Rooming House Row Ramping Up

City urged to better manage OOE’s changing face

By Joe Paraskevas

Coun. David Chernushenko agreed to comment on this story over the summer in an interview with the Mainstreeter about Archville resident concerns. The city planner looking after zoning issues the neighbourhood is seeing would also sit down to explain how the city will approach managing the situation.

ConcordStN

Resident frustration is rising in Archville over rooming houses and student residences popping up on previously quiet streets.

Homeowners claim developers are taking advantage of the city’s slowness to manage density in Old Ottawa East’s northernmost neighbourhood.

They acknowledge developers of massive new buildings are not violating zoning bylaws. Nor do they want to appear unwelcoming to students who stand to be the most likely new tenants.

Instead, the object of growing public unrest is the city for a perceived failure to step in and regulate Archville’s changing character.

“I am concerned about a new development on my street and would like to bring it to your attention,” Concord Street North resident Freddie Richings wrote to the office of Coun. David Chernushenko in March.

Richings feared the new development at 59 Concord St. N was set to become an unregistered rooming house and he urged Chernushenko to ensure proper management of the building and uphold the intent of zoning bylaws to maintain “reasonable density.”

“What was a single family house six months ago will now have 12 people none of whom are connected to one another or the surrounding community except for the fact they require short-term economical lodging,” Richings wrote.

“I like the fact that my community has students living in it,” Richings was quick to point out, “and would welcome a student rooming house if it was properly licensed and capped at the maximum allowed number of residents for this zone, which is seven. My problem with 59 Concord St N is the fact that it is not in any way ideologically motivated. Instead, it has deliberately targeted students knowing that it can draw the biggest profit from them. I believe that this development is subverting the intent of our bylaws, which, I assume is to keep group accommodations at a reasonable density and ensure that they are properly supervised and managed.”

The storm over new triplexes or four-plexes has brewed for some time.

“It has been in the last five years that small family homes have been bought up and torn down to be replaced with new-build, three-storey rental buildings,” said resident Christine Honsl, who lives next door to one of the new structures. “There are now four rental triplexes on the two blocks of Chestnut Street and another kitty-corner on Lees. They each consist of three flats and an additional basement unit. They are all rental buildings. The one at 35 Chestnut has 11 students living in it and the new one at 43 will as well.”

The result, Honsl went on to say, was a declining quality of life that permeated her entire neighbourhood.

“With 11 unrelated young people in a single building there is a great increase in traffic on what was a quiet residential street. There are an incredible number of pick-ups, drop-offs, food and parcel delivery, most of which end up pulling into my driveway. Since the (new) house was allowed to max out the lot, they have no driveway of their own. Backyards have been paved for vehicle parking, so enjoyment of nearby yards is significantly compromised.”

The Old Ottawa East Community Association has heard resident complaints and cautioned that rooming houses are a complicated matter depending on how a property is zoned and even where it is located. The OECA pointed to the city to step in and better mediate development.

“The unfortunate reality is that the biggest part of this story is change management,” said Stephen Pope, the OECA’s Planning committee chair. “There is very little in the building code or the city’s zoning bylaws that would limit the kind of development that is now appearing in the North of Queensway neighbourhood.”

OECA president Phyllis Odenbach Sutton said the matter called for the city to look again at its zoning rules.

“Triplexes are being built on lots on Chestnut that were never zoned to accommodate such structures, given their small size,” she said.

Chernushenko’s assistant replied to Richings within days of receiving his e-mail but the response was not what the frustrated homeowner wanted to hear.

Ian Grabina said what was taking place in Archville was typical of development in other parts of the city, such as Old Ottawa South and Sandy Hill.

“The truth of the matter is, that there is nothing that can be done once a three-unit triplex (like the one that has gone up on Concord) has been built and the owner decides to facilitate the full use of the building via sublets,” Grabina told Richings.

“As I’m sure you are aware, a ‘standard’ rooming house requires that there be a user-owned suite ‘in-house’ as it were,” Grabina added. “In the case of Concord, this will not be the case. However, as it is not formally a rooming house, this requirement is not applicable. Further, as the owner will only be signing three leases (and will no doubt allow the primary tenants to sign sub-leases) he will meet all of the warrants needed for the rental of a standard triplex.”

Grabina admitted the kinds of structures Archville residents were seeing constituted a “blind spot” in the building code. He said Chernushenko was sympathetic and would press the city to amend its bylaws and definition of rooming houses.

Reached by the Mainstreeter, Grabina said Chernushenko and the city planner working on the Archville zoning issues would sit down with the newspaper to discuss resident concerns.

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