to know that they’re dealing with more than a small handful of people.

Please take the time, write in, and let others know when you have done it.

thanks,

___________________________________________________________________________

From: BLANK

Sent: February 1, 2011 9:00 PM
To: Hobbs, Katherine
Subject: 114 Richmond Road – Proposed Development

Councillor Hobbs,

I am writing to express my disappointment at the lack of leadership and support that you have offered to your constituents to date in the matter of the proposed development at 114 Richmond Road.

Your absence from the meetings before Christmas – including the Planning and Environment Committee – was conspicuous to the community. I realize that it was technically before the beginning of your term, but that did not stop some of your fellow Councillors – David Chernushenko for example – from quickly weighing in on matters that were clear election issues that have a significant impact on the community.

Since then, I have seen no attempts at active community consultation regarding the convent – be it to judge the potential receptiveness of the community to add to the Byron Linear Park through land purchase or in any other related matter.

I had to initially request and have since read your community bulletin, and I am very surprised that you were so immediately dismissive of a Ward-wide levy for this property. In my mind, this is clearly the most feasible option for supporting the purchase of this unique property. Considering the nature of the subject property adjacent to the very well used and beloved Byron Linear Park, I think it is absurd to imagine that the abutting residents could possibly carry the cost of the land purchase – a purchase that will clearly benefit the ward as a whole.

I am consistently baffled by the City’s willingness to concede to Ashcroft’s demands in this matter. The most recent news that the City may accept the strip along the east side of the site – a site that has already been rezoned to omit development – as the parkland dedication is another clear indication that something is clearly amiss in terms of the municipal leadership on this project.

Have you walked along the south side of the site? Do you genuinely think that the proposed nine storey buildings represent compatible development with the neighbourhood? A reasonable person would see that the answer is no.

I want to reiterate that we do not object to the reasonable development of parts of the land. There are myriad projects – with St.George’s Yard and the Jeanne d’Arc Convent being proximate examples – that demonstrate how successful infill can be gracefully accommodated within established neighbourhoods.

I know that you do not have experience as a municipal councillor and perhaps this is the reason why Ashcroft has continued to exert undue influence over this project. Regardless, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you will represent the interests of your constituents. Please act to show me that you are responsive to your electorate.

Regards,

BLANK

Ottawa, ON

________________________________________________________________________________

Subject: RE: 114 Richmond Road – Proposed Development
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2011 18:30:40 -0500
From: Katherine.Hobbs@ottawa.ca
To: BLANK

Dear BLANK,

Thank you for your letter in reference to development at 114 Richmond Road.

As you know, this land is privately owned by Ashcroft Development. At the November Planning & Environment Committee a proposal was put forward to relocate the back entrance/exit to the property from a cut through to Byron to Shannon, and a portion of the land was slated for the opportunity of a possible purchase by the community via means of a tax levy.  In addition it was deemed that the City would take access to land in lieu of cash-in-lieu.  This was subsequently approved by Council the following day.  Although I was not sworn in at the time, and had no legal right to represent the citizens in Kitchissippi, I was apprised prior to the meeting that this was the proposal by the Chair of the Committee and I agreed to his proceeding in presenting this proposal, so that once I took office I could work on the possibility in purchasing the portion of the property as delineated by Council.

Given the importance of the concerns of the neighbourhood and the value of this property to the community, the City has taken extraordinary steps to ensure access to the public for future generations on this site. This has resulted in 5000 square hectares of the property for public access and 3500 hectares of that is green.  This includes the Nun’s Walk along the east of the site and adjoining the Byron Linear Park.  The area slated by the developer to be protected from development was 10 meters in width, however the area obtained by City Planners is double that width.  So this is a plus for the community in terms of a wider buffer and better preservation of green space on the site as well as better protection for the trees.  In total the area is 20 X 100.

I have met numerous times with the Community Association Presidents of Westboro, West Wellington, Island Park and Hampton Iona.  At our first meeting there were a number of options proposed for purchasing the property in question.  This included:

1.  Taking monies from another capital project in the Ward

2. Taking monies from incremental tax revenue

3. Taking monies from future cash in lieu of parkland funds for Kitchissippi Ward

4. Exacting a levy on the Ward or a segment of the Ward

Initially there is a need to arrive at a value for the land.  To this end the City solicitor, City treasurer and GM of planning have been underway in looking at all of these means to purchase the property.  Also, they are working on an appraisal.  The appraisal is not taking into effect what the owner of the land may believe to be the value, and that negotiation would of course be separate and may arrive at a different value.

