David Chernushenko: A Mid-Term Report

Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko was elected in 2010 to a five-year term. Now, at mid-point, The Mainstreeter has asked residents, the OECA and the councillor himself to rate his performance in Old Ottawa East.

Most of those contacted had positive things to say about Coun. Chernushenko, a former Green Party candidate for provincial and federal office (as well as serving as national deputy leader of that party), who took his seat on City Council with impressive credentials as an advocate of sustainability and environmental friendliness.

David ChernushenkoThe councillor is regularly spotted biking around OOE (he lives in Old Ottawa South) at such favourite haunts as the Green Door and the Farmer’s Market. He attends OOE council meetings regularly (or sends a representative) and is known to attend community events to which he is invited whenever possible.

Chernushenko is proud of the way his staff do their best to answer every query from constituents. “I try to listen and to be available for site visits and meetings as much as possible, and this seems appreciated. I cannot always resolve an issue, or make something happen or not happen, but I can always hear out the people involved and act as their advocate.”

Since his election, several issues—large and small, ongoing and resolved—have occupied the community: sidewalks on Springhurst Ave., infill development at Chestnut St. and Evelyn Ave., the partial axing of the #16 bus to the Ottawa Hospital; the looming Main Street “big dig,” the proposed pedestrian overpass, the proposed parking lot and staging area in Springhurst Park and the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor. That’s a lot to keep up with, but by most (but not all) reports, Chernushenko has been on top of the issues, has listened, and been responsive.

“To his considerable credit, David Chernushenko is almost always at the OECA monthly meeting,” says association president John Dance. “He gets that accountability. He stands up and tells us what he’s up to. When he’s not there, he sends his assistant. In terms of Old Ottawa East, he’s done a really good job. He’s been really supportive.”

Old Ottawa East vs. David Chernushenko

Here are some of OOE’s hotter issues, and how your councillor has dealt with them:

King’s Landing residents’ concern about NCC LED displays on Ottawa Convention Centre: Chernushenko was part of a city centre coalition that tried to dissuade the NCC from allowing the Convention Centre to put up a large outdoor LED display. Residents were concerned about light pollution coming down the Rideau Canal to King’s Landing. A new bylaw has been approved for LED display to limit its size and location. Despite a regulation now prohibiting such a display within 500 metres of the canal, the Convention Centre’s display will likely go ahead, says OECA president John Dance.

Pathway at 200 Lees/University of Ottawa: Initially the University of Ottawa and the City of Ottawa were not going to put a pathway around the river as part of the campus redevelopment, contrary to original plans. OECA contact with the university got nowhere. ” David was supportive and in the end we got it. The university didn’t want to do it,” says Dance. “Had we not got that link we would have missed out on this critical portion of the path. If the university had its way you would have this big gap where you couldn’t go along the river. To David’s credit, he got this going.”

Canal footbridge: Chernushenko was strongly supportive of the footbridge when he was in the Green Party. “When the study was done and there were three big public open houses, he came out as very strongly supportive in the face of real opposition from a variety of people,” says Dance. “Some were very concerned about Lansdowne Park but the overall benefits would be a good thing for three communities—OOS, OOE and the Glebe. To his credit he convinced the mayor and others for a $2 million detailed design process. This $2 million was the only item that other councillors said no to funding for. They also didn’t support the bridge.” A further $15 million is needed for actual construction cost.

Proposed parking lot and construction staging area at 160 Lees: “David immediately organized a meeting on Dec. 19 (2012) where we had very vocal people,” says Dance. “Just before the meeting started they got rid of the (construction) staging area which would consume one third of the site. The other third was parking. He worked very hard with a variety of people…and we finally got rid of the thing and got it back on university property where it should be.”

Alta Vista Transportation Corridor: The proposed parkway is to run through the parking lot area at 160 Lees, which Chernushenko opposed. “He’s been very principled and supportive. Suburban councillors want this, but it will dump traffic onto Lees, Nicholas and the Queensway west,” says Dance.

Main Street rebuild: “Main Street is one horrible part of our community. It has got too damned much traffic on it during many parts of the day,” says Dance. “It is horrible for biking and horrible for walking in parts. It has been proposed that it be a ‘complete street’ ( sidewalks first, bike lanes second, and two-lane road third). David supports this but city planners are against losing a lane of traffic each way.”

Undergrounding of wires on Main Street: The City initially said it would bury overhead wires on the west side of Main St. between Clegg St. and Immaculata High School but has flip-flopped. Chernushenko has had several meetings with City staff to convince them to bury the wires but the issue remains unresolved.

Infill: A concern for many residents as they see neighbourhoods changing and monster homes, often with multiple units, being built. With Chernushenko’s help a new bylaw has been passed which disallows garage doors on the street and artificial lowering of ground level. Says Dance, “We want infill that works with the neighbours. We certainly don’t want some of the high rises that are going in.” Infill will continue but with some checks.

Comments from the contituency: What you say about David Chernushenko

Richard Deadman, opposed to aspects of Springhurst Avenue rebuild, particularly sidewalk installation, summer of 2012: When Springhurst Street residents heard about sidewalk changes that would mean new sidewalks on the south side of the street and widening of existing sidewalks to 1.8 metres they contacted Chernushenko, who was initially sympathetic, says Deadman. “Later, though, he informed us that the new and wider sidewalks were going in since they were the new city standard and there may be more development sometime on the Oblates land that may lead to more foot traffic.”

