OPINION- OOE Overdevelopment A Makeover Isn’t Always Pretty

Theresa Wallace

Author’s note: This opinion article is about the R1 areas of Old Ottawa East — areas zoned for single-family homes, which are mostly south of Clegg Street — because that’s where I live. The article is not meant to minimize the bigger problems of those in zones that allow higher density, where unchecked overdevelopment has led to, among other issues, bunkhouses on single lots and shootings at Airbnbs. Hopefully, other readers of The Mainstreeter will share their own problems and what steps they and their neighbours have taken or want to take to deal with those challenges.

When your neighbourhood is being remade, there are some things that are a nuisance. Tyvek HomeWrap snapping in the slightest breeze. The do-not-ask-for-whom-the-bell-tolls reverberations of pile-driving. Digging, drilling, hammering. Perpetually crooked pictures on the wall.

Among the debris escaping beyond the perimeters of the new home construction site on McNaughton Avenue were these sharp nails and wiring clips. Photo by Theresa Wallace

Among the debris escaping beyond the perimeters of the new home construction site on McNaughton Avenue were these sharp nails and wiring clips. Photo by Theresa Wallace

Other things are more than annoying because they’re unnecessary and often illegal: blocked driveways and sidewalks, dirty worksites and roads were strewn with nails, booming outdoor music all day long, construction workers who bring endlessly barking dogs to work with them, big machines that excavate new builds using floodlights and working long into the night.

It gets worse. A woman comes home from work to find that workers in hard hats building a row of townhouses two lots over are taking down her backyard fence. A mother looks out her front window and a man from a new build project down the street is using her driveway as a bathroom. Children get off the school bus crying after an abusive shouting match between their bus driver and construction workers whose vehicles line both sides of the street and, for the third afternoon in a row, leave no room for the bus to squeeze through.

These are not rumours, they’re facts – and there are tomes-worth of them as houses disappear in Old Ottawa East (OOE) and brand-new, much larger structures are squeezed in to take their place. A few years ago, at a party, an architect told me our house is worthless. It’s the land that’s valuable, he said. He asked a rhetorical question: Had I seen what they’d done in Westboro? Old Ottawa East is next, he said matter-of-factly. And he was right.

Old Ottawa East is undergoing a transformation, and in some ways, it’s a good one. Big developments are boosting our population so we can support more stores and restaurants. New folks moving in at Greystone Village and Corners on Main are lending a hand with community initiatives and getting involved in other ways.

But as OOE becomes a trendier, more expensive place to live, and as more homes get replaced by much larger new builds that are also single-family dwellings but take up most of the lot, residents are experiencing construction fatigue — there’s an increasing distrust of some contractors, resentment against onsite workers, and rising tension among neighbours.

What can we do to keep our community a great place? To kick off the discussion, after 40 years in the same house on the same street in OOE, I’ve noticed a few measures that lead to better outcomes for all, above and beyond calling 311 to complain to the city, which is also essential.

If you are doing a renovation or demolition, let your neighbours know in advance so they’re not surprised when the work starts. Show them your plans and hear their perspectives. Don’t presume: don’t ask to plug into their hydro, or trespass on their property without permission. Remember that you’re the boss of your contractor and are responsible for your contractor’s actions. Stay on top of how the work on your house impacts your neighbours and try to make it easier for them.

Debris from the front yard of a new build blew down the street onto other properties during the high winds on Friday, March 13, but near the end of that day the site was still an eyesore for the neighbours. Photo by Theresa Wallace

Debris from the front yard of a new build blew down the street onto other properties during the high winds on Friday, March 13, but near the end of that day, the site was still an eyesore for the neighbours. Photo by Theresa Wallace

The same goes if you have bought a lot from a contractor and commissioned a new build. Come by to see how the construction is impacting the people who will become your neighbours and try hard to mitigate the unpleasantness for them.

There are some designers who feel they’re too big for rules, so they consistently present clients with designs that are too high, too deep, too wide to conform to municipal bylaws. If you’re one of those clients, feel free to specifically request a design that doesn’t require applying for a minor variance, which is essentially an application for exemption from the rules. If a minor variance is required, the closest neighbours who will be most affected by the granting of the variance have a chance to object.

If you are a neighbour who gets a notice that someone near you has applied for a minor variance and you pitch it into your recycling bin, nobody will judge you. But if you want to object, you should know that you won’t be alone: the planning committee of the volunteer community association in Old Ottawa East can advise you on how to proceed. By making a small effort to curtail overbuilding you will also be preserving areas of porous natural drainage that OOE needs to help prevent flooding.

If you’re in the housing market and are contemplating buying property in OOE to renovate or tear down for a new build, and you care about building a good quality home and having neighbours who are still speaking to you by the time you move in, then do your homework. Find out which builders do a great job — work quickly and efficiently, hire skilled and certified subcontractors, keep the worksite safe and clean, adhere to the noise bylaws and generally behave in a professional, courteous way.

How to do this research? Ask any longtime resident of Old Ottawa East. They’ll give you an earful.

facebooktwitterby feather
Filed in: Features, FP, Front Page, Opinion Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You might like:

Sharing Lunch With…The Mainstreeter Interview with OOE Model Amanda Nimmo Sharing Lunch With…The Mainstreeter Interview with OOE Model Amanda Nimmo
Meet Gianna – the girl behind Nature Girl Bread! Meet Gianna – the girl behind Nature Girl Bread!
Community views split on proposed plan to demolish historic Deschâtelets chapel Community views split on proposed plan to demolish historic Deschâtelets chapel
BUSINESS BEAT – Greens & Beans – Tough timing, but community support buoys the spirit of OOE’s newest business owners BUSINESS BEAT – Greens & Beans – Tough timing, but community support buoys the spirit of OOE’s newest business owners
© 2020 Mainstreeter. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.
Proudly designed by Theme Junkie.