The proposed development by Lépine planned for 5000 Robert Grant Avenue (René’s Court) has been the most controversial of all proposed developments for Stittsville. Within the site, there will be an 18-storey and three other buildings – with the building that would face Livery Street now dropped in height to a four storey building and a step-up six storey building in the development, along with a one storey amenities building.
On May 13th, the City’s Planning Committee approved Lepine’s zoning amendment for the project allowing the company to build to 18 storeys as opposed to the original zoning limit of nine storeys. Lépine believes that their rationale of the highrise project – being located within 400 metres of a future transit route and the fact that City policy encourages intensification – would help with the approval process.
Residents provided their numerous comments and concerns via emails, petitions and appearances at the Planning Committee meeting. The expressed concerns included: inadequate infrastructure, traffic, transit, parking and incompatibility with the surrounding neighbourhood. Lépine did make some concessions by reducing the density of the development by 10%, bringing the number of apartment units down to 504 from an originally planned number of 566. The inclusion of recreation pathways improving connections with the surrounding neighbourhood, with more open space on the site. They also deferred the construction of the 18 storey tower until after a rapid bus transit route is added to Robert Grant Avenue.
Prior to the meeting start time, Councillor Glen Gower, Vice-Chair of the Planning Committee and our Ward Councillor, presented a motion that says: “Lépine can’t proceed with the tallest building in their proposal until Robert Grant Avenue is complete to Maple Grove. Since this is the last phase of the road construction, it means that Robert Grant will be finished before the tower is built, and it closes the gap for construction of bus rapid transit to the Fernbank area.” It is expected that the Robert Grant extension would not be completed until sometime after 2029.
Councillor Gower told Stittsville Central, “My motion ensures that the 18-storey building can’t proceed until the final phase of Robert Grant is finished. That delays about half of the 500 apartments that are proposed until about the end of this decade. This is good – but obviously we would all like to see Robert Grant finished sooner than that to serve existing residents.
We have huge gap in Ottawa between when homes are built, and when the roads and transit come. My motion narrows that gap for the Lépine project.
By the time Robert Grant Avenue is built, we’ll be a lot closer to having bus rapid transit and the transit station in place – which is the whole reason extra height is permitted in the first place.
Now we need to speed up the timeline to connect rapid transit to Stittsville, and build the transportation infrastructure that this community so urgently needs.”
Traffic has been a long-time issue as the community grows. With intensification of this precedent setting 18 storeys, traffic will be an ongoing concern for those that live in the neighbourhood where René’s Court will be built – even with the lower buildings planned. Another point is the commercial viewpoint. It would appear that Lépine have no plans to bring in businesses to the development. What happened to the 15-minute neighbourhood where one can walk to purchase groceries or other staples required? No-one would dare walk down the gravel ‘sidewalk’ along Fernbank, with children in tow, to visit the community Walmart, Bulk Barn or Dollarama.
“I would have liked to see a building plan that addressed Lépine’s business needs without moving to this high-rise model that the developer has been pushing in locations around the city”, Tanya Hein, President of the Stittsville Village Association told us. “We do need growth, but I think it could have been managed appropriately within the mid-rise limitations of the existing zoning.”
It was interesting to learn this week in conversation with a current property owner on Livery Street (who wants to remain unnamed), that most of the original owners had sold their homes last summer and moved on when they could see what the future was bringing to their neighbourhood. She says she ‘missed the boat’ on selling now that the development has been approved ‘no matter what the timeline’. Albeit the taller building would not be facing Livery, “it would be a structure that would certainly impede the privacy and character of the neighbourhood,” she said.
Ms. Hein added, “the messages I’ve been getting suggest community members feel unheard. They are wondering about the precedent this zoning change sets for what fits in the community going forward, what the impact of these tall builds will be as density increases in the area, and if the mixed use Village Green on Robert Grant will actually ever be realized as intended”.
Stittsville is a place where we acknowledge that the community is growing and intensification follows, but with our current village atmosphere there are some developments that do not instill the village atmosphere that for many was their reason for locating here.
When a project of this size is approved by a City Planning Committee, it disrespects the existing zoning and the community in which it will be built. Another concern for this editor – where is the affordable housing element?
The Lépine development proposal for René’s Court goes to City Council for final approval at the end May.