Ottawa’s Planning Committee approves higher-density zoning amendment

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Deschâtelets Building
The Deschâtelets Building

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ottawa’s municipal Planning Committee on Thursday approved a zoning amendment to encourage new eight-to-12-unit low-rise apartments in established inner-urban neighbourhoods like Centretown, Sandy Hill, Vanier, Overbrook, Hintonburg and Westboro.

Ottawa has a long-standing shortage of rental apartments, and the resulting low vacancy rates are a primary factor in housing affordability, the city said in a statement.

“The amendment would gradually increase the apartment supply in Ottawa’s Residential Fourth Density (R4) family of zones to better accommodate the growing number of people wishing to live in established inner-urban, low-rise communities,” the statement said.

The amendment changes several zoning regulations that city officials believe have been effectively preventing development of low-rise apartments in R4 zones.

The changes would:

  • Reduce minimum required lot sizes as the current minimums are bigger than needed to accommodate a functional apartment, restricting where apartments can be built;
  • Increase the four-unit cap that currently applies in certain R4 zones as that cap artificially restricts density, resulting in fewer but larger, more expensive apartment units; and
  • Revise the requirements for green space to better balance the need for amenity space with space for functional needs like waste management and bike storage.

Deschâtelets Building 2In other business, the committee approved plans to remove a wing from the heritage-designated Deschâtelets Building in Old Ottawa East. The wing that was added in 1950 would be removed, making it easier to convert the building into an elementary school. The main stone building, which dates to 1885, is the centrepiece of the new Greystone Village community and would remain unchanged, although the city is considering locating a community centre in part of it.

The committee also approved the Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est school board’s zoning application to use the building as a school.

The wing to be demolished includes a chapel on the third storey – the chapel’s stained-glass windows would be incorporated into the future development or turned into public art within Greystone Village. Rehabilitation of the main building would further help offset the cultural heritage value lost by demolishing the chapel wing.

The proposed elementary school and possible community centre would help round out the sense of community within Greystone Village.

Recommendations will rise to City Council on Sept. 23.

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