City Planning Department errors

City Planning Department errors
Posted on August 13, 2015 | Sally Southey | Written on August 13, 2015
Letter type:


Mayor Jim Watson

383 Daly Ave
Ottawa, K1N 6G8

July 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Mayor,

During the discussion of Richcraft’s request for zoning and official plan amendments at the Planning Committee July 7, staff made a number of inaccurate and misleading statements which likely impacted the vote.  The issues in question include the nature of meetings to revise the Community Design Plan, the percentage of land Richcraft acquired subsequent to the OMB decision,  a  muddling of the definition of mid and low rise buildings, and the distance of the site from the new LRT station.  In addition, no mention was made of the fact that the City inadvertently zoned 560 Rideau to allow for 9 stories despite the fact that Richcraft did not fulfil all of the obligations of the earlier OMB decision.  Had the City approached the community to negotiate a compromise, it is very likely that, with adequate setbacks, the community would have compromised and allowed Richcraft to extend the 9 stories across the entire lot fronting on Rideau St, despite the fact that 25 percent of the property is zoned to allow for a maximum of 6 stories.

The City Planner stated that the proposal before Planning Committee was to be judged according to the 10-year old URCDP and not the draft which Committee members have yet to see, let alone adopt.  A document outlining how the proposal does not meet the current CDP was tabled during the meeting, yet Planning staff did not address the discrepancies.  The current CDP does not allow for density transfer and has a height limit of 6 stories.   How did staff justify their recommendation based on the existing CDP?

 Staff repeatedly stated that there had been 7 public meetings on the draft revised Uptown Rideau Community Design Plan.  In fact, there have been no publically advertised meetings on the revised draft.  Five of the meetings referred to were working group meetings of land owners and representatives of various groups.  Only those on the Working Group were invited – these were all closed meetings.  Presentations of the penultimate draft were made to both Action Sandy Hill and the Lowertown Community Association members.  The first public consultation is scheduled for the fall.   What, where and when were the public meetings referred to by staff?

Staff stated that the 2004 OMB decision allowing Richcraft 9 stories at 560 Rideau encompassed all but 10 percent of the Richcraft’s  current lot, this is inaccurate.    The former location of Angelo’s Pizza and Light of India, purchased by Richcraft after the OMB decision comprises 25 percent of the new property along Rideau St, not 10 percent.  How did staff arrive at the figure of 10% along Rideau St?

No rationale was given to Committee members about why staff have concluded that the Richcraft proposal and high rise tower would benefit Rideau St.  City Heritage Staff disagreed with Richcraft’s own Cultural Heritage Impact Statement and stated that they saw no impact on the heritage nature of the surrounding community.  What is their rationale?

During the meeting, Ms Harder,  stated that the site merited greater density because of its close proximity to the new LRT.  Richcraft’s site is 1.8km to the nearest LRT station at the Rideau Centre.  Areas qualifying for extra density must be 600 meters from a station.  560 Rideau is more than double the distance required.  Is greater density merited almost 2 km from an LRT station?

Finally, the community requested another public meeting with Richcraft since their proposal changed dramatically from the original which was the focus of a public meeting in May 2013.  Richcraft refused to meet on their new proposal.   Had the City Planners approached the community about extending the OMB’s height limit of 9 stories to the entire property, it is very likely the community would have compromised and, with adequate set backs, agreed to 9 stories facing Rideau Street, despite the fact that 25% of that land is zoned for a maximum of 6 stories under the current CDP.

I look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

Sally Southey


c.c Jan Harder

Mathieu Fleury

Erin O’Connell

Matthew Pearson

Joanne Chianello

Stephane Leclerc

Alex Robinson


Letter Response

Sent on behalf of John Smit, Acting General Manager, Planning and Growth Management Department


Ms. Southey,


Thank you for your comments to Mayor Watson. The following has been prepared to respond to questions and concerns you have raised.


Council-approved policies currently permit a maximum height of 9 storeys at 560 Rideau Street. Although the current Community Design Plan (CDP) sets out a lower height limit, unlike the Official Plan (OP), it is not a statutory document. The shortcomings of the CDP are being addressed as part of the current CDP study, which is expected to result in amendments to the Sandy Hill Secondary Plan. 


The applications by Richcraft to amend the OP and Zoning By-law for their site at 560 Rideau were submitted before the current CDP study was initiated. As a result, they were evaluated against the policies in force at that time. The staff recommendation to the Planning Committee indicated that the proposed development, which was reduced in density and height from what was originally proposed, was consistent with the draft Uptown Rideau CDP, which permits density redistribution to be considered in certain situations.


Action Sandy Hill (AHS) has been involved with the CDP process since it was initiated in February 2014. To date, ten meetings with external stakeholders, including community representatives have been held. At three meetings, there was specific discussion related to 560 Rideau Street. These included the Public Working Group (PWG) meeting on January 28, 2015, where density and height was the focus of discussion. At this meeting, discussions relating to 560 Rideau Street included setting a baseline height of 9 storeys on the entire site. At that time, the site was also identified as qualifying under the directions being determined for the CDP update for density redistribution. At the April 15, 2015 PWG meeting, indication was provided that a 4.25 FSI maximum would be retained for the Richcraft property (reflecting the density confirmed through the OMB decision for 560 Rideau Street), and providing for the establishment of maximum height after Density Redistribution in the “Low end of high-rise”. By May 20, there was reference to 14 storeys as the maximum height after density redistribution. 


The lands acquired next to 560 Rideau Street have a frontage of 20.15 metres and are approximately 21 metres deep. Lands owned by the builder now total 3650.36 square metres in area. The lands obtained since the 2004 proposal account for 11.6 percent of the property’s area. Planning staff referenced these lands as being approximately 10 percent of the total site area.


The FSI applied to the majority of the site is 4.25, which has been maintained in the recommended zoning details. The department did not consider proximity to light rail transit (LRT) as justification for increased density. At Planning Committee, Chair Harder confirmed that the OMB decisions affecting the property were made prior to LRT approval. She noted that work has been done since to allow for substantial increases in density in support of transit-oriented development. At 560 Rideau Street, the permitted density is consistent with that established through the OMB.


In summary, staff have confirmed that the community has been engaged throughout the CDP process, which included discussions related to 560 Rideau Street. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.




John Smit

Acting General Manager

Planning and Growth Management



About The Author

I am a long term resident of Ottawa and am extremely concerned that the City Planning Department and many councillors favour developers over due process.