a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Nov, 2009

Shaking things up and bringing some ugly to Westboro!*

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro

I am on the board of my local community association. One of the perks of being a board member is that we often get advance notice of new developments being proposed in our neighborhood. One of the disadvantages is that some of this crap drives me absolutely mental and it adds to my already skyrocketing stress levels. But I will get to that in just a sec.

First I would like to clarify my views on residential development:

Infill is necessary. Not just because Westboro is such an amazing place to live (and more people should have the opportunity to live here) but to prevent further urban sprawl, which is, frankly, a blight on Ottawa because no one seems to be doing it right. New infill should not dominate the streetscape or overwhelm the houses in the immediate vicinity. New infill should fit the neighborhood for which it is proposed in every way; in terms of lot size, design, and height.

Enter SKY BUNGLALOWS OF WESTBORO. Destined for two locations, including this one on Byron Avenue:

Sky bungalows in Westboro

You might be wondering about this new real estate term: sky bungalow. I’ll tell you, it’s a stack of bungalows! In other words, a condo. But bungalows. In the sky. Going up.

Here’s the part that makes me bonkers because it doesn’t make sense (please read this next part carefully):

  • In the old 1998 Zoning By-law, triplexes were allowed, but only in a limited kind of way. An existing house could be converted to have three units but you could not build a triplex outright.
  • In the new Zoning by-law, what is permitted is now defined as a “three-unit dwelling.” No one noticed this change and it has a massive impact on residential development. A three-unit dwelling is defined as a “building originally constructed to contain three principal dwelling units divided horizontally.”
  • Sky Bungalows are aptly named. This new by-law permits the building of a three-unit dwelling on a lot size similar to that of a single detached home but to a height of 11 metres. A single or semi-detached home has a height limit of 8 metres in our community.

But that’s not the worst thing about it. I’d love it if someone can prove me wrong, but as far as I’m aware THIS COULD HAPPEN ANYWHERE, on any residential street. My next door neighbors could easily sell out to a developer who would tear down their ONE single family home and replace it with a towering SET OF SKY BUNGALOWS.

FYI, one unit in a SKY BUNGALOW retails for $689,900. (They even have an ad on Kijiji. Check it out if you’d like an advance look at what might be built next door or across the street from you. Wouldn’t you love to wake up to a wall of garages like that?)

My questions:

  • Who is responsible for the rewording of the City of Ottawa zoning bylaw?
  • Why is it that advantage often plays on the side of the developers instead of the residents?
  • Why can’t something be done about bad design?
  • Where does the Community Design Plan come into all of this? Why is no one guiding the long-term growth of this community!

I find this kind of hornswoggle extremely frustrating. Gah!

If you’re as peeved about this as I am – or just worried about what Westboro is going to look like in the next dozen years –  I suggest you call or write an email to our Councillor.

* These views are entirely my own, and this post in no way reflects the views of the Westboro Community Association, of which I am a part.


15 Responses to "Shaking things up and bringing some ugly to Westboro!*"

1 | blake

November 19th, 2009 at 9:40 am

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re: why can’t anything be done about bad design?

Urban planning was my main journo beat until a couple of years ago. Have reported a depressing number of cases of residents vs. developers where the main issue at hand was design. However, aesthetics is a tough thing to legislate.

Vancouver’s has an official design review committee for various proposals (see here: http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/udp/udp.html_

Toronto was about to institute a trial version when I left my planning reporting gig. See here: http://www.toronto.ca/planning/designreviewpanel.htm

Zoning loopholes are a whole ‘nuther conundrum. Get in touch with your councillor, zoning department, and any city councillors who are vocal about development issues.

Finally, there’s always the Ontario Municipal Board to appeal approved council development decisions, although the process can be problematic and expensive.

2 | lacoop

November 19th, 2009 at 11:58 am

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!! $700,000 for a Soviet-era apartment in a 2nd tier city (sorry, but Ottawa is a second tier city in a 2nd tier country). Wow. If this is progress, I need medication. I’m with you on needing in-fill, but we could at least have a little style. If they put a few of these up beside each other, you will have a big (expensive) eyesore.

3 | Laura

November 19th, 2009 at 5:39 pm

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I don’t live in Westboro, but things like this upset me no matter where they are in our city! I’m all for fill-in as well, but this is just not right.

I went to a meeting in our west-end location where they are planning to build a huge apartment buidling as well as smaller apartment units and the local residents were upset to say the least, including Coun. Rick Chiarelli who lives in the area… and not only for aesthetic reasons, but other issues like increased traffic in an already busy area and how the shade from the large building would cause increased heating bills for the neighbours, not to mention not as much sun coming in the windows depending on the exposure.

From the look of the proposed new sky bungalow with 3 garages and I’m assuming the maximum height… how is that going to fit in the existing space… with not much room on either side, I bet! I’d hate to be the nextdoor neighbours who might not see as much sunshine!! I feel for them for sure.

4 | Mr. Milkface

November 19th, 2009 at 6:07 pm

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Last week I blessed you for your ability to bring smiles to those around you. Now you do this to us.