All affected property owners signed a petition opposing the widening and the new sidewalks. “Coun. Chernushenko agreed to reduce the sidewalk width but refused to budge on the new sidewalk. OECA then passed a motion opposing the new sidewalk, but (he) dismissed this and refused to change his mind.”

“Coun. Chernushenko says many soothing things, but seems reluctant to meaningfully advocate for his constituents or stand up to the city bureaucracy.” GRADE: Fail

Ron Rose, OECA Transport Committee: “He’s been there when we needed him. He has included us in a lot of his committees (even those focusing on the Glebe or Old Ottawa South). He has been a big supporter of the footbridge over the canal. He comes to our monthly meetings. He’s been reasonably active. I have no problems with his performance. GRADE: Pass

Sheila Ascroft, resident, opposed to Chestnut Street infill: “My opinion of David is that he has talked a good line but he has kept to the middle of the road.” Development in the neighbourhood has resulted in unwanted changes, particularly when property developer Jakub Ulak did not listen to resident’s wishes. More properties have been sold for development and Ascroft worries what will happen next. GRADE: Pass

Greer Knox, Manager, Main Street Farmer’s Market: “The City has been very good to us in supporting us when we started up. We see (David) at the market all the time. Any time there is anything special he is invited and he always shows up. We are going to be looking for his support with the construction on Main Street.” GRADE: Pass

Bruce Walton, resident, opposed to multi-unit development at Chestnut Street and Evelyn Avenue: “The development was the specific concern but for the people in this neighbourhood is was a specific instance of a broader concern. We are seeing large modern replacement for traditional one-storey homes that didn’t fit into the neighbourhood.”

“(David) did come for a walk around the neighbourhood (in spring, 2012). He wasn’t looking at his watch every five minutes. He took the time to explain the context and he professed sympathy with our feelings. He explained what the city was doing. He was friendly, he was down to earth, he listened and he expressed his concerns.” GRADE: Pass

Nora Parker, clerk at Three Trees and server at Green Door, Main Street. David pops in for dinner at the Green Door before meetings at St. Paul’s University. He was cycling in the fall. I see him all over the neighbourhood. GRADE: Pass

John Dance, OECA president, various community issues: “I would give him an A for these things. Those are really big issues. He has supported positive change that will make it a better community and a better Ottawa too.” Grade: Pass

Question Period with Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko

Mainstreeter: Q: Do you think people are happy with the way you and your office handle their concerns?
Counc. Chernushenko: A: I believe so. I often receive praise for the way in which my office in general and particular staff (Pierre Sadik and now Michael Qaqish) respond as promptly and thoroughly as we are able. We do our best to respond to every call or email, either ourselves or by having the appropriate staff member follow up on an issue. I try to listen and to be available for site visits and meetings as much as possible, and this seems appreciated. I cannot always resolve an issue, or make something happen or not happen, but I can always hear out the people involved and act as their advocate.

Q: What do you see as your main accomplishments in our neighbourhood?
A: Helping to see the CDP through to adoption. Rallying urban councillors to back and ultimately get approved the Urban Infill Guidelines for Mature Neighbourhoods. Getting one section of the Western Rideau River Pathway built as part of the uOttawa stadium construction work. Finding an alternate parking space to the original one proposed for the 160 Lees green space, with good collaboration from the OOE community, and support from city staff and the university. Taking the proposed Rideau Canal pedestrian crossing through to the detailed design stage and getting funding in this year’s budget for that work. Bringing most members of the community to the point where they see such a bridge as an asset, more than as a generator of additional traffic and parking.

Q: What will your priorities be for our area during the rest of your term?
A: Working to get the Main Street redesign as close to being a calmer “complete street” as possible. Involving the community in the Transportation Oriented Development planning work for the Lees Station area. Beginning work on the completion of the Western Rideau River Pathway. Continuing to have cycling and pedestrian network improvements built. Building on the dialogue with developers that has led to some modest improvements to infill proposals.

Q: Could you comment on the Springhurst Avenue redevelopment and the unhappiness of the residents about the sidewalk issue in particular.
A: Some residents opposed construction of a sidewalk on the south side of Springhurst Avenue. I felt that it was essential to make good on the city’s commitment to improving public accessibility and active transportation links. I worked to ensure that the actual imposition was minimised, but also felt it necessary to support work being done for the broader public good, on city land. While some may have lingering discontent, I have not heard anything negative since.

Q: Could you comment about infill in the neighbourhood, specifically: the five-unit townhouse development at Chestnut and Evelyn and the two more large buildings which have gone up since.
A: I am disappointed by the lack of imagination being shown by infill developers when it comes to increasing density without compromising neighbourhood character. Too many ugly, incompatible buildings are being constructed, with a loss of light, green space, reflection of design attributes of the area, etc. Hulking buildings that maximise profit to a developer earns that developer a bad name, and yet it seems the only way we can stop this is to put more teeth into our design guidelines and bylaws. I continue to work towards this.

Q: How will the major construction at Lees station and the big dig of Main Street next year help or hurt this already bad service?
A: More to the point, how will having so many major construction projects on the go throughout the city simultaneously hurt travel times in general. We can expect significant challenges over the next 4 years. Wherever possible, those who can walk or cycle, will find these to be the least prone to frustration and delay.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss which pertains specifically to neighbourhood issues in OOE?
A: There is a remarkable sense of involvement and activism at the moment. That can make my life as councillor a challenge, but I prefer it to an apathetic citizenry.

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