OOECA, Regional Group, City of Ottawa – Settle Greystone Height Restrictions Appeal

Phyllis Odenbach Sutton

The Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) reached a proposed settlement agreement on February 18th with The Regional Group and the City of Ottawa to discontinue the two appeals launched by OOECA on August 8th, 2019 in relation to the Greystone Village Development. The tentative settlement is subject to ratification by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) at a hearing that was scheduled to have taken place on April 9th.

The Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) appeals group celebrated reaching a settlement with The Regional Group and the City of Ottawa whereby most of the permissible building heights in Greystone Village will be confined to what was originally negotiated. Members of the group were, from left, Jeff O’Neill, Nolan O’Neill, Heather Jarrett, Jeff Brown, Phyllis Odenbach Sutton, Kristi Ross, Ron Rose, Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, Don Fugler, John Dance. Photo by Theresa Wallace

The Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) appeals group celebrated reaching a settlement with The Regional Group and the City of Ottawa whereby most of the permissible building heights in Greystone Village will be confined to what was originally negotiated. Members of the group were, from left, Jeff O’Neill, Nolan O’Neill, Heather Jarrett, Jeff Brown, Phyllis Odenbach Sutton, Kristi Ross, Ron Rose, Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, Don Fugler, John Dance. Photo by Theresa Wallace

While the proposed settlement does not address all of OOECA’s concerns, it represents a reasonable compromise in the view of the Board of the community association. Of particular note:
• Building 2B, at 10 Oblats Avenue (across from the Sisters’ building), will be limited to eight storeys, rather than the nine storeys approved by the City in July 2019;
• Permission to build up to nine storeys in the area surrounding the Deschâtelets building has been eliminated and replaced with specific height restrictions. Buildings immediately in front of the Deschâtelets building will be limited to four storeys; and
• Buildings behind Deschâtelets cannot be visible from the sidewalk on Main Street, looking down the Grande Allée, thus preserving the viewscape of the Deschâtelets building.

As explained to The Mainstreeter, the OOECA Board decided to settle both appeals for a variety of reasons. First, the Board concluded that the settlement provides OOECA and the community with certainty. While the association believes it had good arguments to make to the LPAT and believes further that there was never a clear case brought forward by the developers to explain why nine storeys were sought, nonetheless, litigation is inherently risky with uncertain outcomes (for both sides).

Second, a settlement reduces the costs that the association would have otherwise incurred, including additional legal fees and fees for a heritage expert and planner. Third, in a settlement, everyone needs to compromise: the association did not get everything it wanted but it did gain on certain important fronts while Regional similarly made compromises over its initial position.

Finally, the Board did not want to perpetuate an adversarial relationship with Regional, with whom OOECA has worked well in the past and wishes to continue to do so in the future.

According to OOECA representatives, the community association learned many lessons from this experience, including the following key lessons and conclusions:
• the critical importance of clarity in secondary plans: the original intent of the community and the developers must be translated into clear language in City plans and bylaws;
• the negative impact on the community resulting from the lack of councillor representation from the inner core on the City’s planning committee;
• the surprising discovery of how many members of the powerful planning committee receive significant campaign funding from developers;
• the clear demonstration that community associations require vigilance to deal effectively with urban development matters since processes in the City’s planning department and planning committee often favour developers over communities;
• the significant disadvantage faced by community associations, which rely on volunteers and donations to protect community interests, in relation to the much greater resources and expertise available to the City and to developers (with City resources often used for the benefit of developers rather than communities);
• the realization that a strong community like Old Ottawa East is capable of working together and speaking forcefully about the issues its residents care deeply about, and of raising funds for a just cause; and
• the conclusion that working with developers and sticking to the original, agreed-upon plan is vastly better than becoming embroiled in an adversarial, protracted and costly appeals process.

At its Board meeting, members expressed their satisfaction that the community association, with the support of the community, did not hesitate to act to protect fundamental community interests. They noted that, while OOECA’s first desire is to have a positive relationship with developers, this case signals the community association and the community’s resolve to defend the interests of the community.

According to OOECA, the appeals would not have been possible or successful without broad moral and financial support of many in the community, including those who donated funds to the fundraising efforts. Upon the announcement of the settlement, OOECA expressed its thanks to those OOE residents who were directly involved in the appeals process, who volunteered substantial time and effort, including: Jeff Brown, John Dance, Don Fugler, Monica Helm, Heather Jarrett (who led the community fundraising drive), Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, Jeff O’Neill, Phyllis Odenbach Sutton, and Ron Rose, who chaired the appeal group.

Special thanks for their efforts were extended to Faith Blacquiere and Paul Goodkey, who jointly spearheaded the preparation of OOECA’s original appeals during July and over the August long weekend. Also, Kristi Ross was applauded for her legal guidance and representation on the appeal, which proved to be essential to the generally positive outcome for all parties. Similarly, Councillor Shawn Menard was recognized for his support of the community throughout the process.

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