We have also evaluated all the options mentioned above.

1.  Firstly the capital money option is not available as the only capital projects in Kitchissippi are to do with transit, and none can be diverted for the purchase of parkland..

2. Incremental tax revenue is applied for to the province.  Ontario approves these programs based on whether or not the project in question drives the incremental revenue.  In this case, a development on private property – it does not meet the criteria.  In other words, a park here is not what would drive incremental tax revenue.

3. If the value of the land is appraised and is (at a minimum) deemed to be worth  5 M that would preclude the use of cash in lieu funds as that would penalize all of the residents of Kitchissippi for an untenable number of years.  Currently there are other park projects underway, and none of those would then have the benefit of funds from the City for possibly 10 years.

4. A tax levy remains the only option.  It was also the one offered as the option to purchase additional land on the site by Committee and Council.  However, I have heard from many residents who are opposed to a levy even if it was only $4.00 a year.   A Ward wide levy would most likely not be passed by Council,  as a park in this section of the Ward does not necessarily provide a benefit for the entire community and there has not been an outpouring of support from the community at large.    However it is important to note that the amount of the levy would most likely be far higher than what was discussed earlier.  I have not yet been given the final appraisal for the land, but if it is in the $3.7M range, then the levy on 1000 households would be $400 per year for 10 years.  I am using 1000 households as an example, as that might appropriately capture the residents in the area who would benefit from this additional parkland – as people don’t travel very far to use a park, they use what is in proximity to them.   But the appraisal is likely to be far higher, and therein lies a bigger problem.  Without significant written support (and that would be almost 100% of affected taxpayers in case of a levy this large) I would not propose this to Council – it would not pass.

All this said, there are definitely some wins out of this situation.  There have been substantial design changes that benefit the community.  The access to the general public on what would have been private property is substantial.  This will give everyone in the community to walk in to the inner courtyards and visit the facilities in the convent building and in the mixed use buildings.  The developer has agreed to retain the wall along Leighton Terrace.  There are many doorways onto the courtyards from the buildings.  Residents in the buildings will be given OC Transpo passes for one year.

My concerns right now are due to the three OMB appeals launched.  These will be costly, in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars,  and I hope they will not result in less of an opportunity to negotiate with the developer further. Additionally I see a problem with the back exit to the property is – instead of Byron, cars will exit onto Hilson, a residential street with school buses, etc.  This is not ideal to my mind, but I was not the Councillor at the time and had no input on that process.

Another thing I feel I should point out is that the proposed development is according to Official Plan, although there may be misunderstandings about that in the community.  I definitely understand your concerns about the higher buildings in the back, and I agree with you — but that was done as a result of the community asking for less height on the Richmond Road portion.  The community is asking overall for lower density, and the developer who owns the land is willing to make design changes, but not alter the overall density.. I do think design changes to put more height on the front and lower the buildings in the back of the site would be preferable – especially for the residents in the immediate community – but that was not the direction the community indicated they wanted, and not the direction driven by the community associations who have launched their OMB appeals based on the height of the Richmond Road buildings.

I do want to be as frank as possible about this situation, and I would be more than happy to meet with you and discuss this issue more thoroughly. Please feel free to call Marilyn Comeau of my office to set something up at the number below.

Thanks,

Katherine

Councillor – Kitchissippi Ward

613-580-2485

________________________________________________________________________

From: BLANK
Sent: February 07, 2011 10:48 AM
To: Hobbs, Katherine
Cc: Hume, Peter E
Subject: RE: 114 Richmond Road – Proposed Development

Dear Councillor Hobbs,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter regarding the proposed development at 114 Richmond Road.

