Latest update on proposed parking lot at 160 Lees Avenue

As a result of the community rallying together and demonstrating an effective lobby campaign against the proposed parking lot at 160 Lees Avenue, the City of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa are developing a new tentative agreement to build the parking lot in a different location.

At the February OECA meeting, Councillor Chernushenko announced that there is a tentative deal whereby the proposed temporary parking lot at 160 Lees Avenue would not go forward but instead the city would give the university land adjacent to 200 Lees Avenue. If this agreement is reached, the university could enlarge its existing parking lot just to the north of the 200 Lees Avenue university buildings, bounded by Lees Avenue as it ramps up over the Queensway and the Queensway itself (sort of a triangular piece of land, some of it now owned by the city). In addition, the university would also get day-access to the Sandy Hill arena parking lot for a longer period than originally proposed.

This very good news remains tentative because the university's board needs to approve the agreement at its meeting on February 25, 2013. That said, Councillor Chernushenko advised the OECA that university staff support the new proposal and it is expected to be passed. The proposed bylaw amendment concerning 160 Lees Avenue has therefore been removed from the city's planning committee agenda for February 26, 2013. News of the university’s decision will be posted on the website as soon as it is available.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone in the community for their extraordinary efforts. We all came together passionately but calmly and thoroughly to fight for our greenspace. Of course, while this is indeed a great success, we need to keep our community lobby efforts alive to ensure that 160 Lees Avenue remains a greenspace for the long term as well. This land is still slated to be used for the Alta Vista Transit Corridor in the city's transportation master plan. So we will need to continue our community lobby efforts again in the near future in hopes of getting the AVTC removed from the transportation master plan.

Have your say! Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031

The City of Ottawa is now revising the fundamental plans that will shape the city in the years to come through a process called “Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031.” The revision of the Official Plan, the transportation master plan and the cycling and pedestrian plans will have major implications for Old Ottawa East. For instance, the transportation master plan continues to have the four lane $200+M Alta Vista Transportation Corridor (AVTC) included, even though traffic volumes do not justify it and it makes even less sense as the city proceeds with the $2.1B light rail project. Furthermore, the AVTC would consume a huge portion of the greenspace between the Lees Avenue apartment buildings and Springhurst Park, as well as bringing traffic onto Lees and Nicholas Avenues despite neither having the capacity to take the additional volumes.

Citizens have the opportunity to make their opinions known. To learn more about “Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031”, please visit the City of Ottawa's planning website. We also encourage you to complete a survey located on the city’s website here. You may also wish to submit your specific comments to Mayor Watson and Councillor Chernushenko with a copy to info@ottawaeast.ca.

You may also be interested in reading the draft comments on the transportation master plan compiled by the City Centre Coalition (CCC) of which the OECA is a member. They are available for review here as many points are relevant to Old Ottawa East.

Upcoming City of Ottawa Planning Primers

Interested in learning more about the City of Ottawa’s planning process? The Planning and Growth Management Department offers the Planning Primer Program to help residents become more aware of, and more involved in, the land-use planning process.

The Primer I course will be offered on two days: February 23 or February 25. The Primer II course will be offered on two days: March 23 or March 25. Courses are held at Ottawa City Hall on Laurier Avenue West. Note: Primer I is a pre-requisite for Primer II. Additional elective courses on the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) will be held in April 2013.

For more information, please visit the City of Ottawa's website.

Rideau Canal Crossing - Environmental Assessment Complete

The City of Ottawa has completed the environmental assessment (EA) on the proposed footbridge crossing over the Rideau Canal at Fifth Avenue and Clegg Street. You can view the Environmental Study Report (ESR) online at:
http://rideaucanalbridge.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/A-Enironmental-St...

It is also available for a 30-day public review period from February 8 to March 18, 2013. It is available at the following locations during their regular business hours:
City Hall, Client Service Centre, 110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa Public Library, Main Branch, 120 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa Public Library, Sunnyside Branch, 1049 Bank Street
Carleton University, MacOdrum Library, 1125 Colonel By Drive
University of Ottawa, Morisset Library, 65 University Private

Comments should be submitted by March 18, 2013, to:
Colin Simpson, Senior Project Manager, City of Ottawa
613 580-2424, ext. 27881
613 580-2578 (fax)
colin.simpson@ottawa.ca (email)

Community Fights Massive Parking Lot Proposed for Greenspace

The community's fight to kill or at least reduce the size of the University of Ottawa parking lot proposed for the 160 Lees greenspace has yielded some positive results as the City and the university continue to consider options. In the words of Joel Thirsk of the Mayor's office, "Staff continue to request that the parking lot space be as small as possible."

