submitted by Colleen Lynas
Shortly after the December 14, 2022, North Grenville Council meeting where Ottawa Valley Development’s Dennis Eberhard’s request for Official Plan and zoning amendments was unanimously passed, he celebrated his win on his LinkedIn page. “I want to thank Forbes Symon of J2PG planning consultant and Kollaard Engineering with working with us to gain staff and political support”, he stated. Developer lobbying is alive and well, and apparently very successful.
Anyone watching the December 14 meeting could not be blamed for concluding that the decisions made that evening failed to address the concerns of the residents present, and the bulk of written submissions submitted prior. After seemingly listening and acknowledging the legitimate concerns of multiple speakers, council members exited the public meeting, at the request of Chief Operating Officer Gary Dyke. Shortly upon return, and at the obvious dismay of multiple audience members, a vote was hastily called. There was no decision to defer in light of the issues raised.
The Ottawa-based developer’s plans to redevelop the former public-school grounds on Reuben failed to adhere to our Official Plan (OP); a roadblock he successfully stick-handled past a compliant council. The OP establishes a maximum density of 45 units per gross hectare of land to be developed. “Bonusing” provisions allow council to consider approval up to a maximum of 60 units per gross hectare. Mr. Eberhard received approval for a maximum density of 110 units, almost double the permitted maximum, even when bonusing is taken into account.
Based on available drawings, the rental project will comprise three four-story flat roofed buildings, overpowering the homes they surround, and is best described as harsh and unaesthetic. The builder has been relieved of any duty to provide amenity space; picture instead a sea of asphalt with 221 parking spaces.
And don’t let the promise of “affordable housing” fool you. In order to receive Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funding, Mr. Eberhard’s commitment is that 15% of the units will adhere to CMHC’s definition of affordable housing (less than 30% of gross income), despite the fact that our Official Plan calls for a commitment of 25% for all new builds. The target market is families making “less than $100,000” and individuals making “less than $65,000.”
A project comprising one or more two or three-story buildings, adhering to existing density and affordable housing provisions, and architecturally designed and landscaped to be compatible with the surrounding area could have been a positive addition to the neighbourhood and the downtown core. Instead, I suspect future residents will travel by the developed site asking, “what were they thinking?” The path of least resistance is the only apparent explanation.