I want to preface my reply by saying that I hope that you have not already made up your mind on these matters. I am sure that you can sense the passion and urgency in my writing. This is my community and my home and I am trying to protect their very essence. I am trying to convince you to do the same. To that end, and with respect, I disagree with a number of points that you have made. I’ve replied in the order that they are raised in your response.
* As a point of clarification for your future reference, you write in error that Ashcroft is providing “5000 square hectares of the property for public access”. A hectare is 10,000 m2. Regardless, Ashcroft is providing 0.5 hectares of ‘open space’, which includes the roads. I challenge you to describe you own driveway as an ‘open space’ that is beneficial to the community. It should be apparent that on any development of this size open space is simply a requirement of creating a marketable project. Internal circulation and courtyards and setbacks are not optional – they are inescapable. Constructing a building with a footprint the entire width of the site is simply not feasible, and is an unrealistic comparison.
* You claim that you have “heard from many residents who are opposed to a levy even if it was only $4.00 a year.” First, what seems more fair to you – an almost insignificant increase of $4 or a financial slam of $400 per household for the provision of a public asset? The fact that the assessed levy might be higher only serves to further prove my point. And second, why have you not tried to solicit feedback on this question from the broader ward in any formal way? At the very least, you could survey respondents using a web-based poll from your web site.
* You make your points regarding the potential parkland purchase, but then fail to state clearly that you think that no land purchase is possible. Is that your opinion? If that is the case, I am concerned that the very champion necessary for the cause does not have the will to make it happen.
* You state that despite this “there are definitely some wins out of this situation”. Perhaps you are still growing familiar with the development process, but developers regularly ask for far more than they actually think they will get. In this case, the ‘concessions’, including asking for only a 225% increase in height (9 storeys) instead of the 300% (12 storeys) initially requested behind the convent, are laughable. If someone offered to raise your taxes by only 225% rather than 300%, would you be appeased?
* You write that “a park in this section of the Ward does not necessarily provide a benefit for the entire community”. I ask you, what exactly are the criteria for evaluating this community-wide benefit? This park would be connected directly to an increasingly heavily used Traditional Main Street and it would be adjacent to the beloved and well-established Byron linear park. That speaks of a wide benefit to me.
* You write that you “see a problem with the back exit to the property is – instead of Byron, cars will exit onto Hilson, a residential street with school buses, etc”. If the City were to purchase or expropriate even a narrow band of land along the Byron Parkway, neither Shannon Street nor the Byron Pathway would be disrupted. Traffic could be directed through two access points – one at the existing signalized intersection at Patricia, the other a “right-in/right-out” access 50 to 60 metres to the east along Richmond Road – before, not on, Leighton Terrace.
* You stated that “the development is according to the Official Plan”. In fact, I think that as you grow more familiar with the Official Plan, you will find that in Section 2.5.1, which lays out compatibility criteria for development, there are sufficient grounds to rebut a claim that the proposed development, especially the portion behind the convent, is compatible with the community.
* Moreover, when you referred to a ‘misunderstanding’, I believe you were referring to interpretation of the Secondary Plan. With respect, both Councillor Hume, chair of the Planning Committee and former Councillor Doucet, who have considerable experience with development policies in the City of Ottawa, unequivocally voiced their opinions that the Secondary Plan uses clear language in limiting the development to the south of the convent at 4 storeys. Did they too ‘misunderstand?’ Perhaps you should ask Councillor Hume directly. And I would recommend that you re-read the section of the Secondary Plan that specifically refers to the convent if you are in doubt.
* You write that “the developer who owns the land is willing to make design changes, but not alter the overall density”. There is no minimum density guaranteed under the existing zoning. The developer may have a target number of units in mind for a return on investment, but this has nothing to do with good planning. The amount paid for a piece of land cannot be used to justify its ultimate development.
* You claim that you “do think design changes to put more height on the front and lower the buildings in the back of the site would be preferable”. There are still options available to make that happen, so what will you do that end?
* Despite your claim to the contrary, the community and community associations did not forsake the issue of the excessive height proposed at the back of the convent for a reduction in the height at the front. I believe any redesign decisions were made at the discretion of Ashcroft. There was no community approval for the notion of additional height at the back for three fewer storeys at the front. Both heights were seen as inappropriate, and for good reason. May I point out again that the height being sought along Richmond is still 50% higher than the maximum allowed under the current zoning.
* You claim that “community associations…have launched their OMB appeals based on the height of the Richmond Road buildings”, but my understanding is that their appeal is not narrowly
aimed at Richmond Road, but at the City and developer’s fundamental misinterpretation of the clearly worded Secondary Plan (see above).
* You write that you would be “more than happy to meet with you and discuss this issue more thoroughly”. I would appreciate that. When will you set a date and hold a public meeting to update us, your constituents, as a whole and to give us your perspectives on the matter in an open forum? It would at the same time give you the opportunity to collect contact information of the persons to whom this is relevant.
Again, my intention here is to convince you that a better job can be done of delivering this project. We understand that development will happen at this location; we simply want it to be done in a way that respects the community, the neighbours, and the public process that established the intentions for the site.

Your time in this matter is appreciated.

