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Zoning review offers glimpse of future Ottawa

"The future face of Ottawa became clearer Tuesday after the planning committee gave preliminary approval to the 2014 zoning review, a months­long effort to line up zoning guidelines with the city’s new official plan.

The goal of the exercise is to reduce unpopular “spot rezonings,” create certainty for residents and developers alike and support the use of public transit.

It could also lead to fewer rezoning applications, which would mean faster approvals, planners say.

What was the focus of the review?

Mixed­use centres/town centres (Barrhaven, Billings Bridge and Orléans) call for a variety of uses in proximity, such as housing, recreational, commercial, institutional or other employment uses.

Here, the recommendations are to cap building heights at 12 storeys (40 metres), require a minimum of four storeys for office and residential uses and change some zones to the MC designation to permit a broader range of use.

Traditional mainstreets (Merivale Road, Bronson and MacArthur avenues and Preston, Gladstone, Somerset, Dalhousie and Main streets) date to an earlier era, with buildings that are often small in scale and set close to the street. Pedestrians rule in this transit­friendly environment, which that typically features commercial uses at street level and residential uses on upper levels.

Here, the recommendations are to continue to cap heights at six storeys (20 metres) and change some zones to TM or a TM subzone to permit a broader range of uses.

In contrast to traditional mainstreets, Arterial mainstreets (Carling Avenue, St. Laurent Boulevard and Robertson, Merivale, Walkley, Cyrville, Montreal and Innes roads) were developed after 1945 and are generally more car­friendly. They include larger lots and buildings, varied setbacks and lower densities, and often feature parking lots between building and the street.

Here, the recommendations are to change permitted building heights to nine storeys (30 metres), change some zones to AM or to an AMsubzone to permit a broader range of use, and to implement “active street frontage” requirements on some properties. Active street frontage calls for such things as buildings close to the street, active entrances and a minimum of 50­per­cent windows and doors.

Commercial creep

Some councillors and residents alike oppose any steps toward allowing commercial uses and storefronts to creep off the traditional mainstreets and on to nearby residential side streets, such as in Little Italy or east of Bronson in the Glebe.

“If it bleeds into the residential zone, we’re going to water down our main streets,” said Lori Mellor, the executive director of the Preston Street Business Improvement Area.

Keep residential areas for residential uses

Another area of contention is the staff recommendation to rezone a swath of Preston Street between Somerset and Scott streets to traditional mainstreet. Residents in the area, which is predominantly composed of two­storey rowhouses and duplexes, would prefer to retain the existing residential zoning, according to Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes.

Other motions now under consideration by staff would see some height limits reduced on Bronson and Hawthorne Avenue as well.

Consultation consternation

Planning staff were almost boastful about the lengths they went to engage the public about the zoning review. That included a specialized project website, notices of public meetings in weekly community newspapers, thousands of flyers and pieces of direct mail sent to some residents and email notices to community groups. About 200 people attended the public information sessions.

Yet some residents of the Glebe and Little Italy still complained they were left in the dark until recently.

What’s next?

Planning staff must now comb through a number of amendments proposed by councillors, as well as public feedback from Tuesday’s meeting, before delivering a comprehensive final report to council early next year."

Source: Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen. November 25, 2014