At a pre-Christmas public meeting, Old Ottawa East residents and others voiced their strong opposition to the proposed elimination of the huge greenspace between the Lees Avenue apartments and Springhurst Park.

On December 19 at Old Town Hall, a packed room of residents and representatives of various sports groups peppered City representatives with questions on the proposed creation of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) construction staging area and large parking lot that would cover most of the greenspace between Lees Avenue and the Rideau River.

The City responded with a revised proposal that would eliminate the staging area on the site but would still see the creation of a "temporary" parking lot consuming about half the greenspace. While the revised proposal was seen as a positive step, residents argued there has been inadequate consultation and there is poor justification for the massive parking lot with little consideration of alternatives.

At the January 8 meeting of the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA), Matt Eason of the city's LRT office provided a further revision of the parking lot plan which would use less of the greenspace and ensure there was a full playing field and more space between Springhurst Park and the parking lot.

The proposed 360-spot parking lot is how the City proposes to compensate the University of Ottawa for the use of two of the university's small parking lots required for staging areas during LRT construction. One of these parking lots with 120 spots is on the north side of Lees Avenue adjacent to the transitway station and the other lot with 110 spots is on the main campus.

No Clear Answers

At the December meeting residents repeatedly asked - without getting a clear answer - why there would be so many more proposed parking spots than currently exist (360 vs 230). They made the points that the university's existing parking lot beside the Lees station is underutilized and it is unlikely that those who currently use the downtown campus parking lot required for LRT construction would want to park almost two kilometres away at the proposed 160 Lees parking lot. Further, residents argued that now is the time to encourage university students and staff to switch to transit, rather than providing even more parking spots. The university, which boasts of its sustainable development initiatives, has not revealed any needs study to demonstrate why 360 spots are sought and deflects responsibility for the proposal to the City.

The Springhurst greenspace has become a key recreational area for the 3,000 residents of the Lees apartment buildings and for the Archville neighbourhood in Old Ottawa East. In addition, four sports associations have permits to run their games in the greenspace.

The proposed parking lot appears on a university of Ottawa plan dated August 9, 2012 but the community was not told of the proposal until December 6, just after Councillor David Chernushenko had been informed of the idea. At the monthly OOECA meeting the following week, members expressed their strong opposition and then organized the subsequent meeting at which City staff were invited to attend to explain the proposal.

Aggravating the residents' concerns was the city's tight scheduling of the City Council planning committee's consideration of the proposal for January 14. This, thanks to the intervention of Councillor Chernushenko, was delayed until February 26. The additional month and a half will allow the community to seek further information on the proposal and to pursue alternatives. The City has committed to complete several studies pertaining to the proposal before the proposal goes to planning committee.

Importance of Greenspace

The community's fight against the parking lot proposal has been led by Christine Loth-Bown, a resident of Simcoe Street. She and her family make great use of Springhurst Park and are dismayed at the prospect of losing the greenspace - along with an undetermined number of trees on the east side of the park.

"Springhurst Park is a very important asset to our organization due to its location and accessibility," Christiane Marceau, executive director of the Ottawa Carleton Ultimate Association wrote to Nancy Schepers, deputy city manager. "In a time when active adults and children are such a focus, as well as the importance of healthy living, OCUA hopes that the removal of Springhurst Park is reconsidered to ensure that access to sport and recreation remains available for residents in this neighbourhood and throughout the City of Ottawa."

Few large greenspaces for recreation remain available in central Ottawa despite the great demand for playing fields. Residents told City staff that the proposed parking lot simply doesn't fit with the creation of the new community garden just to the west of the 170 Lees apartment building, the new Rideau River Nature Trail, and planned enhancements of Springhurst Park.

One of the City's guiding principles for development near LRT stations such as Lees is "creating greenspaces and urban places." As OOECA transportation director Ron Rose noted, "There are over 1600 units in the five Lees Ave buildings, housing between 3000 and 4000 people. The greenspace at 160 Lees is now the only sizeable greenspace available to those residents, and turning it into a parking lot would go against the City's guiding principles."

Campaign Against Proposal

Minutes from the public meeting as well as a copy of the alternate proposal and other documents we have received from the City are posted on the OOECA website.

"We really appreciated all the perspectives and concerns that individuals raised at the public meeting and would like to encourage residents to send letters or email these concerns to the Mayor; Peter Hume, chair of the Planning Committee; Allan Rock, president of the university of Ottawa; deputy city manager Nancy Schepers and planning officer Hieu Nguyen," says Ms Loth-Bown.

Email addresses of these officials and background documentation on the proposed parking lot are posted on the OOECA website.

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