Regards,

BLANK


Subject: RE: 114 Richmond Road – Proposed Development
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2011 17:08:53 -0500
From: Katherine.Hobbs@ottawa.ca
To: BLANK

Dear BLANK,

I appreciate receiving your additional comments on this development.

Firstly my apologies on indicating  Sq. hectares for the Nun’s Walk.  Obviously the site is only about 2 hectares, so that was written in error.

I do want to state that I was quite pleased for the opening of an opportunity to buy back some of the convent land for a community park as stipulated at the November 2010 Planning Meeting and subsequently approved by Council.  I am a huge proponent of heritage and recreation and I live in the neighbourhood.   So I do want to assure you that for the past two months I have been working on this legacy file and senior City Staff have also been engaged.  However the issue I am primarily dealing with at this point, as directed by Council, is solely the option for the community to purchase a specified section of this property – specifically that portion with the four planned 4-storey buildings (the south and south east portion of the site).

In addition to these meetings with staff, I have been collecting emails and comments from any residents that have written in (for and against).  I have collected the blogs and am aware of the public delegations comments at Planning Meeting. I have met with all residents who have wanted to meet with me and talk about this issue.  I have met with 5 community association presidents three times in the past two months.  We have discussed the site plans, and they provided suggestions on alternate funding opportunities to purchase the portion of the property as directed by Council last November.  These meetings were very helpful and I welcomed their input.  As a result of meeting with the Community Association Presidents, we came up with four other possibilities (other than a levy) to explore with the City Treasurer and the General Manager of Planning.

City Planning (who would schedule any public meetings) do not generally arrange to do that until their reports are complete and all the facts are available (including the appraisal).  Without that, it could be perceived by the community as a wasted effort – it is difficult to vote on the appropriateness of a levy when we do not know the amount.

As soon as I am apprised of the next stage on this file I will let you know.

Thanks

Katherine

Councillor – Kitchissippi Ward

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Responses

  1. Wow, good for you (and our community) for writing such clear and responsive correspondence. I’ll definitely be contacting councillor Hobbs office to see what response she can provide to your concerns

  2. Among the many other things that one could comment on, I note the statement:
    .

    Catherine Hobbs said: ” Another thing I feel I should point out is that the proposed development is according to Official Plan, although there may be misunderstandings about that in the community.”
    .
    Bluntly, this is wrong. It doesn’t conform – no matter what Councillor Hobbs wants to claim. Her unsupported claim is, in effect, a serious insult to the community.
    .
    The response by the correspondent gets this absolutely right … and there is a bit more that can and must be said on behalf of the ACTUAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE OFFICIAL PLAN – because it’s not just the part behind the convent that is in violation of the Plan.
    .
    The secondary plan does not allow anything higher than 6 storeys along Richmond Road – and it doesn’t allow anything higher than 4 storeys behind the Convent.
    .
    That’s perfectly clear from the wording – and the intent of those who approved the Secondary Plan is also absolutely clear – and as the rules of statutory interpretation that have been confirmed by the Supreme Court say, if there is any doubt about the meaning of legislation (and municipal bylaws are legislation) then the interpretation that has to be applied must be taken from the intent of the legislators – and even Peter Hume said that he understood the Secondary Plan in the same way that residents do.
    .
    I have personally and directly informed Ms. Hobbs of those facts – and she did not challenge them when we spoke – but now she is taking the position that staff take and presenting it as a “fact” without any support – which I have no doubt is not sound IN LAW.
    .
    So,Catherine Hobbs statement seems to indicate that she will not defend the Secondary Plan – and that she is inclined to repeat what staff say rather than to protect the community.

    //////

    There is so much more that could be said, but here’s a bit of humour – which the correspondent with Councillor Hobbs did not, but here it is, again:
    .
    Catherine Hobbs said: “… on this site. … This has resulted in 5000 square hectares of the property for public access and 3500 hectares of that is green.”
    .
    That seems like a bit of an exaggeration. Hectares are always square – and 5000 hectares would be about 12,300 acres (19 square miles) – 8,650 acres (13.5 square miles) of it being green … so we’ve not done badly at all. …

    Perhaps the councillor simply made a mistake. But perhaps this reflects just a tad of a tendency of those at the City to exaggerate.
    .

  3. It’s most unfortunate Ms. Hobbs was put into power. It’s quite evident that she is not concerned about our community. So many times she has and still throws her hands in the air.

    This was excellent correspondent between Hobbs and the resident. The resident is very savvy in what is going on. Ms. Hobbs looks like she should not be in this role and I have to wonder who really backs her.


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