Residents meet councillor over infill project concerns: Chestnut/Rosemere residents, OECA disagree on design impact of East Townes development

Long-time residents of Old Ottawa East near Springhurst Park  are upset with a development of new homes in their neighbourhood.

And yet, not only are the residents up against  the developer but also their own community association and its development plan.

Photo right: The East Townes, a five-home development at the corner of Chestnut Street and Evelyn Avenue, have been a lightning rod for how the community will look today and in the future. Photo: Phil Legault

The subject of controversy is the East Townes, a development of five large town homes at the corner of Chestnut Street and Evelyn Avenue.

“For us and for most people, there are a number of factors,” said area resident Bruce Walton, when  asked why he opposed the East Townes development. “The general ones which would apply to any development include the loss of trees. In terms of the building itself, it’s just so out of character with the neighbourhood both in terms of its style and its scale.”

“I’m not aware that there’s any big resentment with the building,” countered East Townes developer Jakub Ulak, president of Surface Developments Ltd. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Eager to make their displeasure known, Walton and neighbour Carol White initiated a meeting this summer with ward councillor David Chernushenko.

“I was extraordinarily struck by how different, how tall, how dominating the particular units were,” Chernushenko said. “They are really changing the nature community in a negative way.”

Chernushenko met with several area residents to discuss the near-completed development and the future of the neighbourhood.

“(The meeting) was a chance for me to get to know better the people on that street and to have a frank chat,” Chernushenko added, “about, how we can work together to oppose the worst and mitigate some of the changes.”

But the story of neighbourhood residents and an unwanted developer then took an unexpected twist. Other community representatives it seemed, didn’t echo Chernushenko’s sympathy.

In fact, the Ottawa East Community Association and its Community Development Plan actually called for infill development of the kind the residents were criticizing.

In an email to Pierre Sadik, Chernushenko’s executive assistant, Paul Goodkey, past-chair of the OECA planning committee and principal contributor of the CDP, said the association was comfortable with the approval process and the project Surface Developments had set out two years ago.

“The process included the developer presenting his proposal at an OECA meeting well ahead of the detailed design phase,” wrote Goodkey. “The OECA was well informed and had no objections to the project and minor variances.”

Even though the five-home development was different from the surrounding houses and perhaps too modern for some residents, Goodkey maintained, the OECA considered it compatible.

“With parking in the rear yards, the ‘eyes on the street’ has been maximized,” Goodkey said. “This is a very good example of how to get the garage doors off the front, thus creating a more friendly streetscape. This kind of consultation and attention is what needs to become the norm rather than the exception.”

“The project does make all use of the complete zoning envelope, but is generally in the acceptable range permitted,” added Stephen Pope, the OECA’s current planning committee chair. “Neighbours are shocked by the style and the fact that the project uses so much more of the available envelope than do their houses. This is a tough way to learn what is possible.”

Goodkey even criticized residents for raising their objections at such a late stage: when construction had already begun.

“It is too late to be upset, if you do not get yourself involved in the process,” he said. “That means becoming knowledgeable of the city’s process and knowing how to object .”

White admitted she and other residents had not participated earlier.

“We haven’t even gone to the local association meetings, although we’re members,” she said.

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