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Editor’s note: Katherine Hobbs is the City Councilor for Kitchissippi Ward and is a member of the City of Ottawa’s Planning Committee. She has authored the following piece as a contribution to our ongoing discussion around the City’s “infill development” policies and practices.
At Planning Committee on Tuesday we approved an infill project at 73 Crichton Street in New Edinburgh (shown above) with my support. At the previous Planning Committee, we also approved an infill project at 71 Hopewell Avenue in Old Ottawa South, that time with my dissent. Why the differing vote?
Both projects were contemporary additions to old streetscapes in established neighbourhoods and both were recommended for approval by city staff in accordance with the zoning by-law, though the latter only reluctantly so. In contrast, they present a study in what works and what doesn’t for small-scale residential infill.
The Hopewell Avenue project was a study in what residents don’t like about infill residential construction. It was suburban contemporary with front garages, side doors and height above the norm for the street. Planning staff recommended approval in spite of it not following the Urban Design Guidelines for Infill development because the project met the requirements of the Zoning By-Law, and an appeal from the developer to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) would have almost certainly been a victory for the developer. It was clear that staff were heartbroken to recommend approval, but their hands were effectively tied.
In stark contrast, the Crichton Street project is the kind of infill development the city is after. While there was some community opposition, there was also significant community support. This project was also contemporary in nature, but in a creative way and meets the intent of the Heritage Conservation District guidelines. The owners of the building took advantage of a uniquely wide side yard in the neighbourhood (4.7m, compared to 0.3m next door) to build an addition to make room for their growing family. The design tucked the addition at the back of the side yard, 3m back from the original building front. The addition is a single storey rising to two storeys at the back. The project clearly meets the goals of sensitive infill in an historic district as it doesn’t seek to mimic the original building, but rather complement it.
What’s perhaps more important than all of this is that this was a revised proposal. A previous application was denied by council and appealed to the OMB by the property owner; but rather than pushing it through, they went back to staff recommendations and altered the project: reducing height, changing setbacks, and reducing size. In short, they engaged with staff and the community and found a balanced solution.
I’m proud to have voted against Hopewell Avenue and for Crichton Street. They are a striking contrast in what is wrong and what is right with infill development: an insensitive, non-compatible development without any consensus versus a small scale, complementary and sensitive addition that will strengthen a community by making room for a growing family. It should give us all food for thought at what can be accomplished through infill development.
Please share your views on infill development by attending one of the City’s public sessions. The next one is in Kitchissippi Ward at Connaught P.S. at 7-9 PM on February 17th. Learn more at ottawa.ca/infill