Gow’s condos contested

The boutique-inspired condo development at Gow’s has hit a roadblock.
The Gow family wants to build a 4-storey building where they used to run one of Bells Corners’ best-loved restaurants.
About a dozen residents showed up at the meeting to oppose the developer’s request for six minor variances (permission to not follow the existing by-laws): reducing the number of required parking spots in the underground parking garage and outside for visitors, reducing the setbacks (the required distance between the building and the property line) on all four sides, and narrowing the ramp down to the parking garage.
The residents who are not happy with the project had a spokesperson signed up to speak against the granting of the variances.
One of the 12,000 employees from Stantec was there to represent the Gow family and explain why the variances were reasonable and should be granted.

And then came the first surprise – a third person was going to appear before the committee – Alex Lewis from the BIA! I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Rick there – but Alex? Was he sent by Rick or by his hero Mike-the-slasher?
Before he took his place at the table to address the committee Alex was tight-lipped about what he was going to say, but he told me that he wasn’t sent there by Rick or the bigwigs on the BIA board – he was flying solo on this file.

The second shocker followed – the City planners requested that the hearing for 42 Northside be adjourned, explaining that one or two minor variances might be okay, but six at the same time was too much, and the committee of adjustment agreed.
So ultimately nothing was decided and we never did get to hear why Alex was there. He spoke to the residents as they left, but he didn’t tip his hand to them – he was probably just hoping to gather some intelligence.

The next step is a public hearing on the site plan, and the developers will try to get their variances approved at that time. The residents and Alex will be back, and perhaps even the councillor himself, probably bearing doughnuts.

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8 Responses to Gow’s condos contested

  1. Luke Chadwick says:

    Typically, the route to go on this sort of thing where a zoning amendment is not required is to file the site plan application, get agreement on a financial plan, and then go for the variances.

    The site plan agreement will not be registered until the variances have been approved and the appeal period ended.

    In this case, they went for variances first and then they will go to the site plan route.

    The problem with that is that the variances approval is tied to the plans filed at the time. If something changes during the site plan process in terms of setbacks, height, location of buildings, parking etc., then technically the minor variance approval is null and void.

    The applicants took a calculated risk to go through the public process (with the ability to appeal a decision to the OMB) at the beginning and then spend the time and $ to do all of the studies/reports/drawings that are part of a site plan application.

    Great report on the proceedings, but I’m not sure what the inference is that Stantec has 12K employees….only a couple of hundred or so are here in Ottawa.

    – Thanks for the great info!

    I wasn’t implying anything specific about Stantec by noting that it’s a huge multinational – I went through their website quickly to see what sort of company it was in order to identify the gentleman who represented the Gows at Ben Franklin Place – was he an architect, a planner, an engineer, a consultant, a project manager or what?

    I was amazed at how many pies Stentor has its fingers in.

    I also checked to see if Stentor had contributed any money to Rick, because the councillor plays an important role in getting site plans approved – if he doesn’t sign off then the developer has to go over Rick’s head to get it done, which costs them more money.

    Rick enjoys this role – some of you have heard my story of how he gloated about screwing the developer from Toronto who didn’t show him enough respect. The Holiday Inn was still built, but that developer learned to respect Ottawa’s most cunning and longest-serving career politician.

    I was uncomfortable to see Rick “negotiating” with developers, supposedly on behalf of the community, to scale back unpopular projects while at the same time cashing cheques from them.

    Rick positioned himself as the community champion by not letting Fotenn Consultants Inc., hired by the developer Brigil, get away with their plans proposing the construction of four mega towers on Baseline near Bells Corners. It just smells bad to me that Fotenn stuffed cash into Rick’s already overflowing war chest, and in the end, after the elaborate game had been played out, the developers got exactly what they really wanted.

    Just about everyone agrees that Bells Corners desperately needs more housing units, but it seems to me that those who oppose this particular plan have some legitimate concerns that go beyond nimbyism, so it’ll be interesting and educational for the residents of Bells Corners to see how this story develops.

  2. Hate Chinese Food! says:

    It’s THE MONEY! Everybody is a greedy so-&-so! They say to hell with other people’s feelings.

    – So what’s your point exactly? I hope you’re not saying that developers are evil greedheads and everyone else is a saint?

    That’s a gross oversimplification – “greed” is just a part of human nature. Everyone wants to look out for themselves, their friends and their families, not just developers. Some of my best friends are developers, and the Gow family is highly-respected in the Bells Corners community, so let’s not get carried away.

    A loaded term like greed should be reserved for flagrant abuses of power, especially by lying politicians, and that’s not the case here (as far as I know).

    You know that I hate censorship and love transparency and accountability, so it pains me to have trash your comments on occasion or edit them extensively (because they have nothing to do with Bells Corners, are potentially libelous or might turn off readers).

    I’m not dissing you; thanks for contributing to the blog. But try to be specific and propose positive solutions.

    P.S. How can anyone hate Chinese food? What’s with that?

  3. Luke Chadwick says:

    I was not at the meeting but I was told who was there from Stantec. If it is the correct person, he is a planner/project manager and the former planning director for the City of Kanata.

    When I look at the City website it does not appear that the Brigil application (revised with a larger site area now) is approved.

    You are correct about securing the councillor’s concurrence in order to expedite the process.

    – The Brigil application is not yet approved, but it’s basically a done deal, no?

    The Stantec planner/project manager showed me some of the material he had been planning to present to the committee – he made an interesting case for the variances that he was proposing, so I’m not saying he’s wearing a black hat.

    I’m just glad that all of this is out in the open now – too often backroom deals and shady dealings are the norm, especially in Bells Corners. It also might serve as a wake-up call to residents – take an interest in stuff like this. You too should be at the table when the big boys make their plans for Bells Corners.

  4. reidjr says:

    What mega-towers are going up on Baseline?

    Half-way between the new Richmond/Robertson intersection where there’s a recycling/Halloween store.

    Rick let out all the stops to ingratiate himself with neighbouring community associations – your classic you-scratch-my -back/I’ll-scratch-yours strategy perfected by the world’s longest-serving career politician and since copied by despots all over the world.

    It helps that Rick has a $250,000-a-year “slush fund” to grease the wheels, and, more importantly, important “connections” with top drawer City bureaucrats and influential private sector magnates.

    • reidjr says:

      I would not call the proposed towers on Baseline with 14 floors or whatever “massive” – if you want to talk massive look at the 85-floor condos in Toronto.

  5. Luke Chadwick says:

    The architect has changed on the Baseline file since the original version of the plan.

  6. margaret says:

    committee of adjustment
    minor variances ?
    there’s far too much of this going on
    read the Citizen today on the amount of condo-type rezoning issues coming through, and how concerned community associations have grouped together – good idea –
    think there should be something done to cut back on what is allowed across the city …
    do we have planning zoning by-laws or not ?

  7. zebra says:

    The condos will look kind of out of place, but who cares?


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