Those artist renderings are horrible. I can only imagine the style sense of the people who choose to buy one. The other location is just across from Clare park and I’ll have to walk by it daily.

Thanks for the heads up. Let’s hope that there is no demand for these abominations and the developer has to go with a more reasonble semi-detached offering.

5 | Nadine C.

November 19th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

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You’ve got to be kidding me! That design is quite grotesque and reminds me of some horrid war submarine or a bad version of a “Metropolis” building…. I live in McKellar Park (adjacent to Westboro) I’m assuming that we could also be at the mercy of those developpers in the near future, although we were assured of the absolute opposite when we first moved here a few years ago. Scary!

6 | Tosca

November 19th, 2009 at 11:15 pm

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I was almost going to say that’s unfreakingbelievable, but sadly, given the direction of development in this city, it is believable. That monstrosity is beyond ugly. I would have to walk past that wall of garages every single day.

What is happening to Richmond/Wellington is bad enough- in particular the stretch from Kirkwood to Carleton. It’s becoming a corridor of condos with not very useful retail (as in, how often do I need to pop in to buy expensive designer tiles? give me a post office ANY DAY). And heavens knows what Ashcroft is going to do to the convent land. My soul gets a little more sucked every time I go past “Central Park.”

Sorry to rant in your space. This city depresses me more and more every day. If there is one thing I hope to accomplish in my lifetime, it’s to get more people paying attention to municipal politics and who we elect. Local elections have the lowest voter turnout yet often have the most local and immediate impact on how we live.

7 | Hilary

November 20th, 2009 at 6:20 am

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Sigh… I so agree with you that Westboro needs infill, but that is nothing more than a hideous condo building. And on the site of a characterful old house that I have always loved. I find it tragic what’s happening to the neighbourhood where I grew up and still consider ‘home’ – I used to find Barry Hobin objectionable, but compared to the dross that counts for architecture in Westboro now, the man is an architectural wunderkind!

8 | Vicky

November 20th, 2009 at 10:01 am

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THAT is the ugliest thing ever. I wonder what Barry Hobin would think.

9 | Tosca

November 20th, 2009 at 10:18 am

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I walked by this morning and just noticed that the house next door is for sale also. Not the little bungalow on the corner, the other side. I’m even more nervous now.

10 | Ginger

November 20th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

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I don’t live in your community. But I would pay large sums of money to live in a house that looked like the one in the picture in a good neighborhood. To get charm and character in an older home around where I live you have to be willing to live in the poorest areas of town where the crime rate is high and the neighborhood isn’t particularly safe. It is sad to me that they are going to tear it down to put up such an ugly building. With some love and attention that house could be absolutely gorgeous. I wish more people would realize that new and modern isn’t always better. Unfortunately, where I live it is sometimes the only choice. Good luck! I hope you can find a way to keep that horrible building from being built!

11 | Kaitlin

November 26th, 2009 at 1:30 am

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Infill? Yes. But at what cost?

Seriously, our neighbours on Tweedsmuir are selling their beautiful 100+ year old house, which only has 3 bedrooms and one bathroom for $600K. They’re doing so because they know this is the right time to get out and sell to a developer. While I see their point, I can’t help but think how utterly sad it all is, especially knowing how much more hideous the new development will be.

12 | Katherine

November 29th, 2009 at 8:38 am

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New Edinburgh has been fighting bad design/infill for years. It’s a tough battle and the OMB seems to be pro-development. Corner of MacKay and Vaugh has a laughable infill project – so sad for the neighbours.

I’m like you, agree with infill in principle but it has to fit in with the neighborhood. Was at a conference and saw a presentation about the process for design approvals (was the city Edmonton, Calgary?) and how well it’s working out there. You can have all the guidelines you want but it won’t make a difference until you hammer down the process and give it some teeth (and a council that will back it up).

13 | zchamu

December 3rd, 2009 at 4:57 pm

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Doesn’t surprise me in the least. Anything to do with the management of our City has been a complete screwup for years. And the current council couldn’t find their own ass with two hands and a flashlight.

Any chance Alex Munter will run for mayor again? He’s the only candidate I ever heard of who actually had a vision for the city as opposed to just a plan to get lost in middle management hell.

14 | linda

December 5th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

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I don’t have a problem with a 3 unit building, but surely they could have come up with a better design. Why would the city approve that.

I live in Hintonburg and am happy to seem the improvements made to the community, but I want the neighbourhood to keep its character and color with its mix of people of different income levels. Some of our neighbours are poor or have mental/physical challenges, but I feel its a safe area. Some of these developments will pushing values up, and soon the average person will not be able to afford to live here. I bought my property as an investment, but now I can’t sell it because I can’t afford another home in this neighbour!

15 | Tea Monster

December 11th, 2009 at 9:19 am

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The ones on Athlone are actually listed on MLS for $799.900 and it would appear they are putting 3 of the things there!! What gets me is there were no signs put up that they weren’t going to be the single family homes that had planning permission before they sold the plots off. Now I understand why.
I don’t understand, though, who would pay 800K to live in an apartment with no view!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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