Central Park residents packed the Ashcroft sales office April 3 to express dissatisfaction with a rezoning application that would put two eight-storey towers beside their park at the corner of Merivale and Central Park North. Yet the buildings' height is already allowed under current zoning, city planner Patrick Legault told the crowd. The only reason the city's planning committee must rule April 26 on a new application is that Ashcroft developer David Choo wants an office tower farther away from Merivale Road and a three-storey parking garage.
Both would encroach on a residential zone for which Choo now says he plans an apartment building. The proposal would also remove a green pathway between the park and Merivale Road.
The apartment building, in itself, would already be a legitimate use of 300 Central Park Drive. "A height of 28 metres is already permitted in both the residential and commercial zones," said Legault.
Interestingly, the application asks for the entire area to be rezoned commercial. The developer would then be under no obligation to build the apartment, but could add office or retail buildings right up to the park.
If people are surprised that eight-storey buildings are possible on that site, they shouldn't be, said Councillor Wendy Stewart. She suggested that prudent buyers would have consulted the city about zoning, not just looked at the developer's early concept drawings.
An indignant Peter Larsen wrote to Mayor Bob Chiarelli the next day to protest the comment and the building locations. "The existing leisure zoning (for the pathway) afforded us development set-backs." Added Larsen, "Many (of us) retained lawyers to close their homes, to my knowledge, none of which warned of potential high-rise development."
Larsen asked that the city enforce its own regulations about "shadow casting, overlooking, loss of privacy, lighting glare and visual intrusions." He pointed to other requirements for Agradual transition from lower profile buildings to higher profile buildings.
The Central Park Citizens Group (CPCG) has gone on record to oppose the zoning change and site plan application. By mid-March, said the group on its Web site, the city had received 50 letters of opposition from neighbours.
The problems with the development, says the CPCG, include:
- The tall buildings are too close to the homes at Crystal Park Cres.
- Loss of land zoned for parks.
- Loss of privacy for the homes closest to the high-rises
- Loss of sunlight for all the nearby homes a couple of hours per day.
Many letters published on the Web site echo these concerns. "We bought this home on the understanding that low-rise residential dwellings, not to exceed three to four storeys, would surround the park," wrote Dimitri Pantazopoulos. "Commercial buildings... should be as close to Merivale Road as possible in order to ensure the greatest possible buffer between the residential and commercial areas." Even most of the Nortel structures are no more than five storeys, Pantazopoulos pointed out.
"The concept into which we bought bears no resemblance to what is now planned," wrote Deborah Barron and Wayne Rantala, who referred to a "spectacularly ugly parking garage."
"We will have a tiny patch of grass, a tennis court and a few play structures, but hardly something which merits the title of 'park'... (especially) since there are already plans to build high rises at the other end of the park...Already we have noise and light pollution from the Nortel site, and that is some distance from us."
For updates, see the CPCG Web site, http://www.central-park.ottawa.on.ca.