Why City Council Should Not Approve Planning Committee Recommendations on 180 Metcalfe
Dear Mr. Mayor and City Councillors
I am writing on behalf of the CCCA re the proposed development at 180 Metcalfe, the first major development proposal that Planning Committee has recommended to Council since the Centretown Community Design Plan and the New Centretown Secondary Plan were approved by City Council in May 2013. The CCCA believes strongly that the City should not approve the staff recommendations for the following reasons.
You Have Promised Certainty
Since the City’s Planning Summit in April 2012, the Mayor and Councillors have promised certainty to community associations across the City which have approved Community Design Plans (CDP) and Secondary Plans (SP). Centretown’s CDP and our new SP were approved in May 2013 after 5 years of CCCA involvement in the development of these two key documents. Because Centretown is unique in several important ways, the certainty promised is not limited to the maximum heights. The CCCA has in fact accepted maximum heights up to 27 in seven of the blocks at the north end of the Northern Character Area (NCA) of Centretown. The CCCA agreed to these maximum heights well above what we initially preferred because of other key provisions of our CDP and Secondary Plan which were designed to go a long towards mitigating the negative impact of these heights. These include design guidelines, restrictions on land use and provisions for community benefits under Section 37 – all key elements of our Secondary Plan.
180 Metcalfe Zoning
The restrictions on land use are particularly relevant to 180 Metcalfe and other developments in the maximum 27 storey part of the Northern Character Area (NCA). The land use restrictions support increased residential as opposed to commercial use and thereby contribute to fulfilling one of the major objectives of the CDP and Secondary Plan – 10,000 more residents by ?? (date?).
The NCA is one of the four “character areas” of Centretown for which the new CSP establishes specific land use and other requirements. The predominant land use designation in the NCA is residential as is clear from the following uses laid out in our new CSP:
· apartment buildings
· town houses
· public open spaces; and
· small-scale, neighbourhood-oriented commercial uses restricted to the first two floors of a building
The new CSP does not provide for hotels in the NCA. Since it does provide for hotels in the Southern Character Area (the Catherine Street Corridor) and since hotel use is also allowed in the five blocks of the Core, immediately north of Centretown, there is plenty of scope for hotels to be built in the downtown area. There is no need for “hotel creep” into the NCA residential area.
Our second zoning concern is the rationale for permitting hotel use, based on the three decades old “as-of-right zoning” which provides for:
· a maximum 37 meter (12 storey) building
· a limited number of retail and personal service commercial uses catering primarily to the residents of the surrounding neighbourhood (very similar wording to that used in the New Centretown Secondary Plan);
· a medical facility and office use.
This “as of right” zoning does not include the right to either:
· hotel use
· 83 meters (27 storeys)
The convoluted arguments for allowing the prohibited hotel use include the following :
· that the developer has offered to “release the rights” to the medical and office use in exchange for hotel use;
· that “it could be argued that” that hotel use would be “less disruptive” to the neighbourhood than medical or office uses;
· that “it could be argued” that a hotel use is “quasi-residential”.
This despite the fact that the development application did not indicate any interest on the part of the owner to build a medical facility or office. The arguments in the staff report are hardly convincing as to whether hotel use or medical use might be more or less disruptive to the neighbourhood or whether hotel use can be considered “quasi-residential”. Surely this highly speculative narrative should have been the subject of significant consultation with the CCCA and the residents of the Apartment Neighborhood before assumptions were made on their behalf.
Section 37 Benefits
Our final concern relates to the provision in the NCSP (Section 126.96.36.199) that states:
188.8.131.52 Where the existing maximum building heights in the Zoning By-Law are lower than those shown on Schedule H2, increases in height and/or density deemed suitable by the City through a rezoning process will be subject to Section 37 of the Planning Act in accordance with the Council-approved section 37 Guidelines…
The CCCA has been told that Section 37 benefits do not apply but there has been no explanation of how this conclusion was reached. Our Councillor has requested the details of the calculation but to date (July 3), neither the Councillor nor the CCCA has received this crucial information. Our Councillor and the community should have access to this calculation and the rationale for not requiring community benefits for this site. We have done an unofficial calculation based on the guidelines which would provide community benefits and would be most interested to see the calculation the City has used.
In conclusion, we ask that Council not approve this application and return it to planning staff for consultation with the community and the developers to resolve these issues in keeping with the provisions of the Centretown Community Plan and the new Centretown Secondary Plan. We would welcome being part of the discussions along with the owner and developers.