Monday, April 29, 2013

Special CCCA Board meeting on Tuesday

After last week's community meeting to discuss the Centretown CDP, the CCCA's Board of Directors will meet tomorrow evening, Tuesday, April 30, at 7pm at City Hall (Billings Room*) to discuss the community response, and as always these meetings are open to the public.

There will also be a public presentation from the City tomorrow (April 30) afternoon at 1:30 at City Hall, where they will reveal their reaciton to the requests made by developers and community association when the CDP was endorsed by the City's Planning Committee on March 26. (This staff presentation was initially to be to some key stakeholders, including the CCCA, but was opened up to the public as consolation for City staff not attending the CCCA's public meeting.)

As discussed last week, the community consultation was to discuss a deal between the CCCA's board and the development community to go to the City seeking changes to the latest draft of the Centretown CDP. The most controversial portion has to do with tall buildings in Mid-Centretown, the area roughly bounded by Cooper, Elgin, Kent and Argyle, whose zoning would increase the height limit to 9 storeys from the current 4 1/2 (Elgin would remain at around 5 storeys). The residents of this area dominated the audience at last week's public meeting.

The latest draft of the City's plan, responding to concerns from the development industry, introduced a provision for "Landmark Buildings". These could be much, much taller than 9 storeys (potentially 30 to 50 storeys), if they met a sizeable list of strict requirements. Such requirements incldue 40% of the area devoted to greenspace or a public amenity, and that each such property must border on three streets, one of which must be Kent, Metcalfe or O'Connor.

The CCCA-Developer agreement proposes an alternative called "Small Moments" which would essentially loosen the criteria for buildings that exceed 9 storeys, but would limit the amount to which they could grow. So there would no longer be a requirement for a site to front on more than one street, and such properties could also be on Bank Street or Elgin Street. In exchange, the development must include a "small moment" of a public amenity, such as a parkette.

There are other elements to the CCCA-Developer proposal, and many other aspects of the community design plan which have been part of the three years of consultation. It has generally been agreed that taller buildings (up to 27 storeys) should remain at the north (north of Cooper) and south (along Catherine) edges of Centretown. However, many people at the meeting were not familiar with the prior stages of consultation, and they expressed frustration that the discussion had such a narrow focus, not mentioning affordable housing, for example.

Nevertheless, the audience was asked for their opinion. The video below shows their response to the four options (the cards are color-coded by area of residence: pink for west of Kent, green for Kent to Elgin, and orange for east of Elgin, although some developers voted also). The options were:
(1) Support the CCCA-Developer agreement (i.e. Small Moments)
(2) Support the latest draft of the City plan (i.e. Landmark Buildings)
(3) Support neither of the above
(4) I don't know

The biggest response was the third option, support for neither. Smaller responses were received for the CCCA-Developer agreement (which included votes by the non-resident developers) and the latest draft of the City plans.

On Tuesday, the CCCA's Board will take the input from this meeting, as well as what it learns about the Staff recommendation earlier that afternoon, and decide whether or not to re-approve the deal with the developers.

Then, a week and a half later, on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, City Council will consider the CDP, and any recommendations from Staff (i.e. the recommendations which staff will present tomorrow afternoon). Council will likely approve the CDP, though it remains to be seen how it will be amended.

As I wrote in last week's blog entry, I do not like the agreement and I voted against it at the CCCA's Board meeting in March. I also do not like the Landmark Buildings provision, but I feel that the Small Moments just makes it worse, with meagre tokens that do little to provide useful amenities to Centretown. The CDP originated because the existing zoning limits were unclear, contradictory and confusing. Nine storeys in mid-Centretown would fix this; however Landmark Buildings and Small Moments would re-introduce the ambiguity that the CDP was supposed to fix. The Landmark Buildings, because they are much more restricted geographically, are the lesser of the two evils. (Disclosure: I work in the office of Councllor Diane Holmes, however this blog post and the opinions therein are my own)

The CCCA's agreement with the development community, as well as a bunch of other CDP-related resources, are available on the CCCA's website.

I hope you can make it to one or both of the meetings tomorrow, as this is such an important issue that will affect Centretown for decades to come.
(*The Billings room can barely handle the amount of people who come out to a regular board meeting, and I suspect a larger one will be needed to accommodate the potential turnout for this one.)

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